The GST, when implemented, is expected to replace at least 17 indirect taxes charged by the Centre and states.
The Rajya Sabha on August 3 unanimously approved the Constitution amendment Bill to implement the Goods and Services Tax (GST), arguably the biggest tax reform in India in recent times. By passing the Bill, which had already been passed by the Lok Sabha on May 6, 2015, the Upper House paved the way for the rollout of GST within the Union government’s revised deadline of April 1, 2017.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had on August 3 tabled the Goods & Services Tax (GST) Constitutional Amendment Bill in the Rajya Sabha, and initiated a five-hour debate on the landmark tax reform. The proposed indirect tax regime, which is likely to subsume 17 indirect taxes upon implementation, will remove the disparity in the taxation structure across the country and bring one uniform tax rate.
How will GST impact real estate?
The real estate sector is estimated to account for about five per cent of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) and is considered the second-largest employer in the country, according to an E&Y report from 2015.
However, the sector faces issues in terms of macroeconomic conditions and fiscal policy decisions. One such challenge is the management of the multiple indirect tax levies, such as VAT, service tax, excise, stamp duty and registration fees.
Since the GST is to subsume multiple indirect taxes, it will simplify tax compliance and minimise the scope for double taxation. So, there is clear reason for home buyers to cheer, even if they have to pay slightly more in case the standard GST rate is high.
“We will sincerely do everything to keep it (the GST) as low as possible,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told the media after the Rajya Sabha passed the Bill, adding that a 17 to 19 per cent rate slab might be on the cards.
On how GST will impact the real estate sector, Ankur Dhawan, chief business officer (resale), PropTiger, says: “GST itself is expected to add about 2 per cent to India’s gross domestic product (GDP). That is a substantial boost to the economy. If the economy does well, obviously, there will be more demand for real estate, and it will be a boost for the sector.”
Why a higher GST rate might be acceptable to buyers
Participating in the debate, former finance minister P Chidambaram, who had introduced the Bill in his Budget speech in the year 2006, summed it up for all. “The heart of the Bill is the rate of the tax,” the Congress member of Parliament said, adding that the government must ensure the rate is kept as low as possible. By and large, a consensus seems to be emerging on keeping the rate at a standard 18 per cent.
How does a uniform tax help the real estate sector in general and the home buyers in particular– despite a higher rate?
Since buyers are not liable to pay any indirect tax for the purchase of ready-to-move-in properties, the impact of GST on buyers of resale properties is likely to be very little. In the case of under-construction property transactions, buyers have to pay value-added tax (VAT) and service tax. While VAT is a state levy and its rate differs from one state to another, service tax is a central tax charged at 15 per cent. Overall, the current taxes on home purchase are not low and involve mind-boggling complexities.
Most buyers of under-construction properties take home loans to fund their purchase and the whole mathematics involved in the home loan process is quite baffling, too. In most cases, buyers do not carry out a detailed study of the various taxes that they have to additionally pay and they make their investment plans based only on the value of the property.
In the case of VAT, for example, there is little clarity on what amount is paid at which level, and what part of it is passed on by the developer to the buyer. Often, for want of more clarity on the VAT rate in his state – if at all the state is imposing VAT on real estate – a buyer has to rely on the clauses mentioned in his sale agreement with the developer.
Unfortunately, no amount of research helps the buyer know the right rate? Lengthy government documents are mostly interpretative in nature and if you are not a professional chartered accountant, you might get lost in the study, and yet get little success. On the other hand, if there is a clear uniform rate for one tax that includes everything that they need to pay in taxes to authorities, the whole payment process would become very convenient for the buyer. In such a case, even a higher rate would be more acceptable to him than a lack of clarity.
Developers will love it, too
Since the GST is actually expected to bring down the project cost for developers, this would mean homes would, in fact, become cheaper.
There are many taxes and duties that a developer pays on the procurement side, such as Customs duty, Central Sales Tax, excise duty, entry tax, etc. These are subsequently passed on to the final pricing of the units and, thereby, to the buyer. As GST proposes to roll multiple taxes into one, the cost of construction will come down. This will bring more liquidity into the market and boost home sales. Free flow of credit for developers will also translate into an increase in margin in their hands.
“There are a lot of products developers procure for construction of their projects on which there is double taxation at present. The cost they bear for these come to 20 to 25 per cent of the cost of materials they are buying. So, if the GST rate, which is still under discussion, comes to less than 20 per cent, it will reduce the cost of production for developers. This will be good for buyers, as developers will be able to pass a part of the benefit to them,” Dhawan adds.
“There is no doubt that GST will be a game-changer for Indian industry, including for the real estate sector, since it will subsume more than 16 major taxes and levies into a single consolidated tax. Additionally, the unified tax regime will stop the unwanted practice of double taxation, which hurt real estate and other sectors, given their cascading effect that inflated prices for end users. Though unorganised players are wary of GST’s impact, it will create a level playing field for organised entities; the former will now come within the tax ambit. With GST enforcing transparent transactions across all domains, this will be a blessing in disguise for real estate developers, too,” says Aman Agarwal, director, KV Developers, and a member of the Naredco governing council.
Through market mechanism, GST will impart more transparency to the sector, which faces a perception issue. GST would provide an audit trail for better control and monitoring of the sector.
(With inputs from Srinibas Rout)