NSW Secrets: Gladys, who is buying all the property in NSW?

NEWSFLASH   – Since publishing this post on Saturday there has been a flurry of activity by the State Government, as some foreign buyer data for the period July through September 2016 was released following a FOI request by the Daily Telegraph.  The Premier and the Treasurer promise to do “something” to slow the acquisition of local housing by foreign buyers. But when and what is the question.

The real story is that the government is sitting on the foreign buyer data for the perioGladysd right through to the end of February 2017 and should release it immediately.  The period July – September 2016 was likely to have been slow for foreign buying activity as the introduction of the new charges on 1 July 2016 caused buyers to bring their transactions forward to before 1 July 2016. Release the data Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet!

A few weeks ago the Glass Pyramid noted that much of the speculation about “who is buying Australian houses and driving up prices” could be resolved very easily if the Australian Tax Office released some of the detailed information it is now receiving from the state land title offices and offices of state revenue.

The information that the Glass Pyramid recommended be released by the ATO was the following:

(a) Foreign (Offshore) buyers of new homes and apartments since 1 July 2016.

(b) Foreign (Offshore) sellers of new homes and apartments since 1 July 2016.

(c) Foreign (Temporary resident) buyers of new homes and apartments since 1 July 2016.

(d) Foreign (Temporary resident) buyers of existing homes and apartments since 1 July 2016.

(e) Foreign (Temporary resident) sellers of new and existing homes and apartments since 1 July 2016.

(f) Foreign (Permanent resident) buyers and sellers of new and existing homes and apartments since 1 July 2016.

Unfortunately, although the Glass Pyramid forwarded this recommendation to the ATO (by tweet!) and most of the major and minor political parties (by tweet) no data has been forthcoming….to date.

Cooling the ‘foreign property invasion’ hotheads

Just think of the benefits of having this information released on a monthly basis for each state!

No more hysteria and panic about the level of foreign ownership of residential housing.

The level of foreign ownership could be studied in detail and all the supposedly groundless fears could be nipped in the bud.

Each month Minister Scott Morrison, Minister Peter Dutton and Prime Minister Turnbull could release the figures, amidst a forest of Australian flags, and use them to reassure the general public that, despite widespread concern, the amount of residential property that is being sold to foreign buyers is insignificant.

Attractive pie charts and graphs displaying the data could be featured during Alan Kohler’s segment on the ABC National News.

Now of course some might say that if the information demonstrated there was noooooo problem it would already have been released by the Big Australia spruikers, but there is no need for such cynical and negative thinking.

Mr Scott Morrison has just been very busy trying to convince his colleagues he can be trusted with selling another stinker of a budget.

A great leap forward indeed.

Unfortunately, we know that Malcolm Turnbull’s very young government is already in a state of advanced paralysis and there is little likelihood that even a simple task like releasing this data each month will be executed in a timely manner.

Fortunately, we don’t need competence in Canberra to  obtain access to the NSW foreign ownership data as the ATO is getting it from the NSW Land Titles Office and Office of State Revenue. That means all we need is for the new NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian to give the command and the data listed above for NSW can be released each month by the NSW government.

Her leadership on the issue might even prompt the dazed and confused government in Canberra to act or the Premiers of other states to step up to the crease if Canberra cannot get out of bed on the issue.

But is Premier Gladys part of the problem?

On 1 July 2016, NSW introduced a stamp duty and land tax surcharge for property purchases by foreign buyers – both offshore and temporary resident.   The Office of State Revenue provided a very helpful data block (Excel spreadsheet) in the data and statistics section of its website, for the first few months after the introduction of the surcharge, which provided a breakdown of stamp duty revenues including the number of transactions and the amount of the surcharge paid by foreign buyers.

The spreadsheet was chunky (about 20-30M) and contained a wealth of detail about the types of property transactions that had taken place during the proceeding month.   It was clear that the new ATO requirements, that the status of parties to property transactions be identified, were being enforced and it was reaping rewards in terms of accurate information. Click here for a copy of the table for October 2016 – the last month the full table was made available.  Stamp Duty data block for October 2016 (28M)

This is a screen shot of the spreadsheet pivot tables for September 2016.   Notice that the fields to choose from included, document type, land use, etc.   All very useful and there were no privacy issues as the location of the land for any specific transaction was not revealed.

Duty

The Glass Pyramid tweeted each month about the contents of these spreadsheets and the information they revealed about the level of foreign purchases and also the amount of surcharge stamp duty revenue that was being raised each month.

Everything was going so well

However, after a few months the stamp duty data blocks suddenly shrank to a few Kb and all the useful information about foreign purchases was removed and concealed in “headline numbers” Stamp Duty data block for November 2016 (65Kb)

The information flow was suddenly turned off – without any explanation.

Stuff like that doesn’t happen by accident.

Someone must have given a direction to the data miners in the OSR to remove a bunch of the fields that were present in the previous spreadsheets.

Someone did not want the people of NSW to know too much about the breakdown in stamp duty revenues.   Duty-Oct

Who ? Why?

Someone at the OSR will know?

As the Treasurer of NSW at the time and someone with a keen interest in the revenues raked in by the OSR could it have been Gladys?  Perhaps the order came from Mikey Baird?

But let’s not dwell on past errors of judgement or decisions to conceal and those who made them – though it would be nice to know.

With just a single phone call Premier Gladys Berejiklian can not only restore the OSR stamp duty data block to its former glory with all those juicy extra data fields but also direct the Office of State Revenue to release each month the information items (a) – (i) set out below.

A question for the NSW Opposition or minority parties to ask.

The following question is tailor made for an enthusiastic member of the NSW Parliament to ask at the next sittings of the NSW Parliament.  Perhaps the ALP?, perhaps those upright Shooters, Fishers and Farmers.  How about a Green?  Why not Fred Nile?

Be quick and it could be you.

Will the Premier direct the Office of State Revenue and the NSW Land Titles Office to release the following information on a monthly basis.

(a) The number of new homes and apartments bought by Foreigners (Offshore)

(b) The number of homes and apartments sold by Foreigners (Offshore)

(c) The number of new homes and apartments bought by Foreigners (Temporary residents)

(d) The number of existing homes and apartments bought by Foreigners (Temporary resident)

(e) The number of existing homes and apartments sold by Foreigners (Temporary residents)

(f) The number of new homes and apartments sold by Foreigners (Temporary residents)

(g) The number of homes and apartments bought by Foreigners (Permanent residents)

(h) The number of homes and apartments sold by Foreigners (Permanent residents)

(i) The amount of surcharge stamp duty and surcharge land tax paid by foreign buyers and foreign owners of property

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