E-stamping of property leases to become standard practice

Landlords and letting agents should prepare for a further change in the way that property leases are stamped, according to Vivien Marks, regional general manager of the Institute of Estate Agents Western Cape.

The South African Revenue Service introduced online "e-stamping" earlier this year and, according to a recent SARS presentation to IEA members, it will become the normal as from February 2006. Thereafter, revenue stamps will no longer be available at post offices, and landlords and letting agents who wish to stamp documents manually will have to take them to their local SARS office.

"Online payment appears to be an easy and effective way of dealing with stamp duty," says Marks, herself a former letting agent and currently a member of the Rental Housing Tribunal. "We were impressed with the features provided by SARS on their website, including a calculator to work out the exact amount of duty payable."

Marks points out that this is the second major change in stamp duty on leases in the past year. In January 2005, stamp duty was doubled and in addition to being payable on the rental value of the lease, it also became payable on any other amounts, such as electricity and water, for which the tenant agrees to reimburse the landlord. As a result, many leases now have to be re-stamped annually to provide for those additional amounts.

Marks notes that many people believe that it is the tenant's responsibility to pay stamp duty on a lease. However, it is actually the landlord's, but it is common practice for the lease to provide for the tenant to reimburse him. A lease must be stamped within thirty days of being signed.

The IEA, a private organisation which provides estate agents with professional support, recommends that letting agencies set themselves up for e-stamping without delay.

The SARS website address for e-stamping is: www.sarsefiling.co.za.
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