Stamp duty debate has been running for almost a decade

Peter ChittendenMay 7, 20120 min read

In August 2003 the then federal treasurer Peter Costello gave an interview on 3AW with Derryn Hinch, and the subject was housing affordability, stamp duty, GST and the first-home owners’ scheme.

In part of the interview Derryn Hinch asked why the states had not, as he put it, backed off a bit on things like stamp duty: "That’s what I thought was going to happen.”

This was Peter Costello’s reply, which I think is worth posting in full: “yes, yes, no, what has surprised us is that the principal reason why house prices went up was that interest rates came down. As interest rates came down, we are now at 30-year lows, and you know, we have been running our economic policy to get low interest rates. As interest rates came down, because they were lower, people could afford to buy more expensive properties. And what that did is that it kicked a whole lot of houses that were previously being taxed at moderate stamp duty rates, $6,000 into higher brackets and they are now being taxed at $16,000 or $17,000 for the average house under stamp duty. We weren’t expecting that the states would take this enormous windfall out of stamp duty, but they did. In fact, we introduced, we the Commonwealth government introduced the first-home owners’ scheme, to give a grant of $7,000 to people who are buying their first home. We pointed out to the states that this would bring new people into the market, there would be more house purchases, that the States as a consequence would get more stamp duty and would they please look at that to try and relieve some stamp duty for those first-home buyers. But none of them did.”

Hinch: “Yeah, and are not expected to?”

Costello: “Well, you know, so we have a situation now, this is the frustrating thing, we have a first-home owners’ scheme whereby you’re given $7,000 to buy your first home and the stamp duty is $16,000. So what do they do with their first-home owners’ grant? Go and try and pay off some of their state stamp duty. It is a pretty frustrating merry-go-round out there.”


My point, without favouritism to Costello, even if it appears to be a long quote is that this debate has now been running on for almost a decade. It is an area that various tax reviews have looked at; it is an area that many other government and industry reports have also examined.

And with such a sort fall in housing supply upon us and with housing now less affordable than ever, do you think the debate has been resolved, or even started a move out of the too hard basket?

However having said that, clearly incentives in the housing market are not only confined to stamp duty and to government policy and I will continue this general topic later and look at what and how incentives are used directly by developers. I think it’s an area that is far more clear cut, but an important part of project marketing.

Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International

Peter Chittenden

Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International.
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