UOLD case and S33A of Stamp Duties Act

Ion in the making

Who are the parties involved?
UOL Development (Novena) Pte Ltd vs Commissioner of Stamp Duties

What are the facts of the case?
In 2005, 53 owners at Minbu Road sold their respective properties on an enbloc basis to UOL Development after a tender. UOL Development’s lawyers subsequently sent separate letters of acceptance to each owner. UOL Development was effectively trying to treat this as 53 separate purchases instead of as an en bloc purchase.

The intended outcome was to reduce the stamp duties payable by UOL Development as the rate of stamp duties is progressively structured.

To illustrate
I assume each property is $1 million and the en bloc price is $53 millions.
The stamp duties payable for $53 mio en bloc price would be $1,584,600.
The stamp duties payable for $1 mio x 53 transactions would be $1,303,800.
A saving of about $280,000!!!

Decision of the Court
The Court ruled against UOL Development for reason that the original intention and contract was for a Sale & Purchase on an en bloc basis.

The Court also said that there was NO “sound commercial basis” for 53 separate contracts and the arrangement was “so contrived that it was clearly intended to reduce or avoid tax liabilities”.

Reference – Lim Gek Khim, “Tax Planning – When does it become tax avoidance?”, Singapore Accountant, Sep/Oct 2008.

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