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New South Wales reliant on the property market for revenue

New South Wales reliant on the property market for revenue
New South Wales reliant on the property market for revenue

NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance has confirmed just how much Sydney’s real estate boom is adding to the general fortunes of the state.

The 2014 budget papers show that "a resurgence in the property market has significantly lifted transfer duties in 2013-14". Transfer duty, including stamp duty, contributed $938 million of state budget revenue. This result was seen as a ‘windfall’ and measures to further stimulate the rate of new home construction were also announced in the budget.

The Treasurer also announced that the threshold for the first home buyer $15,000 grant will be boosted to $750,000 – an increase of $100,000. From 1 July 2014, the NSW government will boost the threshold of the First Home Buyers Grant for new homes by $100,000, which means entry level buyers can spend up to $750,000 on a new property.

However extending this to established homes appears to be totally off the agenda given the level of demand and the increased prices over the last six to 12 months. Still, eligibility for the grant will from 1 July 2014 be restricted only to citizens who are permanent Australian residents.

The NSW government has also pledged to freeing up land supply and speeding the delivery of some infrastructure to help boost construction activity.

Property Plays a Big Part in State’s Economy

However when looking at the government’s revenue papers in the budget, it is easy to see how important a robust property market is. But at the same time the extent of revenue from property and some related areas may be placing too great a burden on the sector.

Comments in the budget also underline how relatively volatile, even fragile this revenue stream can be, and so I think it’s worth looking in more detail at some key points. What we can see is how reliant the government is on this revenue and why any move to abolish stamp duty as part of a possible review of state-based tax reforms looks a long way off, if ever, although remaining mortgage duty is being abolished in 2015.

One of the most telling figures in the revenue statement is the comparison between GST revenue and transfer duty. GST revenue in 2014-15 is estimated at $6.094 billion rising to $6.9 billion in 2017-18. By comparison transfer duty revenue in 2014-15 is estimated at $6.095 billiob but is anticipated to rise more than GST to $7.256 billion in 2017-18. On top of which Land Tax will add $2.4 billion – $2.8 billion in the same time frame, while we should not forget the parking space levy set to reach $115 million by 2017-18 and so adding these figures we see that by 2017-18 direct property related revenue for the state will be some $10.24 billion.

The budget papers do point out that the 2013-14 results were expected to increase by 20.5% but in fact the increase looks set to be closer to 35%. Further the current budget anticipated an increased volume of sales at 6% but the final figure was much more at 18%. And residential property prices have increased by some 10% over the past budget period, however those figures are not expected to be maintained, but any slow down is expected to be gentler than previous cycles. And in the four years to 2017-18 the government is expecting a growth rate of 7% over the four years. In today’s market this looks a conservative estimate.

What Has Been Driving These Figures

The Office of State Revenue might be expected to be conservative in its views, however key facts driving the revenue in 2013-14 have, according to the Office, been: historically low interest rates, pent up demand, under supply, improved consumer confidence and of course the obvious big increase in house prices.

When looking at the impact of house prices, the Office points out that activity was initially driven by sales of less than $600,000 but now strong growth in sales of homes valued over $1.2 million is apparent, however the Offices argues that this trend might also mark a peak in the housing cycle.

A Keen Eye Out for Strong Construction Activity

Given the potential of $10 billion in annual revenue by 2017-18 the government is also keen to keep the recovery in new construction on a robust footing. In the December quarter 2013 private sector dwelling approvals were 44% higher than the decade average, as were dwelling commencements while completion were 14% above the decade average.

The hope is that these strong results will continue over the next 4 years, as this appears vital for the health of NSW. However the reality is that the sector and those home buyers paying stamp duty (and that’s the majority) are doing some heavy lifting when it comes to government revenues and any adjustment to the GST needs to address this reality.

Peter Chittenden

Peter Chittenden

Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International.

Tags: 
Policy New South Wales Budget Peter Chittenden

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