Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD): A Simple Guide for Property Buyers

Singapore Citizens buying their second and subsequent properties are now liable to pay 12% to 15% in Additional Buyer's Stamp Duties (ABSD), while Singapore PRs, foreigners and entities have to pay 5% to 25%. Read to find out more.
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When you buy a property in Singapore, you’re subjected to Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD). And, depending on the criteria (i.e: your residency status and the number of properties you own), you have to pay another type of tax, known as Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD).

What you need to know about Buyer’s Stamp Duty

Buying

What you need to know about Buyer’s Stamp Duty

 

What is Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD)?

ABSD is a tax that’s levied on top of Buyer's Stamp Duty (a tax that property buyers have to pay when they buy a property), and it's computed based on the valuation or the selling price of the property, whichever is higher.  

For instance, say if a property is valued at $1 million but the selling price is $1.1 million. Assuming that you're subjected to 12% ABSD, the ABSD amount that you'll need to pay is $1.1 million X 12% = $132,000.

ABSD applies to the following group of buyers:

  • Singapore Citizens: ABSD will be levied on the second (12%) and subsequent property purchases
  • Singapore Permanent Residents (PRs): ABSD will be levied on all purchases. The first purchase will be 5% while second and subsequent purchases will be 15%
  • Foreigners: 20% ABSD for any property purchase 
  • Entities (companies or associations): 25% for each property

 

Why was ABSD introduced?

Here’s a brief overview of ABSD and the timeline of changes:

  • December 2011: ABSD was introduced to manage the surge in demand for property 
  • January 2013: ABSD rates were increased and more buyer profiles were included to be liable for the tax  
  • July 2018: ABSD rates increased again, but have remained unchanged since  

ASBD was first introduced in December 2011 as a “cooling measure” to discourage foreigners and entities from purchasing residential properties, especially multiple properties.

In other words, it was introduced to manage demand for residential properties and keep housing prices affordable for Singaporeans.

The rates were increased further in January 2013, along with the introduction of new buyer profiles that would be liable for ABSD. 

Property speculation dropped after the ABSD was implemented, and foreign buyers who were interested in investing in Singapore’s property market were deterred by the high ABSD rates.

Then in July 2018, both the BSD and ABSD increased again, and additional cooling measures like the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) and Seller’s Stamp Duty (SSD) saw the volume of property transactions drop rather significantly.

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Selling

Seller’s Stamp Duty: a Simple Guide for Property Sellers

 

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What’s considered a residential property under the ABSD framework?

Residential properties are those used as homes. The most obvious examples would include HDB flats, condominiums, bungalows, and terrace houses (and similar types).

Shophouses with living quarters, as well as HDB void deck shops that have an upper floor designated for residential use will also be considered residential property.

 

A small model of a bungalow atop a calculator

The ABSD rate can be up to 15% for Singaporean citizens

 

How much do I have to pay for ABSD?

Buyer profile 

ABSD payable 

Singapore Citizen buying first property 

No need to pay ABSD

Singapore Citizen buying second property 

12% 

Singapore Citizen buying third and subsequent properties 

15% 

Singapore Permanent Resident (PR) buying first property 

5% 

Singapore Permanent Resident (PR) buying second and subsequent properties 

15% 

Foreigner buying any property 

20% 

Entities (company or association) buying any property 

25% (additional 5% if entity is housing developer) 

The ABSD rates levied will depend on your residency status, and the rate you’ll need to pay is based on your nationality at the time of your property purchase.

The ABSD percentages shown in the tables above will apply to either the property’s purchase price or market value, whichever is higher. 

Do note that the rates may change in the future, depending on the state of the property market.

Click here for a handy calculator to help you calculate your property stamp duties easily.

Tools and Calculators

Click here for a handy calculator to help you calculate your property stamp duties easily.

 

What defines an “entity” when it comes to ABSD?

An entity would refer to someone who isn’t an individual, and is defined by the following criteria:

  1. An unincorporated association
  2. A trustee for a collective investment scheme when acting in that capacity
  3. A trustee-manager for a business trust when acting in that capacity
  4. The partners of the partnership whether or not any of them is an individual, where the property conveyed, transferred, or assigned is to be held as partnership property

If a property is purchased by buyers of different profiles, then the ABSD will be calculated based on the buyer profile with the highest ABSD rate.

 

Are there any ABSD exemptions?

There are some situations in which you won’t need to pay ABSD, such as:

  • When you’ve already contracted to sell your current residential property before you sign the Option to Purchase for your new one
  • When you’re downgrading from a private property to a HDB resale flat 

Although not technically considered an 'exemption', some families go for dual-key condo units, which are sold as one property (hence no ABSD levied), but feature two separate homes (a main unit and sub-unit).  

Some also consider decoupling, which is when co-owners 'split up' and transfer ownership of the shared home to one half of the couple. (More on these 'strategies' to avoid ABSD below.)

Also, under the respective Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), nationals and Permanent Residents of  Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and the United States of America are not required to pay ABSD for their first property purchase in Singapore. Your legal representative can e-Stamp via the e-Stamping portal on IRAS's website to apply for the remission. 

 

 

ABSD remission for married couples

Now, although we’ve indicated earlier that ABSD is always levied on foreigners and Permanent Residents, there’s one instance where these individuals won’t need to pay it.

