Navigating Commercial and Residential Real Estate Transactions


Have you ever wondered whether selling your property could result in a Goods and Services Tax (GST) liability? For those involved in typical residential property transactions within Australia, there’s a slim chance that GST will apply to the sale. However, as the person selling the property, it’s crucial that you fully understand GST on property and your tax obligations. In this blog post, we’ll explore the GST implications on property transactions and help guide you in determining your tax position.

Understanding GST in Real Estate

A broad-based tax known as the Goods and Services Tax is applied at a rate of 10% to the majority of goods, services, and other consumable items that are purchased or used in Australia. GST applies to commercial property transactions, including the sale and rental of these properties. However, specific residential property transactions, such as sales or renting existing property, are typically GST-free.

Before diving into the details, let’s briefly outline the differences between commercial and residential properties:

  • Commercial properties: Offices, retail spaces, factories, warehouses, etc., are generally used for business purposes.
  • Residential properties: Houses, apartments, and units are primarily meant for living purposes.

GST on Commercial Property Transactions

Sales and Purchases

When selling or purchasing a commercial property, GST is applied to the transaction if the property is registered for GST. Usually, this occurs when the property is:

  • Owned by a business with a GST turnover exceeding the $75,000 threshold.
  • Identified as new, rather than second-hand (i.e., has not been previously sold as residential).

Additionally, the margin scheme can be employed to calculate GST on property sales in certain circumstances. This enables the vendor to charge GST only on the margin (the difference between the sale price and the original purchase price or property’s value, whichever is higher) rather than on the total sale price.


GST also applies to the rental of commercial properties. If a commercial property owner is registered for GST or required to be registered due to their GST turnover, they must charge GST on the rent. The rate is calculated as 10% of the gross rental amount, and the tenant has to pay this additional fee.

GST on Residential Property Transactions

You might be wondering – “why would anyone be interested in something so dull?” Well, it turns out that understanding what qualifies as a GST-free supply can help you save money as a savvy consumer and possibly even supercharge your business!


Most residential property transactions are exempt from GST. However, GST is applicable under specific conditions, including:

  • The sale of a new residential property (i.e., the property hasn’t been sold or lived in previously).
  • The vendor is in business and exceeds the GST turnover threshold.

In such cases, the standard GST rate will apply, though the margin scheme can be employed, as mentioned above.


When purchasing a new residential property that attracts GST, you are required to pay this tax. However, if you purchase a second-hand residential property, you are exempt from GST.


Typically, residential property rentals are GST-free. Property owners are not required to charge GST on rent when leasing residential property, and tenants don’t have to pay GST on residential rent.

GST on Property Development

Property developers need to navigate GST intricacies related to construction, sales, and the acquisition of land for development purposes. As property development primarily involves new construction, GST registration is often necessary, and obligations need to be managed effectively to avoid financial risks.

Developers who are registered for GST can claim input tax credits for their expenses incurred during the property development process. However, they must also charge GST on their sales, most commonly in the case of constructing new residential or commercial buildings. The application of GST varies depending on whether the developer is selling the property, leasing it, or using it for personal reasons.

Key Takeaways

Navigating GST on property transactions, be it commercial or residential, can be challenging. Here are some crucial points to remember:

  • GST applies to newly constructed commercial properties and newly built residential properties but not to established residential properties.
  • Commercial property rentals attract GST, while residential property rentals are generally GST-free.
  • Ensure you register for GST if your business has an annual turnover above the stated threshold, typically when dealing with commercial properties.

Of course, laws and regulations can change, and every individual’s situation is unique. Always consider consulting with a tax professional when dealing with property transactions and GST to ensure you’re on the right track.


In Australia, Goods and Services Tax is typically 10% of the property’s sale price. However, this may vary depending on the nature of the property and the circumstances of the sale. For example, sales of new residential properties attract GST, whereas sales of existing (second-hand) residential properties are generally exempt from GST.

GST is generally payable on the sale of a property at the time settlement occurs, when the purchaser pays the balance to the seller. However, if you’re selling a property and you’re registered for GST, you may need to include GST in the price of the property.

There are certain conditions under which a property sale might be GST-free. For instance, selling a residential property that has been continuously rented out for more than 5 years may qualify as GST-free. However, the rules can be complex and may vary depending on the specific circumstances, so it’s always best to seek professional advice.

The 5-year rule for GST property refers to the requirement that a new residential property must be rented out continuously for at least 5 years from the date of completion to be considered a commercial residential premises. If a property meets this criteria, the sale of such a property could potentially be GST-free.

To calculate the GST on a house sale, you would typically take the sale price of the property and multiply it by the GST rate (currently 10% in Australia). However, this calculation only applies if GST is applicable to the sale.


To sum it up, understanding how GST applies to property transactions is essential in making informed decisions about your investments. The impact of GST on property transactions can be quite complex, and it is important to seek professional advice on how these rules apply to your specific situation. By having a clear understanding of the GST implications, you can optimise your property transactions and minimise any potential risks.

Additionally, it is essential to seek professional advice from a financial consultant or tax agent familiar with the intricacies of real estate and GST laws.

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