Long queues of happy couples waiting to get married might be a common sight in Las Vegas. But lines of happily married couples waiting to get divorced? Only in China. In major cities across the country last month, thousands of couples rushed to their local divorce registry office to dissolve their marriages in order to benefit from fast-expiring tax breaks on property investments for unmarried individuals.
Local media reported long waits at registries in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and elsewhere as savvy investors sought to buy or sell a second home before the government introduced strict new regulations that would force married homeowners to pay hefty taxes on the sale of second properties.
The new regulations are designed to cool speculation in China’s feverish property market and are part of a package of measures that would require couples to pay up to 20% capital gains tax on the sale of second homes. But for determined investors, nothing gets in the way of a good bargain, and some quickly noticed that the 20% impost didn’t apply if the second home was bought before the couple were married — or after they got divorced.
Haitian but your Hainan divorce. Recent regulations in China intended to tamp down real-estate speculation have had an unintended consequence of separating happily married couples to take advantage of better tax benefits accruing to single persons: