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What is stamp duty and why do I have to pay it?

Whether you’re buying your first home or an investment property, stamp duty could be the single biggest upfront cost you face. Sound tedious? It can be! But that’s why it’s crucial to know what you’re paying and when you need to pay it, so you can adjust your loan budget accordingly.

What is stamp duty?

Stamp duty is a tax that pays for the transfer of property like a personal home, investment property or vacant land from one owner to the next. It can also apply to purchases like vehicles and mortgages — but for the sake of this article we’ll just stick to home buying. 

How does stamp duty differ from state to state?

Stamp duty is a state tax, meaning it changes depending on which state you purchase in, so the amount you pay and when you need to pay it can vary. There’s a few factors that will affect how much stamp duty you have to pay:

  • Location: Stamp duty is calculated as a percentage of the property purchase price, but this changes depending what state/territory you purchase in.

  • Type of property: Are you buying an existing residential home, an off-the-plan investment property, commercial property or vacant land? Stamp duty is often calculated differently on each.
     
  • Intent: Will you be living in the property or renting it straight away? Are you a first home buyer or seasoned investor? 

If you want to get a rough estimate of what stamp duty looks like in your state, we’ve calculated the duty on a $500,000 existing property per FY17-18 tax rates, with no concessions added. 

State Owner-Occupied Investment Property
NSW $18,200 $18,200
VIC $23,300 $23,300
QLD $17,400 $17,400
WA $18,100 $18,100
NT $24,200 $24,200
ACT $12,800 $13,300
TAS $18,500 $18,500
SA $25,400 $25,400

Tip: If stamp duty has thrown some cold water on your local investment property dreams, you might want to look into investing in a state that carries a lower tax rate or bigger exemption for your situation!

When do I need to pay it?

Again, payment dates for stamp duty differs from state to state. For example, while buyers in the ACT must pay within 28 days of settlement, those in NSW and Tasmania have 3 full months to pay their stamp duty.

How can I reduce my stamp duty?

Ever heard the phrase ‘there are 2 guarantees in life?’ Stamp duty is one of the biggest sources of government tax revenue, so discounts can be hard to come by. But there are a few exceptions to the rule:

  • First Home Buyers: Most state and territory governments offer decent concessions for first home buyers. For example, first home buyers in NSW enjoy a full stamp duty exemption for properties under $550,000 (and concessions for properties up to $650,000), and first home buyers in Victoria receive a full exemption on properties up to $600,000, as long as they live in them for at least 12 months.

  • Pensioners: Pensioners in Victoria and the ACT are entitled to limited stamp duty concessions, mostly for those who’ve decided to downsize. For example, Pensioners in Victoria are entitled to a one-off exemption from duty for homes less than $330,000, or a concession for homes between $330,001 - $750,000.

  • Deceased Estates: Most states charge a very small duty on the transfer of estates from deceased members to their beneficiaries ($0-$50).

  • Off the plan: In NSW, first home buyers going off the plan can defer their stamp duty to 12-months after the settlement date (investors can’t defer and must pay within the standard NSW time frame). In Victoria, stamp duty is usually calculated from the value of the land only and not the value of the building itself.


Tip: If you’ve purchase a new home as a house and land package, stamp duty is calculated from the total value of the property. Reducing the cost of your home might save you big in your overall up-front fees.

How do I calculate my stamp duty?

We’ve got you — if you’re looking to buy a home or investment property, you can easily calculate your stamp duty costs and factor it into your overall loan amount.


The information contained in this article is of a general nature only. It doesn’t take account of any person’s objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this information, you should consider whether it is appropriate for your circumstances and seek independent legal, financial, and taxation advice.