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Singapore Consults On Property Tax Amendments

Singapore's Ministry of Finance is seeking public feedback on proposed legislative amendments under a draft Property Tax (Amendment) Bill 2013, which would give effect to policies announced in the 2013 Budget.

The tax changes announced by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, in his 2013 Budget Statement included the removal of property tax refunds for unoccupied residential and non-residential properties with effect from 1 January 2014, so as, it was said, to align with the policy intent of property tax, which is to tax property wealth rather than use, and ensure consistency in the tax treatment of all vacant properties.

Under the draft bill, any claims for refunds in respect of any periods in 2013 will only be allowed if they are made by March 31, 2014.

In addition, more progressive property tax rates for residential properties are to be introduced from January 1, 2014, with the effect of raising property tax rates for higher-value residential properties, with the largest hikes applying to investment properties that are not occupied by their owners.

The property tax restructuring will be phased in over two years from January 1, 2014. About 950,000 owner-occupied residential properties with annual value of less than SGD59,000 (USD46,650) will enjoy tax savings of up to SGD80. The top 1 percent, or about 12,000 of owner-occupied residential properties, will pay higher property taxes.

For non-owner-occupied residential properties, there will be no change in the current flat 10 percent property tax rate for 67 percent of properties, which have an annual value of SGD30,000 or less, but there will be progressively higher property tax rates for the remainder, of up to 20 percent.

In fact, the draft bill empowers the Minister of Finance to impose a maximum tax rate or rates in the future of up to, but not including, 36 percent on the annual values of the properties.

The other tax change in the amendment bill, which is not offered for consultation, extends the deadlines for filing objections and appeals on property tax assessments from the current 21 days to 30 days.

The public consultation will run until August 14, 3013, and the Ministry will publish a summary of the main comments received, together with its responses, by the end of September this year.

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