Is stamp duty paid on leases?

| 21/08/2019

Why rent when it seems you have to pay for stamp duty on your lease agreement no matter the length of time on your lease? I’ve never paid this stamp duty but if it is the case, it makes more sense to buy. Can you confirm that lease agreements regardless of the length of time accrue stamp duty and must be paid?

Ask Auntie, CNS Local Life, Caymanian status

Auntie’s answer: Yes, under the Stamp Duty Law (2019 Revision), it is required for stamp duty to be paid on all lease agreements. An official with the Valuation and Estates Office under the Lands and Survey Department explained how the fee is calculated.

The stamp duty rate depends on the length of the lease and this is contained in the law on page 29 as part of the schedule “Lease or Agreement for a Lease of Immovable Property or any Interest Therein”. The schedule sets out duty calculations for leases ranging from less than one year to more than 30 years.

If you are not inclined to read through all those options, the official provided an example of stamp duty for the average lease: “For a standard lease which has a term of five years or less, the stamp duty payable is 5% of the average annual rent or market rent, whichever is greater.”

Therefore, the official explained, for a five-year lease in which rent is $2,000 a month, or $24,000 a year, the stamp duty would be calculated at 5% of the average annual rent which comes to $1,200. “This would be a one-off payment to cover the entire term of the lease agreement. Additional stamp duty would be payable every time a new lease agreement is entered into.”

The assessed duty would be highest for leases exceeding 30 years and lowest if renting for less than a year, and different percentages are charged for less or more than five years and less or more than ten years.

The official compared those numbers to what would be charged on purchased property. In that instance, “stamp duty is payable at a rate of 7.5% of the consideration paid or market value, whichever is greater. Let’s assume the same property as detailed above is sold for $250,000; the duty owed would be $18,750 (7.5% of $250,000).”

You can determine which duty assessment would be cheaper for you according to the value of the property you would be buying or the rent of a place you would be leasing.

As for the actual payment of stamp duty on a lease, the law does not specify who should foot that bill, only that it must be paid on all leases, the official pointed out. “It’s usually agreed between the parties and often documented in the lease agreement – most often the onus is placed on the tenant.”

If you want more details, the Lands and Survey website contains lots of information on stamp duty. For advice based on your specific circumstances, however, it would probably be best to consult with a lawyer.

To contact the Valuation and Estates Office directly with any questions call 244-3420 or email

The law mentioned above can be found on the CNS Library

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Category: Ask Auntie, Landlord/Tenant Questions

Comments (13)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Depends who you vote for.

  2. Anonymous says:

    If you don’t attempt to record the lease, government will not know and there is no mechanism for you to be charged.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Not red tape just anomalies in the law and lack of enforcement.
    Chris is spot on.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s not just lack of enforcement. The staff make it extremely difficult to GIVE government money. I had a case where we had all of the documents and a cheque for over $5K for the duty. I went back to the Gov’t building 3 times and got the run around each time. We finally gave up, kept the cash and moved on

  4. Anonymous says:

    The answer to the question is wrong. You answered the question, “Is stamp duty payable on leases?” correctly, but the answer to the posed question is “Only on commercial properties leased by big companies.”

  5. Say it like it is says:

    Collection of this tax is totally beyond the Civil Service.

    • Anonymous says:

      Like school fees, garbage fees, parking tickets….the list goes on.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Does anyone actually pay stamp duty on a rental agreement and who is supposed to enforce this?

  7. Chris Johnson says:

    From my observations a huge amount of stamp duty is being evaded particularly on commercial leases. There are a number of loopholes in the law that need be fixed in order that CIG can collect its revenue and deal with the perpetrators.

    • Anonymous says:

      Private leases are also unpaid. Have you seen the going rate to rent an apartment? Govt should be in a surplus if they ever collected the money.

  8. Anonymous says:

    more red tape solves nothing.