Tax concessions given to foreign nationals

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance (a) how many foreign nationals or entities have been exempted from paying the 10% additional buyer’s stamp duty (ABSD) from 8 December 2011 to 11 January 2013, the 15% ABSD since 12 January 2013 or any other stamp duties when buying residential properties in Singapore because of free trade agreements (FTAs); (b) what is the total amount of stamp duties exempted for these individuals or entities; and (c) whether any FTAs currently under negotiation, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, have similar concessions for foreign nationals or entities.

Parliament sitting date: 16 September 2013

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance (a) how many foreign nationals or entities have been exempted from paying the 10% additional buyer’s stamp duty (ABSD) from 8 December 2011 to 11 January 2013, the 15% ABSD since 12 January 2013 or any other stamp duties when buying residential properties in Singapore because of free trade agreements (FTAs); (b) what is the total amount of stamp duties exempted for these individuals or entities; and (c) whether any FTAs currently under negotiation, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, have similar concessions for foreign nationals or entities.

Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam : Under the “national treatment” obligation of the US-Singapore FTA (USSFTA) and the Singapore-European Free Trade Association FTA (ESFTA), Singapore is obliged to accord Nationals of the United States of America, and the Nationals and Permanent Residents of Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland, similar tax treatment as Singaporeans in the purchase of residential properties in Singapore 5 .

These are the only two FTAs where “national treatment” has been accorded to foreign individuals in respect of taxes, which include stamp duties. Otherwise, foreign entities do not enjoy Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) remission.

For the period 8 Dec 2011 to 11 Jan 2013, there were 138 residential property transactions by foreign individuals granted ABSD remission due to the two FTAs. For the period 12 Jan 2013 6 to 31 Jul 2013, there were 114 transactions granted ABSD remission. These transactions are about 1.5% of all property transactions that attracted ABSD during the period.

The amount of ABSD which has been remitted for these 252 transactions was $81.2 million.

Negotiations on other FTAs like the Trans-Pacific Partnership are still ongoing. MTI will continue to seek a balanced package in our FTA negotiations to ensure that the FTAs provide meaningful benefits for Singapore, while taking into account the costs.

Source: Singapore Parliament Reports (Hansard)