A senior’s never ending duty

Jean Charlton needs to find $40,000 to pay stamp duty.

Jean Charlton needs to find $40,000 to pay stamp duty.

HER bags are packed – Jean Charlton, of Kotara, is downsizing by  choice. But she says the NSW government needs to make it easier for seniors to do so, which will, in turn, free up valuable housing stock for families in established suburbs.

She’s paid her dues – as wife, mother, nurse, taxpayer. 

Now at 83 years of age – as a self-funded retiree – the NSW state government is expecting her to pay again:  a large chunk of her retirement income on stamp duty.

Mrs Charlton has recently sold her family home of more than 40 years to downsize to an apartment off the plan.

Her Kotara house sold quickly, which gave her the cash to pay the deposit, and to rent elsewhere while she waited for her apartment in the Spire, above Newcastle’s Marketown, to be ready for occupancy.

That is some time away, but in the meantime she still needs to find about $40,000 to pay the government stamp duty, on top of legal fees, moving and rental costs.

In contrast, she said,  her brother-in-law in Victoria had no stamp duty to pay when he moved because the laws there are different.

On the eve of the NSW state election, Jean is calling on Premier Mike Baird to incentivise seniors who are currently living in large family homes to downsize by at least halving the cost of stamp duty.

Recently, she received a reply to a letter she wrote to the NSW government requesting it to look at the issue of stamp-duty exemptions for people over 65 who are selling to downsize.

The reply – from Parliamentary Secretary for Treasury, Mark Speakman – stated that: stamp duty currently provided a major part of the state’s general revenue, and ‘‘any reduction in this revenue would require alternative sources of funding to be found’’. But REINSW president Malcolm Gunning disagrees.

He believes halving stamp duty for seniors would stimulate buying activity through more recycling of existing homes, thus increasing sales volume, which in turn would provide a tax boon for the NSW government. He cites REINSW’s Real Tax Policy as the way to encourage recycling of existing homes without the government losing stamp duty revenue.

‘‘NSW should broaden the senior citizens transfer duty exemption by lowering the minimum age to 55 years and removing the “new home” restriction and the purchase price cap,’’ the policy outlines.

‘‘Many large houses are occupied by empty nesters. 

‘‘There should be incentives to encourage them to sell and buy more appropriate housing, like two smaller homes – one to live in and the other as an investment – providing rental accommodation to renters and income to the empty nesters, also making them less reliant on welfare. 

‘‘This measure should also increase supply of larger homes in established suburbs, improve affordability and stimulate better use of existing infrastructure.’’

Mr Speakman’s letter also suggested that, though NSW did not provide specific support to senior citizens to assist them to relocate to new premises, concessions were provided for motor vehicle registration, driver’s licences, travel on public transport, property and water rates and energy bills.

But as Jean Charlton points out, these are only applicable to pensioners, not self-funded retirees who even pay tax on their investments.

In a climate of low interest rates, she acknowledges that many self-funded retirees she knows are struggling to make ends meet. 

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