If you’re a foreigner or Permanent Resident who’s married to a Singaporean, and you don’t own any residential property, you don’t need to pay ABSD. 

You can also get an ABSD refund if you’re moving house as a married couple. To qualify for the refund, the property that you paid ABSD for needs to be sold within 6 months of you buying the second. You can view the full terms and conditions on IRAS’s website.

 

ABSD remission under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act

Married Singaporean couples who plan to jointly buy or have bought a second property can apply to get a one-year ABSD extension so that they have more time to sell their second property.

To qualify for the ABSD extension, the second property will need to be purchased on or after 1 June 2020 and the schedule for the sale of the first property expired on or after 1 Feb 2020. 

 

I’m buying a property with someone else. How does ABSD work?

When you’re buying property with someone else, different ABSD rates might apply to both of you. If this is the case, then the higher ABSD rate will be used. 

An example shown below demonstrates how it works:

Your properties

Your spouse’s properties

Condominium unit (sole owner)

Condominium unit (sole owner)

 

Terrace house 

Let’s say you and your spouse are Singaporean. Since your spouse has 2 properties, the ABSD rate applied will be 15%. You only own 1 property, so your ABSD rate will be 12%. 

The ABSD payable will then be based on your spouse’s profile, which is 15%.

 

How do I go about paying for ABSD?

You can make payment for your ABSD online through the e-Stamping Portal using NETS, cheque, or a cashier’s order. 

Alternatively, you can also make payment at IRAS Surf Centre e-Terminals, or SingPost Service Bureaus (located in Chinatown, Novena, Raffles Place, and Shenton Way). These stamp duties need to be paid in full, and you won’t be able to pay them via instalments. 

You can make use of your CPF to pay ABSD - once you’ve paid these duties, you can get a reimbursement from your CPF account. You can get more detailed information from the IRAS website and CPF website

Note that ABSD needs to be paid within 14 days of the sale and purchase agreement being signed. If your sale and purchase agreement was signed overseas, the deadline is 30 days after the agreement was received in Singapore.

 

Are there any penalties for late ABSD payment?

Delay in payment for… 

Penalty for late ABSD payment 

Up to 3 months

$10 or an amount equal to the ABSD payment, whichever is higher

Exceeding 3 months 

$25 or an amount equal to 4X the ABSD payable, whichever is higher 

If ABSD is not paid by the deadline, you will get a Demand Note reminding you to make payment. This letter will also inform you of the penalty that you’ve incurred for missing the deadline.

IRAS may appoint your bank, employer, tenant, or lawyer to pay the outstanding stamp duty on your behalf. In serious cases, legal action may be taken to recover the outstanding amount. 

Read more about what happens when you miss your stamp duty deadlines on IRAS’ website.

 

Conclusion: Should you try to avoid ABSD? 

 In our biannual Consumer Sentiment Study for H2 2020, we found that many Singaporeans (63%) were hoping for the government to soften property curbs and lower ABSD rates. This number was the highest among middle-aged Singaporeans, many of which are investors and/or landlords. 

In July 2020, however, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) released an official statement saying that there will be no easing of current property curbs as the property market has remained stable in spite of COVID-19. 

Evidently, ABSD is a hotly debated topic among property buyers and investors. Not many are fans of the measure, and unsurprisingly so: it is, after all, an extra tax meant to discourage buyers by increasing the cost of property in Singapore

This is why many property buyers look for exemptions and loopholes (as mentioned above) to avoid paying the extra tax. The most popular ways to legally work around the ABSD are to... 

  • Decouple, and purchase it as your 'first' property again  
  • Purchase the property under trust for your children 
  • Buy a dual-key condo 

These could very well work, but in some cases, it may be easier and cheaper to simply pay the ABSD. Here are some examples: 

For instance, decoupling property may actually be more expensive than paying ABSD. This is especially if the co-owner you're thinking of transferring the shared property to already owns another residential property. Decoupling would incur not just the legal and conveyancing fees, but a Buyer's Stamp Duty (BSD) AND an Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty (ABSD) on the home to be transferred. For a $1 million property, these expenses can easily go up to $150,000 or more. If the second property you're trying to buy is cheaper, the 12% ABSD on that may very well cost less. 

The next popular way to avoid ABSD is to buy the second (or subsequent) property under trust for your children. It is true that you won't need to pay ABSD, but take note that you'll need to pay for the property in full - i.e. you cannot get a home loan to finance it. This means that this strategy is only feasible for those who are cash rich. Additionally, since the property is meant for your children, you are not allowed to directly receive the rental income from it. The money will go to them, and then whether or not they decide to pass on the earnings to you is up to their discretion. 

Lastly, many buyers consider dual-key condos as well. This is a good option if you wanted to get a second property to rent out - with dual-key condos, you can live in the main unit, and lease out the (separate, but adjacent) sub-unit. You won't have to wait until MOP either, because you're technically not renting out the entire apartment.

Of the three, dual-key condos seem like the best way to avoid ABSD. However, you should note that dual-key condos are usually priced at a premium (higher than regular condos of the same size) and you must be willing to live next to your tenant

In conclusion, yes, ABSD is an extra cost, and no, it's not going anywhere anytime soon. If you're looking for ways to avoid ABSD, make sure you do your calculations and consider your alternative 'strategies' carefully so you don't end up paying more than you have to. 

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