NASSAU, Bahamas (BIS) – Homeowners will enjoy substantial benefits under the government’s 2008/2009 budget through the exemption of stamp taxes and the reduction and elimination of duty on a variety of building materials, appliances and fixtures.

“First-time homeowners will benefit from an increase in the ceiling for exemption from real property taxes, from $250,000 to $500,000, for the first five years,” Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham announced during government’s 2008/2009 budget communication delivered to parliament Wednesday.

In addition to this benefit, the government’s new fiscal budget provides stamp tax exemption for those purchasing a lot zoned for residential development upon which he/she proposes to construct a primary dwelling place and applicants purchasing a newly constructed dwelling place.

Applicants purchasing a dwelling unfit for occupation with the intention of occupying the dwelling upon completion of its renovation and applicants purchasing an existing dwelling to serve as their primary residence will also be eligible for stamp tax exemption.

Homeowners will also become eligible in the budget for exemption from stamp tax on the transfer of a mortgage of a dwelling place from one financial institution to another, and exemption from stamp tax where the applicant seeks to consolidate debts by mortgaging a dwelling home up to a value of $500,000.

“We are eliminating the $35,000 ceiling on real property tax for owner-occupied properties and will reduce the rate of tax to ¾ of 1% down from 1% on properties valued in excess of $5 million,” Prime Minister Ingraham added.

As part of its support for home ownership among middle-income families, the government will also introduce a Resolution for authority to issue a $75 million Mortgage Corporation Housing Bond, the largest Parliamentary request for a Housing Bond since the establishment of the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation 23 years ago.

In addition to property tax benefits, homeowners wishing to “go green”, purchasing energy-saving appliances and fixtures will also realise savings through the reduction and/or elimination of duty on those items.

“We will make duty free the import of energy-saving light bulbs, solar lamps, batteries, converters and wind engines,” Mr. Ingraham announced.

In the 2008/2009 budget, the government will also reduce import duties on energy-saving home appliances from 35% to 15%, reduce the import duty rates on energy-efficient windows, low-flow shower heads and low-flow toilets to 15% and significantly reduce the import duty on hybrid vehicles, from between 45% and 65% to 25%.

Customs duty on building materials for home construction will also be reduced.

“We will reduce import duties on a number of building materials, thereby lowering the cost of building a home or renovating an existing one, including plywood, oriented strand board, insulation, wooden hurricane shutters, aluminium and wood doors, wooden windows, and cement board,” the Prime Minister announced.

Mr. Ingraham also announced additional cost saving measures for consumers in The Bahamas via the removal of stamp tax on computer items.

“We will exempt personal computers, printers and software from the current stamp tax, thereby making them completely duty-free,” the Prime Minister said.