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How To Avoid Transfer Duty?

Quick Summary

Transfer duty is a tax levied on the value of property acquired in South Africa. It is payable to the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and is separate from property transfer costs. This blog post provides an overview of transfer duty, including when it is payable, exemptions, and strategies to minimize or avoid it. It also addresses frequently asked questions related to transfer duty.


Transfer duty is a tax levied on the value of any property acquired by any person in South Africa. It is payable to the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and should not be confused with property transfer costs, which are fees paid to the conveyancing attorney for transferring the property from seller to buyer.

When purchasing a home or other real estate, it’s important to understand how transfer duty works and what you can do to minimize or avoid this additional cost. In this blog post, we will provide an overview of transfer duty in South Africa and share some strategies that may help you reduce your liability.

Whether you’re buying your first home or investing in multiple properties, understanding how transfer duty affects your finances can make a significant difference. So let’s dive into everything you need to know about avoiding unnecessary expenses when it comes to acquiring new properties.

Please note that while we strive for accuracy and up-to-date information at Askly.co.za., laws regarding taxes like Transfer Duty might change over time; therefore always consult with professionals such as attorneys specializing in Property Law before making decisions based on our content.

What is Transfer Duty?

Transfer duty is a tax levied on the value of any property acquired by any person through various means. It is an important aspect to consider when purchasing or acquiring property in South Africa. However, it should not be confused with property transfer costs, which are fees paid to the conveyancing attorney for transferring the ownership of the property from seller to buyer.

The responsibility for paying transfer duty lies with the buyer and it must be paid directly to the South African Revenue Service (SARS). The amount payable depends on several factors including but not limited to, the value of the property.

When is Transfer Duty Payable?

Transfer duty is a tax that needs to be paid when acquiring property in South Africa. It is important to understand the circumstances under which transfer duty becomes payable.

Threshold for Transfer Duty:

Transfer duty is only applicable on properties valued at more than R1 million. If you are purchasing a property below this threshold, you will not have to pay any transfer duty.

Rate of Tax Based on Property Value:

The rate of transfer duty depends on the value of the property being acquired. The higher the value, the greater amount of transfer duty will need to be paid. There are different brackets and corresponding rates set by SARS (South African Revenue Service) based on these values.

Deadline for Payment:

Once you acquire a property subject to payment of transfer duties, it’s crucially important that they are settled within six months from acquisition date as stipulated by law.

Penalties for Late Payment:

Failure or delay in making timely payments can result in penalties imposed by SARS. These penalties may include additional fees or interest charges added onto your outstanding balance.

It’s essential always keep track and adhere strictly with deadlines associated with paying off your due taxes related to transferring ownership rights over real estate assets.

Exemptions to Transfer Duty

Transfer duty is a tax levied on the value of any property acquired by any person in South Africa. However, there are certain exemptions that can help individuals or couples reduce their transfer duty liability. Let’s take a closer look at these exemptions:

1. Marriage in Community of Property:

When two people get married and choose to be married in community of property, they become joint owners of all assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage. In such cases, no transfer duty is payable when transferring properties between spouses.

2. Divorce Settlements:

In divorce settlements where one spouse transfers ownership of a property to another as part of the settlement agreement, no transfer duty will be charged for this transaction.

3. Inheritance:

If you inherit a property from someone who has passed away, you may not have to pay transfer duty on it since it was not purchased but rather transferred through inheritance.

4. Cancelled Transactions:

Sometimes transactions fall through due to various reasons like financing issues or legal complications resulting in cancellation before registration takes place. If your purchase falls under this category, you won’t need to pay any transfer duties.

It’s important also note that developers often offer homes for sale within new developments with no transfer duties, but instead buyers would then have VAT (Value Added Tax) on those homes. It becomes crucial therefore, to check if sellers are registered for VAT when buying such properties. This ensures transparency regarding additional costs involved.

These exemptions provide opportunities for potential homeowners or investors looking into acquiring properties without having an extra burden imposed by paying hefty amounts towards transfer duties. However, it’s always advisable consult with professional advisors, such as attorneys, tax consultants, and estate agents, to ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations surrounding each exemption mentioned above.

How to Avoid Transfer Duty

Transfer duty can be a significant expense when purchasing property in South Africa. However, there are strategies that buyers can employ to minimize or even avoid transfer duty altogether. It is important to note that these strategies should always be implemented within the bounds of the law and with proper guidance from professionals such as tax advisors or attorneys.

1. Purchase Property Below the Threshold:

One straightforward way to avoid transfer duty is by purchasing a property below the threshold set by SARS, which currently stands at R1 million. By staying within this limit, you will not incur any transfer duty costs.

