Decoupling property for foreigners in Singapore

decoupling property for foreigners in singapore

Table of Contents

Introduction

The fact that you landed on this article goes to show that you are in a very unique situation. You are a foreigner in Singapore who already owns a private property and you are savvy, looking to find an inroad towards owning a second investment property.

The thought of writing this article arose after several engagements with Singaporean citizens with spouse or partner with non citizen status.

We thought the property decoupling process for foreigners was challenging, laden with unique obstacles and solutions. Definitely worth a dedicated write up to serve as a resource and go-to guide for more foreigners looking to decouple their property in Singapore.

A little bit about ourselves

We are a team of property investors turned full time realtors. We specialise in helping like minded property owners own their second property without ABSD.

Decoupling property is one of our main modes of execution and we have assisted multiple clients with foreign citizenship status overcome hurdles to purchase investment property in Singapore.

If you like to outsource the heavy lifting of …

  • Managing decoupling timeline
  • Recommending decoupling lawyer
  • Calculating cost of decoupling and budget for 2nd property
  • 2nd property research and shortlisting

Drop us a text

Who is this article written for ?

The set the context let’s hone in on who this article is addressing. This article was written specifically to address property owned by joint owners consisting of a foreigner and a Singapore citizen.

For joint owners with Singapore PR status, we have written a separate article on decoupling property for Singapore PR, refer to article inline to find out more, if you are a PR.

What is decoupling ?

For the interest of those that are unacquainted with the term decoupling.

Property decoupling is one of the more popular strategy adopted by a growing niche of savvy property owners.

A property in Singapore is normally jointly owned by a couple. Decoupling seeks to “free up” one party’s name via an internal buy and sale transaction between the couple.

One party will buy over the other party’s share akin to an actual buy and sell transaction. This will essentially release the selling party from his or her existing property ownership to purchase the household’s 2nd investment property without ABSD.

Is decoupling legal for foreigners ?

Yes, there are no restrictions, restricting Singapore citizens from transferring their share in an existing property to their foreigner spouse.

But note, having said that. It is important to note that whatever that is being planned or implemented must not come close to or being deem as a “intentional scheme contrived with the primary intent of avoiding tax”

Refer to our in-depth article discussing the illegality of the 99-1 ABSD loophole that resulted in the IRAS investigation in 2023.

For latest updates on IRAS 99 1 investigation into tax avoidance cases and its differences with decoupling, refer to article link inline.

If this is a concern for you. It is best to seek help from an experienced decoupling lawyer, drop us a text and we will recommend you one from our panel of decoupling lawyers.

The cost of decoupling for foreigner

The key difference between property decoupling for joint owners that are both Singapore citizen and joint owners that consist of a Singapore citizen and foreigner, lies in the cost of decoupling.

For a couple consisting of both Singapore citizens, the cost of decoupling is straightforward.

It comprises of the following…

  • Decoupling legal fee
  • Early loan redemption penalty
  • Valuation fee
  • Seller stamp duty
  • Buyer stamp duty

But for joint owners comprising of a Singapore citizen and foreigner spouse, ABSD needs to be taken into consideration when the foreigner spouse is the one buying over share from the Singapore citizen spouse.

Estimating the cost of decoupling for joint owners comprising of citizen and foreigner.

Let’s work through some actual calculation we did for our clients, calculated using our decoupling calculator.

Assuming a property valued at $1.5 mil, held in 50-50 share ownership by a foreigner and Singapore citizen spouse.

For simplicity let’s decoupling is executed after 3 years of holding to exclude any seller stamp duty from the calculation.

Scenario #1 – Foreigner spouse purchasing Singapore citizen share

Let run through the cost of decoupling when foreigner spouse buys over 50% of Singapore citizen spouse’s share.

The total stamp duty incurred when decoupling amounts to $467,100. A 60% ABSD levied on the 50% share, amounted to a $450,000 cost which forms the bulk of the cost of decoupling.

This is definitely a no go scenario for the couple.

As a side note there are indeed some circumstances in which it is worth paying ABSD for your second property, but definitely not this one.

Scenario #2 – Singapore citizen spouse buying over foreigner spouse share

Let’s explore the other scenario of the Singapore spouse buying over share from the foreigner spouse.

In this case the total stamp duty incurred is only $17,100, significantly reduced.

But the challenge arises when a 60% ABSD is levied on the entire value of the second property to be purchase.

