NSW Stamp Duty Amendments: A sign of changing times

Technology has changed the way we live our lives. We have the internet in our pockets, speaking with someone face-to-face in another country is merely a click away and we can order groceries on our fridge. Even the Real Estate industry is not immune to technological change. In 2014, investment worldwide in real estate start-up technology companies amounted to US $1.4 billion[1] and eConveyancing is now or will soon be live in 7 of the 8 Australian jurisdictions.

Continuing this trend, the NSW State Government has passed the State Revenue Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 (the Bill) which has amended the Duties Act 1997 (the Act) to make it clear that a dutiable instrument includes instruments in digital form capable of being reproduced, stored and duplicated by electronic means. This means that digital instruments effecting a dutiable transaction are considered dutiable instruments under the Act and must be lodged with the Office of State Revenue for assessment of stamp duty.

The Bill also brings about further changes to the Duties Act 1997 giving rise to or clarifying exemptions to stamp duty. These include:

  1. Nominal duty is now chargeable on a transfer to a custodian of a trustee of a Self-Managed Super Fund (SMSF) if the transfer is not in conformity with a Contract for Sale, the purchaser under the Contract is the trustee of the SMSF and ad valorem duty has been paid on the Contract.
  2. Nominal duty is chargeable on a transfer due to the change of a trustee of a trust only if the Chief Commissioner is satisfied the transfer is not part of a scheme to avoid duty by altering the beneficial interest in property.
  3. No duty is chargeable on the transfer of dutiable property to a trustee in bankruptcy of a party to a relationship following the break-up of the relationship.
  4. No duty is chargeable on the transfer of primary production land held by an SMSF where a member of the SMSF and the transferee are family members.

The definition of associated persons under the Act has also been extended to include beneficiaries of sub-trusts, allowing the Office of State Revenue to look behind sub-trusts to determine if there are related people involved in a transaction.

Clearly duty legislation in Australia is constantly evolving to suit changing times. Regardless of where your property transactions occur, it is important to obtain up-to-date duty advice to ensure your transaction is not subject to unnecessary or unanticipated costs.

[1] Tech innovators aim to shale up property industry, The Financial Times (https://www.ft.com/content/e746fbb4-d87b-11e4-ba53-00144feab7de)