International Property

As Hong Kong considers a tax on empty property, how do other places deal with unoccupied homes?

A look at levies on vacant homes in six locations

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 May, 2018, 11:16am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 May, 2018, 11:16am

Hong Kong’s government is debating imposing a tax on vacant properties as a way of helping ease the city’s acute housing shortage. A number of locations worldwide have similar taxes.

Hong Kong developers speed up sale of empty flats as plans for vacancy tax gathers steam


Introduced in 1999, tax is levied on property in certain municipalities that has been unoccupied for more than 90 consecutive days. Owners of the property pay the tax, which is 12.5 per cent of the property’s value in the first year and 25 per cent from the second year.


Introduced in 2011, the city state charges local developers additional stamp duty if they fail to sell 100 per cent of units in the development within five years. Foreign developers must sell 100 per cent within two years. The rate is 10 per cent of the purchase price of the site if bought before January 12, 2013 and 15 per cent for sites bought after that date.


In 2013 Scotland and England imposed higher rates of council tax on owners of empty properties: up to 50 per cent higher for homes in England unoccupied for at least two years, and up to 100 per cent in Scotland for property vacant for at least one year. Wales followed in 2017 with up to 100 per cent extra council tax on properties vacant at least one year.


In 2014 the Israeli government granted municipalities powers to double local taxes on empty homes. It set the maximum period a house can be vacant at nine months. Owners are liable.


In 2017 the Canadian city began imposing tax on owners of residential property unoccupied for more than 180 days during a tax year that is not their principal residence. The tax is 1 per cent of the property’s assessed taxable value. 

Victoria state, Australia

From January 2018, the state government applied a tax on owners of residential properties in certain suburbs in the city of Melbourne that have been vacant for more than six months in a year. The tax is 1 per cent of the capital improved value of the property.