ABSD Singapore: 7 Ways to Avoid It (and Why You Should Always Think Twice Before Doing It)

·11-min read
ABSD Singapore: 7 Ways to Avoid It (and Why You Should Always Think Twice Before Doing It)
ABSD Singapore: 7 Ways to Avoid It (and Why You Should Always Think Twice Before Doing It)

The Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) is one of the biggest concerns when making multiple property investments. Ranging from 5% to 30% for individuals (and 35% for entities and ABSD trust), ABSD rates can mean having to fork out a hefty sum on your property purchase. Thus, it’s not surprising that most homebuyers want to know how to avoid incurring ABSD at all costs.

A married couple and two property agents even went as far as to backdate an Option to Purchase (OTP) to avoid paying higher ABSD, after the ABSD rates were amended on 5 July 2018. The result? The buyers were sentenced to six weeks in jail and fined $276,000, or four times the amount of ABSD evaded. Their agent and the seller’s agent were each handed an eight-week sentence.

However, ABSD can be avoided. Legally, of course! If you want to know how to go about it, read on.

But First, What Is ABSD in Singapore?

The ABSD is a tax that’s levied on top of the Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) for all residential property purchases. ABSD is taxed according to the valuation or selling price of the property, whichever is higher. It is also based on whether the buyer is a Singaporean, Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR), or foreigner.

It was introduced in December 2011 as a property cooling measure to discourage Singaporeans, foreigners, and entities from purchasing multiple properties and flipping them for profit, while helping to keep property prices affordable. Since then, ABSD rates were adjusted thrice, in 2013, 2018, and again in 2021, in line with market conditions.

Additionally, on 9 May 2022, an ABSD (Trust) of 35% will be imposed on any transfer of residential property into a living trust, which is what some parents were doing to avoid ABSD. So now, parents looking to purchase a property for their child would have to think twice before making such a decision.

What Is the ABSD Rate in Singapore? Who Needs to Pay ABSD?

ABSD applies to the following group of buyers:

Buyer’s Profile

ABSD Payable (on or after 16 December 2021)

Singapore Citizen buying first property

No ABSD charge

Singapore Citizen buying second property

17%

Singapore Citizen buying third and subsequent properties

25%

Singapore Permanent Resident (PR) buying first property

5%

Singapore Permanent Resident (PR) buying second property

25%

Singapore Permanent Resident (PR) buying third and subsequent properties

30%

Foreigners buying any residential property

30%

Entities (company or association) buying any property

35% (additional 5% if entity is housing developer; non-remittable)

Trustee buying any residential property

35%

As you can see, the ABSD tax adds up to a substantial amount; a Singapore Citizen buying a second property for $1 million, for example, would need to pay $170,000 in ABSD, and remember this doesn’t include other fees like agent’s fee, BSD, etc.

SPRs would need to pay ABSD when they buy a property independently. However, if you’re jointly purchasing a property together as a Singaporean-SPR couple, where both of you do not own any property, you can apply for ABSD remission. You can also receive ABSD remission for your 2nd property if you’re jointly buying as a Singaporean-SPR couple, but you must sell your property within six months after buying your second property.

How Do You ‘Avoid’ ABSD Rates? Who Is Exempted From ABSD?

So, with hefty ABSD rates, it’s understandable why people would want to avoid paying for it. So how and in what ways can one avoid paying ABSD in Singapore?

But before we get into that, there are also situations where you can be exempted from paying ABSD:

1. When You Upgrade to an Executive Condominium (EC)

When you upgrade from an HDB flat to a private property, or if you purchase another private home, you will need to pay ABSD upfront in cash or CPF (within 14 days of signing the Sales and Purchase Agreement). You can apply for an ABSD remission if you sell your 1st property within six months.

However, when you buy a new EC, you don’t have to pay ABSD upfront. You do need to dispose of your home within six months after collecting the keys to your EC (or once your EC receives its Temporary Occupation Permit), but at least you don’t have to fork out the huge ABSD fee at the start (you may need to pay the HDB resale levy though).

