Foreign property investors in WA could face new tax after Labor win

Foreign property investors in WA could face new tax after Labor win
Foreign property investors in WA could face new tax after Labor win

Following Labor’s thumping win in Western Australia, the new government could introduce a four percent surcharge for foreigners buying residential property in the state, a move which has met with criticism from a leading industry body which says it could hurt the market’s hopes of a recovery. 

Others are more optimistic, saying a clear election win would stimulate the property market as buyers usually hold off major financial decisions till the election outcome.

Other moves by the Mark McGowan government could be changes to stamp duty and formation of an independent infrastructure body, according to an article in the Australian Financial Review.

The previous Liberal government had promised to shave up to $15,000 from the stamp duty for seniors downsizing into a property valued up to $750,000. What Labor does now, the industry will just have to wait and see.

It it introduces the surcharge for foreign buyers of residential property, similar to Victoria, NSW and Queensland, it would do more harm than good, says the Property Council of Australia because of the low foreign investment in the state compared with other states.

"We have the lowest level of foreign investment in property in Australia and putting an extra tax on foreign buyers will make it much harder to get the investment we need to grow the state," the council's WA executive director, Lino Iacomella, was cited as saying by the AFR.

Labor says it will use the funds to put a freeze TAFE fees for the first four years of a McGowan Government.

Among the popular moves, however, Labor has said it will create Infrastructure WA, an independent body long called for by the property industry, to assess and prioritise infrastructure projects.

Before the election, on the common agenda for both Liberal and Labor was strata title reform, such as the creation of community title, which would allow more flexible mixed-use structures with strata properties under different management.

It would also mean owners with plots as small as 1000 square metres, would have flexibility to develop their site in stages, rather than all in one go as happens under current practice, and potentially get better outcomes, said sustainable housing developer Eugenie Stockmann.

Real estate firm Acton chief executive Travis Coleman was cited by as saying that there were signs the WA economy was recovering, with the latest economic growth figures for the December 2016 quarter showing positive economic growth for the first time since mid-2015.

“If we have a clear result on Saturday (for whichever major political party), this will give people confidence of a clear political direction for the State over the next four years,” he said.

“So this state election could be the last obstacle towards a noticeable recovery in the Western Australian property market.” 

Be that as it may, the property market is still struggling from the end of the mining boom. House prices in Perth fell 2.4 per cent in February to a median $500,000, while apartments are down 2.8 per cent to a median $400,000, according to CoreLogic data.

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