Table of contents
 - featured image
By Stuart Wemyss

Government’s vested interest in maintaining property price growth

key takeaways

Key takeaways

There are many large and powerful institutions that have a vested interest in rising property prices.

These include the government at all 3 levels as well as the banks.

Government taxes and charges add 30% to the cost of new property.

Property is too important to fail

There are many large and powerful institutions that have a vested interest in rising property prices.

But all levels of government (i.e., federal, state and local) probably have the most to gain, as I’ll explain in this blog.

This leads to two important observations.

Property Price

Firstly, the government is the main contributor to housing affordability pressures i.e., making housing less affordable.

Secondly, government tax revenues are dependent upon rising prices and demand for property.

I don’t want to debate whether this is right or wrong.

I’m merely interested in highlighting economic and financial reality, as I think it’s helpful to inform personal investment decisions.

The federal government revenue

The negative gearing tax break afforded to property investors has been widely debated since it was introduced in 1985.

You will recall that Bill Shorten proposed to remove negative gearing in his unsuccessful federal election campaign in 2019.

But it's only half of the tax story.

Using ATO data for the 2019/20 tax year, it appears that property investors claimed circa $728.5 million dollars of negative gearing income losses.

But this is dwarfed by taxpayers' taxable capital gains in the same year of over $20 billion.

Of course, these gains come from many sources (not just property investments) including share investments, the sale of businesses, and so on.

But property is a lumpy asset, so it tends to give rise to large CGT liabilities.

Unfortunately, more granular information was unavailable.

I’ve said in this blog many times, the most efficient way to build wealth is to invest in properties that have the attributes to drive strong capital growth over the long run, even if they produce a negative cash flow (because the rental yields are low).

The wealth-accumulating power of compounding capital growth will eventually dwarf any negative cash flow.

The same is true when it comes to federal government tax revenue.

The government generates a lot of (CGT) taxation revenue from rising property prices.

State government tax revenue is highly dependent on property

Australian states and territories generate two main taxation revenue streams from property, stamp duty (i.e., transfer duty payable when a property is sold) and land tax.

These two property taxes generate a lot of tax revenue for the states.

In fact, for most states, property taxes are the single largest source of taxation revenue.

For example:

  • VIC: budgeted property revenue of $14 billion which accounts for 46.5% of the state’s total taxation revenue.
  • NSW: budgeted property revenue of $16.5 billion which accounts for 41.6% of the state’s total taxation revenue.
  • QLD: budgeted property revenue of $6.5 billion which accounts for 34.5% of the state’s total taxation revenue.

Transfer duty is driven by the volume and value of property sales.


The states are responsible for regulating the property market.

It should come as no surprise that state governments have been quite lax with regulating these markets and/or enforcing consumer protections.

For example, financial advisors have very onerous obligations if they want to recommend a client invests $100k into the share market (regulated by the federal government).

However, property buyers’ agents have very few obligations (virtually none) if they recommend a client invest $1m into an investment property.

States want more property transactions to generate more tax revenue

Land tax revenue is driven by land valuations undertaken by the Valuer-General in each jurisdiction.

Rising property prices drive more taxation revenue.

For example, over the past 13 years, Victoria’s land tax revenue receipts have grown 10.9% p.a. compounding, which exceeds the growth in the median house price.

Local government authority revenue

The vast majority of local government revenue comes from rates and waste management charges.

However, local government authorities also derive revenue from charging property developers town planning fees, permit fees and contributions to the cost of public infrastructure (called Section 94 contributions).

For example, councils charge an ‘open space contribution’ of between 5% and 10% of the property’s land value, after development approval.

They may also request developers directly pay for certain infrastructure as a condition of their development approval.

These revenues fund the development of open spaces which town planners consider necessary to somewhat offset the impact of high urban density.

A healthy property market drives revenue for local councils too.

Government taxes and charges add 30% to the cost of new property

A lot of academic research concludes that the most effective way to improve housing affordability is to increase the supply of new dwellings.

Building restrictions, draconian planning approvals and limited land releases are the antitheses of housing affordability.

But of course, new housing needs to be affordable too.

Many economists have studied the impact of government taxes on the cost of new houses and these reports suggest that government taxes and charges contribute approximately 30% to the total cost of building new houses.

Home Taxes2

This article from the AFR is an example of such a report.

I acknowledge that many of these reports are funded by special interest groups (that support the construction/development industry), but the RBA has completed its own independent analysis which also broadly supports these estimates.

If the government was serious about tackling housing affordability, isn’t cutting taxes a good place to start (e.g., they could provide new home buyers with a tax credit to offset its cost)?

Taxes flow through to the end user

If property developers must pay higher fees, they will usually pass on this cost to the purchaser by charging a higher price.

Investors will seek to pass on higher costs to renters when the market allows.

The point is the end user, whether that’s a renter or home buyer, they will ultimately pay, making house less affordable.

The decision-makers have a vested interest too

American writer, Upton Sinclair said; “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”.

It’s worth mentioning that most politicians invest in property.

According to Crickey, 227 federal politicians own 510 properties.

Of these, 84 (37%) own three or more properties.

If you believe that most politicians are driven/influenced by self-interest, then you must believe that it’s less likely that governments will make changes that would adversely impact the benefits of investing in property.

The banks have a vested interest too

Whilst this blog is about governments vested interest, it is also worth pointing out that some of Australia’s largest companies also have a vested interest in rising property prices.

And these companies have strong lobbying power.

Of course, I’m talking about the big four banks.

Banks Big Four Banks Housing Market Edm

The banks make most of their profit from retail banking (mostly driven by home lending) e.g., CBA’s latest results show retail banking accounts for circa 50% of its total profit.

Whilst the banks need a robust property market that is not overheated, they make a lot of money from new lending and new lending drives prices higher.

Property is too important to fail

Rising property prices make property less affordable, particularly for first-home buyers.

It’s a hot-button political issue in most developed countries, including Australia.

But it’s important to recognise that there’s a disincentive for all levels of government to solve this issue, because of the tax revenue it generates.

There may also be added economic and personal disincentives for politicians too.

As such, I think we’ll continue to see a lot of jawboning about house prices and affordability but no meaningful action.

This is good to keep that in mind when making personal investment decisions.

About Stuart Wemyss Stuart was a Chartered Accountant before establishing mortgage broking firm ProSolution Private Clients. He has authored two books and shares his experience with readers of Property Update. Visit

Highly informative article Stuart. I now have a much better understanding of the WHYs that make up the property market. I hope this article is read by as many people as possible…. Particularly some of the noisy ones in the media and the activists/ p ...Read full version

1 reply

We in Australia have universal health care (Medicare) which guarantee's every man, woman and child with medical treatment. Then why in Australia can we not have universal housing for all which would provide shelter for all, if your financial situatio ...Read full version

1 reply
1 more comments...


Copyright © 2024 Michael Yardney’s Property Investment Update Important Information
Content Marketing by GridConcepts