Using our 2nd property stamp duty calculator to calculate, the ABSD and buyer stamp duty on a $1.3 mil second property easily amount to $816,600.

A definite no go as well !

Solution for foreigner and Singapore citizen couple

To mitigate the high cost of decoupling and to avoid ABSD when purchasing a second property.

We recommend taking a two step approach to decoupling.

Step #1 – Purchase a private condo under a 99-1 tenancy in common structure

Step 1 of 2 would be an interim step which require the Singapore citizen and foreigner spouse to purchase a private condo, applying 99-1% shareholding structure. The foreigner spouse will hold 99% share while the Singapore citizen spouse will hold 1% share.

We have written at length about the pros and cons of the 99-1 tenancy in common manner of holding, refer to article link inline.

Side note, the initial 60% ABSD to be levied when purchasing the first property would be remissed. As a foreigner who is married to a Singaporean spouse qualifies for ABSD remission.

Check out the following article on ABSD remission for married couple for more insights.

For those who are wondering what’s the difference between joint tenancy vs tenants in common, check out article inline.

Step #2 – Decoupling 99-1

After a couple of years when lifestyle and financial circumstances permits, the couple can consider decoupling the property with Foreigner spouse buying over only 1% share that the Singaporean spouse own.

Under such circumstances the buyer stamp duty and the additional buyer stamp duty is only levied on the 1% share value of the Singapore citizen spouse.

Total stamp duty payable including buyer stamp duty amount to only $9,150

As always please do not take this as legal advice, as always seek proper legal advice from experience decoupling lawyers before proceeding.

For recommendation to decoupling lawyer that suits your budget drop us a tax

Ensuring legitimacy in the decoupling process

In our opinion it is always important to ensure long term legitimacy in your decoupling approach.

Cutting corners may lead to sleepless nights and painful tax clawbacks down the road.

If this is something you would like to explore, it helps to get a 2nd opinion to confirm your approach is legitimate.

Property selection for the first property to be held by couple consisting of foreigner and Singapore citizen

So given the circumstances is a little unique here, as the eventual outcome is that the foreigner spouse will end up owning 100% of the first property.

It is important to purchase a property that can hold value over a long holding period. If foreign spouse were to sell the initial property, the next property purchase will be levied with a 60% ABSD.

Here are some factors that you may want to take into consideration when selecting the first property.

1 – A sizeable property that can cater to future family needs

Consider if you would want to use the first property as your homestay property and the second property solely as an investment property.

If that is the case then it is important to select a unit size that can fit your future family needs

Insert internal link – best condo sizes – https://decouplingexpertise.sg/best-condo-size-for-investment-in-singapore/

2 – Property with high rental yield

On the flip side, if you plan to live in your 2nd investment property and rent out the current property held by the foreigner spouse.

Then it is important to select a property with high rental demand.

Check out our article on best places to buy rental property in Singapore.

3 – Freehold property

If you are sure that the first property that both you and your foreigner spouse purchase is going to be your long term place of dwelling then freehold condos could be something worth considering.

Budget and affordability

Understand that cost considerations are slightly different for couple with foreigners.

Drop us a text to work out financial calculation and loan solution to help you in your 2nd property purchase.

More reads, more gains ?

Kudos on making it this far. The fact that you have invested the last 5 mins reading this article. We believe you are a like minded real estate investor looking to beat the rat race by getting more out of your real estate investment.

If so, do check out the following articles.

Author

  • Jue Wen

    Jue Wen is the content marketing lead. This means he spend his waking hours researching and writing all things real estate. He believes life is a hustle and there is no joy in grinding away daily in our little rat races. He believes making wise moves in real estate investment can be a game changer. Aside from writing all things real estate, you can find him in your nearest bouldering gym.

Looking to purchase your second property?

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Jue Wen

Author

Jue Wen is the property analyst and content marketing lead at decoupling expertise.
He specialises in helping clients overcome the complexities involved in owning their second private property in Singapore.
He had over 10 years of experience in real estate investing and have written over 40 detail guides on decoupling and minimising ABSD. He is a licensed real estate consultant and holds a Bachelor degree in Business Management from the Nanyang Technological University.

Kenji

Co-Author

Kenji is the Group Division Director of ERA Realty Network.
He have got over 20 years of experience in real estate and have successfully helped over 50 couples purchased their second property. He specialises in helping client achieve the best approach towards acquiring their ideal investment properties while minimising ABSD.