Anger over stamp duty charge on new homes

A group of bushfire affected residents who passed on rebuilding and bought new homes are angry that stamp duty relief is not available.

They believe the extra $15,000 plus being pocketed by the government meant they were “profiting from a natural disaster”.

“It could have been used to furnish our homes. We lost our homes and have had to purchase another home – how can the state government financially benefit from a natural disaster?” former Yellow Rock Road resident, Nicole Molony, 52, now of Springwood, asked.

Another fire victim, Brett Ainsworth, 51, formerly of Emma Parade and now living with his wife and three children in Caringbah, left the Mountains after two decades in the area. He has since paid $60,000 in stamp duty and echoed other fire victims’ concerns.

“We were flame zone and under insured ... I left my details with [Blue Mountains MP]Roza Sage [about stamp duty] but never heard back.” 

The homeowners believe other state governments showed more heart when their communities were stricken with vicious bushfires.

Records show that after the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, the Victorian government paid out $4.5 million worth of land tax and stamp duty payments to the principal place of residence for bushfire affected Victorians, effectively waiving the first $21,970 of stamp duty. This meant no stamp duty was paid on houses up to $500,000 by people rebuilding, buying a replacement existing home or rebuilding a new home on a new site.

However this was not the case after the Tasmania fires in January last year. In the 2003 ACT fires, the government waived up to $7000 stamp duty on the purchase of a new home (totalling $700,000).

Labor’s candidate for the Blue Mountains, Trish Doyle said she had “heard from a few residents about their despair and frustration with stamp duty charges, especially in light of how other state governments have assisted communities in the process of recovery and rebuilding after a natural disaster”.

Last December, at a community meeting at Winmalee High School, the then Financial Services Minister Andrew Constance went on public record saying “representations have been made to Government and will be taken up with Treasury”. Mr Constance is now the treasurer.

Ms Doyle said she would “like to know whether Mr Constance did in fact make representations to the then Treasurer (now Premier) Baird and what the response was”.

“The NSW Liberal Government is abandoning the Blue Mountains once again.This is another case of all talk and no action  — agonisingly slow to respond in clearing land, a premature and hasty withdrawal of the Fire Recovery Co-ordinator Phil Koperberg, promise of grants for small businesses broken, now asking affected families for stamp duty money they don’t have.” 

She added residents were “only moving into new homes because they can’t afford to rebuild, so this is a kick in the guts. There is nothing worse than unequal treatment, and that’s what we’re seeing here.”

Bushfire victim Tony Foster, when asked about the validity of Ms Doyle’s comments said “too true, too true”.

But Mrs Sage said the government had provided the “necessary assistance to help the community through this challenging time”. 

“The $11.4 million state and federal clean-up package ensured full insurance pay-outs could be put toward future rebuilding costs [and] also protected the whole community by ensuring dangerous asbestos waste was removed.”

She said both governments continued to support the Mountains community with a $1.8 million long-term recovery package.

“In response to my representations on behalf of Blue Mountains residents, Treasurer Andrew Constance has advised the government does not envisage any changes to the Duties Act that would provide stamp duty relief in this particular case. He has expressed that assistance is best provided through the various natural disaster assistance schemes specifically targeted to the circumstances”.

Mrs Sage said the government does, however, provide a new home grant of $5000 which “may be of assistance to some residents who have decided to relocate to new premises”. Details on the grant can be found on the Office of State Revenue website at http://osr.nsw.gov.au/grants/nhg.

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