There is a lot of pressure on the Barnett government to cut costs and raise revenue in the state budget this May.
Those of us who work in the property sector are particularly concerned that property taxes might again be targeted. In last year’s budget the government increased land tax by 12.5 per cent.
This year it might be very tempting for the Treasurer to cast his net more widely by increasing stamp duty across the board for all buyers as well as scrapping the stamp duty exemption for first home buyers.
The Real Estate Institute of Western Australia has cautioned the State Treasurer against considering such moves. The property market in WA is only just stabilizing after several volatile years and current REIWA data indicates a market downturn for the second half of this year.
It’s critical that current policy settings remain in place and property taxes are not increased, distorting a fragile market.
Typical stamp duty on a median priced home in Perth is now $20,000. Bracket creep alone has pushed this up by $4,280 over the last five years.
The stamp duty exemption for first home buyers was raised to homes under $500,000 by the Labor Government in 2007 and along with the first home owners grant has been extraordinary successful at nurturing the market.
Cost of living and housing affordability is much tougher in WA than other states, but removing the stamp duty impost from first home buyers saves most of them around $14,000 and helps them into a home of their own.
In combination with low interest rates, first home buyers have flourished in WA but the signs are that they are now trending downwards and it would be devastating if they soon get hit with stamp duty.
Getting rid of first home buyer relief or increasing stamp duty across the board would also hit the housing construction sector through the increased cost of land.
The clear evidence from NSW, which recently scrapped its tax concessions for first home buyers, is that first home buyer activity collapsed and hasn’t recovered.
It has been a similar experience in Victoria where other concessions for first home buyers were removed or diminished.
First home buyers are critical to the overall health of the property market because they help nurture construction and facilitate the trade-up market.
Data from the Office of State Revenue show activity by first home buyers has been falling for several months, slipping from 1,974 applications in July last year to 1,540 in March.
For a sustainable, affordable housing market, it’s terribly important there is no rise in stamp duty for all buyers or that tax relief for first time buyers is abolished.
This article was originally published on reiwa.com.