SINGAPORE - Property tax rates for residential properties will be raised in two steps, starting with the tax payable in 2023, with properties at the higher end seeing steeper hikes.
Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said on Friday (Feb 18) that the property tax rates for non-owner-occupied residential properties - which include investment properties - will be increased to 12 per cent to 36 per cent.
This compares with the current 10 per cent to 20 per cent tax levied on such properties.
This means all non-owner-occupied properties will face higher property taxes, with the increase more significant for properties with a higher annual value.
At the same time, the property tax rates for owner-occupied homes for the portion of annual value in excess of $30,000 will also be raised, ranging from 6 per cent to 32 per cent.
This compares with 4 per cent to 16 per cent for such portion of annual value today.
This increase will impact the top 7 per cent of owner-occupied residential properties, Mr Wong said in his Budget speech.
Owner-occupied homes with an annual value of $30,000 or less, such as Housing Board flats or condominiums and landed property in suburban areas, will not be affected by the increase in property tax rates.
The final tax rates of up to 36 per cent for non-owner-occupied homes or 32 per cent for owner-occupied residential properties will take effect for tax payable from 2024.
When fully implemented, these changes will raise Singapore's property tax revenue by about $380 million a year.
Property tax is currently Singapore's principal means of taxing wealth, Mr Wong said, noting that wealth taxes is an important part of Singapore's tax system.
"Apart from generating revenue, they also help to recirculate a portion of the wealth stock into our economy and in so doing, mitigate social inequalities.
"Wealth taxes are therefore needed to build a fairer society where everyone can aspire to succeed regardless of their backgrounds," Mr Wong said.
He outlined several ways in which the Republic currently taxes wealth, such as stamp duties and the Additional Registration Fee (ARF) for motor vehicles, alongside property tax.
"The higher value the residential property or motor vehicle, the higher the tax rate."
Elaborating on the changes to property tax, Mr Wong cited how, with the new tax rates, a large non-owner-occupied detached house in central Singapore, with an annual value of $150,000, will see an annual property tax bill of about $43,000 a year, compared with $24,000 currently.
The same home, if occupied by its owner, will incur a property tax bill of about $28,000 with the updated tax rates.
Residential properties that are let out are considered investment assets and thereby taxed at a higher rate than owner-occupied properties.
In his speech, the minister pointed how, in an ideal situation, Singapore would want to tax the net wealth of individuals - but such a tax is not easy to implement effectively.
"Estimating wealth accurately and fairly is a more complex exercise than estimating incomes. Further, many forms of wealth are mobile, and as long as there are differences in wealth taxes across jurisdictions, such wealth can and will move," he explained.
Mr Wong said that Singapore is not alone in facing such challenges, and noted how countries such as Germany, France and Denmark have stopped levying taxes on individuals' net wealth.
The number of OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries that levy net wealth taxes has dropped from 12 in 1990 to only three in 2020, he added, noting that this is partly because of the difficulties in effectively implementing net wealth taxes.
"We will continue to study the experiences of other countries and explore options to tax wealth effectively. In the meantime, we will strengthen our current system of taxes."
The revision of property tax rates comes amid Singapore's booming property market, which prompted new cooling measures to be introduced last December.
The latest round of property cooling measures included tightening of the total debt servicing ratio for borrowers and higher additional buyer stamp duty on purchases of residential properties.
Prices for private homes surged 10.6 per cent for the whole of 2021 - the highest annual growth since 2010 when they climbed 17.6 per cent.
The resale market for Housing Board flats also saw its steepest full-year climb in a decade last year, as prices rose 12.7 per cent.
Luxury cars will also be taxed at a higher rate to make Singapore's vehicle tax system more progressive, Mr Wong said.
A new ARF tier will be introduced for cars at a rate of 220 per cent for the portion of open market value (OMV) in excess of $80,000.
The new rates will apply to all cars registered with certificates of entitlement (COEs) obtained from the second COE bidding round in February, ending Feb 23.
This includes imported used cars and goods-cum-passenger vehicles.
For cars that do not need to bid for COEs, such as taxis, the new rates will apply from Saturday (Feb 19).
The additional ARF is expected to generate an additional $50 million in revenue a year.
Currently, the highest ARF rate is 180 per cent of OMV, for the portion of OMV in excess of $50,000.
Read next - Budget 2022 highlights: GST hike, higher income tax for top earners and CDC vouchers for all
This article has been updated for accuracy.