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Legislature ups tax on homes where owners do not reside

TAIPEI--The non-owner-occupied house tax rate was increased to at least 1.5 percent and no higher than 3.6 percent annually by the Legislative Yuan Tuesday, while the rate for owner-occupied dwellings remains unchanged.

Before the amendment, the rate for non-owner-occupied residential properties was at least 1.2 percent and no higher than 2 percent. The house tax, a tax collected by local governments, normally is levied according to the lowest rate.

The rate for owner-occupied is still 1.2 percent of the house's current value annually.

Ministry of Finance (MOF) officials said that raising the non-owner-occupied house tax rate could bring houses vacant or purchased for speculative purposes back on to the market.

The amendment also includes houses leased to private hospitals or clinics, and brings professional offices into the category of houses used for business purposes, which have a rate of at least 3 percent and no higher than 5 percent.

Previously, these two kinds of usages had rates the same as for offices of non-profit civic organizations, which is at least 1.5 percent and no higher than 2.5 percent.

The MOF in April singled out the lack of distinction between owner-occupied and non-owner-occupied properties as one of the factors driving the gouging of property prices to an exorbitantly high level.

Under the current House Tax Act, taxes are levied on the assessed price of the house. Since the housing tax is a local issue but municipal and county governments do not generally make a distinction on whether the owner occupies his or her property, most houses are invariably subject to the minimum tax rate of 1.2 percent.

Official figures indicate that the housing price-to-income ratio in Taipei is higher than 15:1, meaning it takes the average citizen 15 years of earnings to afford a home.

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