Stamp duty riles agents

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 November, 2010, 12:00am

Real estate agents yesterday demanded the government reverse its 15 per cent stamp duty on the sale of homes.

The Joint Council of Estate Agents Associations said it planned to hold a mass rally next month against the measures, which aim to curb speculation in the property market.

The Estate Agents Management Association's former president Alfred Tso Shiu-wai estimated sales of flats would shrink by 30 per cent, about 1,000 property agency outlets would close and about 10,000 agents would lose their jobs in the next six months unless the government changed course.

This came as Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah told lawmakers yesterday he would introduce more anti-speculation measures if necessary.

'We will continue to monitor the situation and put forward suitable measures whenever necessary,' he said.

'If you think the change in interest rate will affect you, it is not a suitable time to buy property. The interest rate will rise definitely, but I cannot say when it will rise.' Tsang was speaking in the Legislative Council to start an annual government budget consultation amid soaring inflation and property prices.

The council said the stamp duty - ranging between 5 per cent and 15 per cent for residential properties sold within 24 months - should be replaced by a profit tax. It will stage a demonstration in the middle of next month to reflect the hardships agents face because of the government measures. The council also joined leading developers in warning the measures would hurt end-users.

Tsang said the stamp duty was a measure of the constraints the government faced. Many effective measures, he said, such as an interest rate rise, were not available because the local currency was linked to the US dollar, which largely tied the city's economic health to that of the United States.