No plans to ditch property speculation cooling measures, says Carrie Lam

Government flexibility may be limited to relaxing measure that doubles stamp duty on some property transactions

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 May, 2014, 3:51am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 5:52pm

Acting chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor says the government will not be ditching measures introduced to curb property speculation, reiterating that maintaining a stable property market was a firm policy of the government.

On Monday, a government source confirmed to the Post that it is considering relaxing a measure that doubles stamp duty on some property transactions, in an effort to break a deadlock with legislators that is holding up the law.

The concession would make it easier for eligible home buyers to get a refund of the punitive duty. It comes after some lawmakers considering the law in a bills committee said it was too harsh.

On Tuesday, Lam said that the government would be prepared to allow some flexibility to benefit “genuine buyers”.

But she was quick to add: “To stabilise the market, it is government policy and the government has the determination to keep the policy. Our determination is never shaken.”

She said the measures had wide public support.

Under the present proposal, buyers who sell their old home within six months of buying a new one would be eligible for the refund. The government is understood to be considering extending this period by one or two months.

Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Professor Chan Ka-keung is expected to spell out the changes at a meeting on Tuesday of the bills committee studying the Stamp Duty (Amendment) last year bill.

The government introduced the double stamp duty plan early last year in the wake of renewed signs of exuberance in the property market. Under the law, buyers of properties costing more than HK$2 million would incur stamp duty at rates at least double those that previously applied unless they were permanent residents buying their first homes.

The new rate ranges from 1.5 per cent to 8.5 per cent, depending on the cost of the property. The old rate was between HK$100 and 4.25 per cent. The new rate also applies to non-locals and companies already hit by the 15 per cent special buyers’ stamp duty.