2. Utilize Exemptions:

As mentioned earlier, certain exemptions exist for specific circumstances such as marriage in community of property, divorce settlements involving transfers between spouses/partnerships/associations/joint ventures/companies/trusts under common control (Section 9(20) transactions), inheritance through death or donation mortis causa (bequests made upon death), and cancelled transactions where no consideration was received. By taking advantage of these exemptions if applicable in your situation, you may reduce or eliminate your liability for paying transfer duties.

3. Structure Transactions Legally:

Another strategy involves structuring property transactions legally so as to minimize potential liabilities associated with transfer duties. For instance:

  • Consider buying shares instead of acquiring ownership directly: In some cases where properties are held through companies rather than individuals owning them outright; it might be possible only transferring shareholding rights without triggering additional taxes like VAT on immovable goods sold separately from movable ones subjecting both types together unless specifically exempted;
  • Explore options like sectional title schemes: Purchasing units within sectional title developments could potentially result in lower overall costs compared against traditional freehold purchases due mainly because shared expenses spread across multiple owners;

4. Consult Professionals:

It cannot be stressed enough how crucial it is consult professional advice before implementing any avoidance measures related either reducing one’s exposure towards transfer duties or structuring transactions legally. Tax advisors and attorneys specializing in property law can provide invaluable guidance tailored to your specific circumstances, ensuring compliance with all relevant regulations while maximizing potential savings.

In conclusion, avoiding or minimizing transfer duty is possible through careful planning and adherence to legal strategies. By staying informed about the exemptions available, exploring alternative ownership structures like sectional title schemes when appropriate, and seeking professional advice from tax experts or lawyers experienced in property matters; buyers can significantly reduce their financial burden associated with this tax.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1: What is the difference between transfer duty and property transfer costs?

Transfer duty is a tax levied on the value of any property acquired by any person through various means. It is payable to the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and should not be confused with property transfer costs. Property transfer costs are fees paid to conveyancing attorneys for transferring ownership of a property from seller to buyer.

Question 2: How is transfer duty calculated?

The rate of transfer duty depends on the value of the property being transferred. The higher the value, the higher percentage you will pay in terms of taxes. To calculate your specific amount, you can use SARS’ Transfer Duty Calculator or consult with a professional tax advisor who can assist in determining how much you need to pay based on your circumstances.

Question 3: What are penalties for late payment of transfer duty?

If you fail to make payment within six months after acquiring a taxable immovable property, there may be penalties imposed by SARS. These penalties could include interest charges that accrue daily until full settlement has been made.

Question 4: Are there any exemptions to paying transfer duty?

Yes, certain situations qualify for exemption from paying transfer duty. These include:

  • Marriage in community of property
  • Divorce settlements where properties are transferred between spouses
  • Inheritance transfers as part of an estate distribution
  • Cancelled transactions where a property is not ultimately purchased

It’s important to note that developers may offer homes for sale in new developments with no transfer tax payable. Instead, buyers would need to pay Value Added Tax (VAT) on these homes. It’s advisable to review the specific exemption criteria and consult with a professional tax advisor or attorney for accurate information pertaining to your circumstances.

Question 5: How can I minimize or avoid transfer duty?

There are legal ways to structure property transactions in order to reduce your liability for transfer duty. Some strategies that may help include:

  • Purchasing a property valued below the threshold of R1 million, as properties under this value do not attract transfer duty.
  • Considering alternative ownership structures such as trusts or companies, which may have different tax implications and potentially lower duties.
  • Exploring any available exemptions mentioned earlier.

It is important to consult with a professional tax advisor or attorney who specializes in property transactions and transfer duty for personalized advice based on your specific situation.

Question 6: Can I claim transfer tax as a tax deduction?

No, you cannot claim transfer tax as an individual or taxed entity as a deduction on your income tax return. Transfer tax is considered a separate cost associated with the acquisition of a property, and it’s not eligible for deductions under current South African tax policies.

Question 7: What are the consequences of not paying transfer duty?

Failing to pay the transfer duty on time can have consequences including penalties imposed by SARS. These penalties may include interest charges which accumulate daily until full settlement has been made. Additionally, failure to make payment could result in delays in the transfer process and lead to longer settlement times. It is important to comply with all legal obligations related to transactions of real estate properties.


  1. https://www.ooba.co.za/resources/transfer-duty/
  2. https://www.privateproperty.co.za/advice/property/articles/understanding-transfer-duty/8889
  3. https://miltons.law.za/assets/uploaded_attachments/Transfer_Duty.pdf

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