In most parts of Australia, real estate prices are through the roof. It’s one thing to pay market value for a home; having to pay even more on top of that is a whole other matter. After paying so much money to own even a very modest house, most buyers are irked by having to pay stamp duty. Indeed, the tax seems like nothing short of a punishment in most instances. That’s especially true when you consider its origins versus what it’s ostensibly used for today. Should the stamp duty on real estate purchases be eliminated? Most Australians would respond with a resounding yes.

In the earliest days, the stamp duty that was assessed on real estate transactions was used to cover the costs of filing and stamping the associated paperwork. At that point, it seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do, and it wasn’t all that expensive. Times have changed, though. These days, most Australian states and territories generate huge amounts of revenue by collecting the tax from home buyers, and the money is used for much more than filing and stamping paperwork. In fact, it could be argued that much of what’s collected isn’t used for real estate matters at all.

First home buyers tend to have the hardest time buying real estate in Australia. House prices are sky high, and those just starting out don’t often have a lot of money at their disposal. After scrimping and saving for years to amass a decent deposit on their first home, young people are thrown for a loop upon realizing that they’ll also need to come up with a considerable percentage of the value of their new home to cover the stamp duty. Sure, most territories and states waive huge portions of the duty for first home buyers; some offer concessions that eliminate it entirely. Still, asking those with limited means to come up with even more money in order to buy their first homes is hitting below the belt.

Will the stamp duty for real estate purchases ever go away? Considering how much state and territorial governments rely on the revenue that seems highly unlikely. Still, adjustments can and should be made. Rather than charge a percentage of the total value of a very expensive home, for instance, the duty could be a flat rate that’s a lot more reasonable. Whether any changes ever happen, however, is a whole other matter.