Legal Landscape - 'I heard there is stamp duty relief for first time buyers. Is that true?'

Darren Donnithorne and Stephanie Matthews from Marshall Diel & Myers Limited Property & Estate planning team answer your property related questions and issues in this first monthly edition of Legal Landscape with Marshall Diel & Myers Limited.

I heard there is stamp duty relief for first time buyers. Is that true? 

Congratulations on being ready to take the plunge and purchase your first home in Bermuda!  When determining your budget for purchasing a property, you are absolutely correct to consider all costs involved.  In addition to the purchase price, you will have to pay legal fees and stamp duty together with various other disbursements.

Stamp duty is payable on the deed that gives you legal title to the property (known as a Conveyance) and can be significant. Stamp duty is typically shared equally between vendor and purchaser, and is calculated on the value (typically but not necessarily equivalent to the purchase price) of the property as follows:

  1. 2% on the first $100,000;
  2. 3% on the next $400,000 (i.e. up to $500,000);
  3. 4% on the next $500,000 (i.e. up to $1m);
  4. 5% on the next $500,000 (i.e. up to $1.5m);
  5. 7% on any sum above $1.5m. 

This stamp duty must be paid both as a legal requirement and in order for the transfer of title to be recorded at the Office of the Registrar General, but the good news is that some first time homeowners are eligible for stamp duty relief if all of the following conditions are met: 

  • The purchase price of the property is $750,000 or less. The purchase price must reflect the fair market value of the property and payment must be made in cash, by loan secured by a mortgage on the property or a combination of both;
  • The property is a residential property (a house or condominium is fine) or a parcel of land on which a residential property is to be built;  
  • The purchasers have Bermudian status or, if a married couple, one spouse has Bermudian status even if the other does not; 
  • None of the purchasers have ever held a legal or beneficial interest in residential property or land in Bermuda greater than 25% of its market value;
  • The purchasers will live in the property for a period of at least 3 years following purchase, or in the case of a parcel of land will complete construction of the building within 3 years following purchase;

If all of the conditions above are met, then all of the stamp duty ordinarily payable on the Conveyance is waived, so neither the purchaser nor the seller has to pay any amount towards stamp duty.  This can also be an incentive for a seller accepting an offer from a first time buyer as it will result in a saving for them.  

In order to take advantage of this relief, after the Conveyance is signed by the parties, a copy of the signed Conveyance along with a statement confirming that all conditions have been met, will be submitted to the Tax Commissioner for confirmation that for the transaction is entitled to the stamp duty relief.  If you are not eligible for the relief claimed, then stamp duty will be payable on the Conveyance according to the value of the property in the normal way.  As such, it is important to obtain legal advice so that you can ensure that you are eligible and that you follow the proper procedure for sanctioning the non-payment of stamp duty. Please also note that stamp duty relief applies only to the Conveyance. Stamp duty is also payable on the mortgage deed if you are borrowing funds from a bank, but tax relief is not available on this document.   

On this basis, the $750,000 threshold is a serious consideration for all first time purchasers who are able to comply with the conditions discussed above.  This relief could result in a significant cost saving and make your offer more attractive to a seller, which could be just the boost you need to get yourself onto the first rung of the property ladder. 

This article was written by Darren Donnithorne (Senior Associate & Head of the Property and Estate Planning Team) and Stephanie Matthews (Associate of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives). 

This column is for general guidance only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice. Before proceeding with any matters discussed here, persons are advised to consult with a lawyer.


Got Questions? 

If you have any property questions or issues, please contact us at darren.donnithorne@law.bm or stephanie.matthews@law.bm. We would be happy to work with you to help you navigate the legal landscape in Bermuda, and you may even find your question featured on Propertyskipper.com

We look forward to hearing from you! 

Darren DonnithorneStephanie Matthews

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