[ArticleCallout]{ “title”: “Executive Condo Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Buying an EC in Singapore (2022)”, “excerpt”: “Read more here.”, “link”: “https://www.propertyguru.com.sg/property-guides/all-you-need-to-know-about-executive-condo-in-singapore-35340”, “image”: “https://img.iproperty.com.my/angel/1110×624-crop/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2022/08/all-you-need-to-know-about-executive-condo-in-singapore-cover-image.jpg” } [/ArticleCallout]

2. When You Sell Your Current Property Before Signing the Option to Purchase For The New Property

You can sell your home first before buying a new property to avoid ABSD rates. However, this would mean that you need to rent a place or have a temporary place to live.

3. If You’re a National or PR of These Free Trade Agreement Countries

Earlier, we mentioned that foreigners would be slapped with a hefty 30% ABSD when buying a property in Singapore. However, under the respective Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), Nationals or Permanent Residents of the following countries enjoy the same ABSD rates as Singaporeans:

  • Iceland

  • Liechtenstein

  • Norway

  • Switzerland

  • United States of America

In other words, they are exempted from ABSD for PR for the 1st property, but will still need to pay ABSD for 2nd property and subsequent properties.

4. Decoupling

If you jointly purchased a property as a couple, you can choose to decouple your property.

Basically, when you decouple, you transfer your share of the property to your spouse, leaving you free to purchase a new property without incurring ABSD (since it counts as your 1st property).

For this to work, both of you would need to be tenants-in-common or joint tenants. This means that both of you can either have different ownership stakes in the property (e.g. 70-30, 60-40), or equal stakes. Also, know that transferring your shares isn’t free, as your spouse would need to buy them from you, which means that it will incur BSD.

For example, say that you both own a 50% share of your home, which is valued at $1 million. You sell 50% of your share to your spouse ($500,000). In case you forgot, below is the BSD rate for residential properties:

Purchase price or market value of the property

BSD rate

First $180,000

1%

Next $180,000

2%

Next $640,000

3%

Remaining amount

4%

So based on the above, here’s how much your spouse would need to pay:

(1% X $180,000 = $1,800) + (2% X 180,000 = $3,600) + (3% X ($500,000 – $180,000 – $180,000)= $19,200) = $9,600

On top of BSD, you would also need to pay Seller’s Stamp Duty (SSD) if you decouple within three years of buying the property, as well as other costs such as conveyancing fees and penalties for taking a new mortgage, which could amount to thousands of dollars. For Singapore-PR joint buyers, the PR buyer would also need to pay ABSD (5% ABSD for the 1st property and 25% ABSD for the 2nd property). For the Singaporean spouse, he/she would need to pay 17% for the 2nd and 25% for subsequent properties.

“If the cost of decoupling works out to be more than the cost of ABSD, then it makes more sense to pay ABSD instead”, says Grace Cheong, Senior Associate Marketing Director, PropNex Realty.

Lastly, when decoupling to buy a new property, also consider if the sole owner has the income to support the fresh mortgage. If you’re using your CPF funds, then you need to return your CPF monies (including accrued interest) back to your CPF account.

Do note that the transfer of ownership for HDB flats is only allowed under six special circumstances:

  • Marriage

  • Divorce

  • Death of an owner

  • Financial complications

  • Renunciation of citizenship, and

  • Medical reasons

5. Buying Under One Owner’s Name

If you’re buying as a couple and both of you are first-time property owners, then you can buy under one spouse.

This allows the other spouse the freedom and flexibility to purchase another property in the future without incurring ABSD for their 2nd property when you both have saved enough.

The repercussion of this is that the spouse would need to carry the weight of the mortgage single-handedly, and must have enough cash and CPF funds for the downpayment and mortgage.

6. Buying a Commercial Property

Unlike residential properties, you won’t need to pay ABSD when you buy commercial properties. Besides that, commercial properties also command higher rental yields on average (5% compared to 2% to 3% for residential).

