A homeowner’s bid to claim a stamp duty refund of more than HK$270,000 has failed after an appeal court rejected his interpretation of an amended law aiming to curb housing speculation, and reversed a ruling in his favour. The tax authority welcomed the Court of Appeal’s decision, saying it clarified who would be eligible for an exemption under the Stamp Duty Ordinance. In a judgment handed down yesterday, the appeal court found Ma Wan resident Ho Kwok-tai failed to qualify for a refund of HK$273,750 – half of the stamp duty he paid for selling two flats in Tsing Yi in 2013. Ho was also required to foot the tax collector’s legal bills for the appeal and for the preceding lawsuit. Hong Kong’s problem with stamp duty and the super-rich The case centred on the amended Stamp Duty Ordinance which aims to restrict property speculation by raising the cost of selling one. The law, introduced in 2014, imposes a double stamp duty but allows exemptions for those who buy a new home for their own use and sell their previous one within six months. But Ho sold two small flats to buy a bigger one in Ma Wan for his family and did not get the tax refund. He launched a judicial review over the tax collector’s move. In February, the High Court awarded Ho the refund after finding the tax collector misinterpreted the law. Deputy High Court judge Mr Brian Keith ruled even though “property” appeared to be described in the law as singular, it could also be read as plural. The tax body filed an appeal in March. Ho argued in the higher court he had disposed of his two properties before the new purchase was completed and that he had met requirements for a refund. In allowing the appeal, the Court of Appeal asserted the term “original property” was not intended to refer to more than one property.