But do know that commercial properties come with their risks. For instance, they cost more than residential properties. They also require more cash outlay and the downpayment can only be paid in cash. Additionally, there’s also a 7% GST charge which must be paid in cash.

[ArticleCallout]{ “title”: “Commercial Property Singapore: How to Get a Commercial Loan (2022)<br><a href=\u0022https://www.propertyguru.com.sg/property-guides/author/editorialsg\u0022></a>”, “excerpt”: “Read more here.”, “link”: “https://www.propertyguru.com.sg/property-guides/pgf-commercial-property-loan-singapore-38923”, “image”: “https://img.iproperty.com.my/angel-legacy/1110×624-crop/static/2020/12/pgf-commercial-property-loan-singapore.png” } [/ArticleCallout]

7. Buying a Dual-Key Unit

With dual-key units, you’re essentially buying a home with two units side by side, but for the price of one. As it’s considered as one property, you avoid incurring ABSD for your 2nd property.

The main unit and sub-unit share a common foyer but have their own living spaces. Depending on how the unit is designed, each unit may have its living area and common facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms.

As such, dual-key units appeal to both home buyers and investors alike because you can rent out the sub-unit and still have your privacy.

But given the uniqueness of dual-key units, they often come with a higher price per square foot and can cost up to 25% more.

But Does Avoiding ABSD Always Save Money?

So now that you know how to avoid ABSD rates, should you always avoid paying ABSD when you can? Are there scenarios where paying ABSD is more sensible?

Andrew Nair, Associate Division Director, ERA Realty Network says that sometimes it’s worth paying ABSD in Singapore than avoiding it, particularly when the property has a huge potential for appreciation.

“It’s all about opportunity. If you miss a good buy because you are waiting for a situation where you can save ABSD, you might miss a good deal. Saving money does not mean you make more in the long run. There are some properties that have a good rate of appreciation and a good rental yield. In that vein, ABSD can be seen as one of the ‘costs’ of business,” he says.

He adds: “For example, most will sell their HDB flat and buy a condo to avoid paying ABSD. But what if they had kept the HDB and paid the ABSD? They would be able to rent out the HDB and get good rental yields, in some cases more than 10% per annum.”

Tips If You Want to Upgrade or Buy a New Property

While it may be tempting to purchase an investment property, remember that buying a property is a huge financial commitment. Grace cautions that buyers should always evaluate their finances thoroughly before proceeding to upgrade or buy a new property. “When the math is in place, it determines the availability of your options and the limitation of your property choices,” she says.

Meanwhile, Andrew’s advice is to buy a property when you’re younger, and you would most likely get a bank loan with the maximum tenure.

“Use free-to-use mortgage tools to help with the bank loan assessment. Remember price is not everything. Cheaper does not mean better. Sometimes paying more for a property in a good location is better than buying a cheaper property in a not-so-ideal location.

“When is the best time to plant a tree? 10 years ago. But if you have not planted, when is the next best time? The time is now. This is the same with property.”

Find, Finance, and Own Your Home With PropertyGuru

Thinking of buying a new property? Figure out the best way to finance your purchase by consulting one of PropertyGuru’s mortgage experts. They’ll provide you with tailored advice and cross-compare bank interest rates across banks in Singapore, at no cost!

Blog banner
Blog banner

Chat with us on Whatsapp Fill up an online form

Disclaimer: Information provided on this website is general in nature and does not constitute financial advice.

PropertyGuru will endeavour to update the website as needed. However, information can change without notice and we do not guarantee the accuracy of the information on the website, including information provided by third parties, at any particular time. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is accurate, individuals must not rely on this information to make a financial or investment decision. Before making any decision, we recommend you consult a financial planner or your bank to take into account your particular financial situation and individual needs. PropertyGuru does not give any warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of information which is contained on this website. Except insofar as any liability under statute cannot be excluded, PropertyGuru and its employees do not accept any liability for any error or omission on this website or for any resulting loss or damage suffered by the recipient or any other person.