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One year of GST: The tax regime is helping reduce shady realty transactions, but property prices aren’t down

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Editor's note: It has been a year since the Narendra Modi government rolled out the Goods and Services Tax (GST), on 1 July, 2017. The introduction of the indirect tax regime marked the end of over a decade of wrangling, when politicians struggled to build consensus across party lines. Firstpost is publishing a series of articles wherein experts will analyse the triumphs and the pitfalls of the roll out of the GST.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) has effectively replaced the Gordian knot of multiple taxes and while it evoked a response best described as 'mixed' from real estate buyers, most of them are in favour of it.

The unitary tax compliance system has simplified the home buying process, and with the passage of the Input Tax Credit (ITC), there may not be a significant additional burden to buying a home. Homebuyers in the affordable housing segment - specifically homes of up to 60 sq.m. in carpet area - have benefited significantly from the reduction of GST by four percent (from 12 percent to 8 percent).

However, even almost a year after the GST was rolled out, the only real clarity that exists for property buyers is on the prevailing GST rate of 12 percent on under-construction projects. There is still confusion about the amount of rebate that a prospective homebuyer is entitled to on the back of the pass-over of ITC. The confusion is not only about the percentage of ITC but also on the mode and tranche of the rebate.

On their part, developers are stating that they have to do multiple calculations to arrive at the ITC and will pass it on only during the final tranches. With this lack of transparency on the ITC, homebuyers are understandably upset because, as of now, their overall payment has increased.

Ready-to-move versus under-construction debacle

On the one hand, ready-to-move (RTM) properties that have been issued completion certificates are out of the GST ambit and attract no tax from homebuyers. On the other hand, under-construction (UC) properties attract a 12 percent GST with full input tax credit (ITC). This is causing homebuyers to abstain from the UC option, which was earlier the more attractive one due to the cost arbitrage developers offered on them.

Representational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

The added benefits to ready-to-move-in property buyers are immediate possession - read instant gratification - and freedom from stress with regards to completion risk and the uncertainty of construction-linked home loan EMIs.

Ongoing challenges

Realty stakeholders still face considerable challenges in the metamorphosis period from the pre-GST regime to the post-GST era. These include complex tax slabs, hiccups in the deployment of supporting IT infrastructure, confusion about the integration of Input Tax Credit (ITC), and various blurred components of GST such as abatement for land values and anti-profiteering provisions.

The lack of clarity on the rules and regulations under the anti-profiteering clause that was incorporated to pass on the benefits of the ITC to end-users is a particularly prominent pain-point with the GST as of now.

GST’s impact on pricing & transparency

Although it was anticipated that the GST will reduce property prices pan-India, we have in fact not seen such a significant impact on the ground. If the stamp duty and registration fees would be subsumed under the GST regime, we would definitely see the overall cost of property purchase come down.

GST definitely is reducing developers' construction costs by negating the morass of double or triple taxation to a more moderate level through input tax credit. While there are no significant variations in the overall taxes, the GST has certainly eliminated the tax-on-tax system. Also, shady transactions are being minimised considerably, bringing in transparency and accountability into the sector.

However, end-users have not received a consummate benefit because of the inherent ineffectiveness of the anti-profiteering provisions. They will only benefit if the base property prices are reduced and the developers pass on the tax credits to their customers.

While the tax-on-tax has been eliminated with the advent of GST, the overall outgo from homebuyers’ pockets seems to have increased, considering that even after passing on of ITC, they may have to pay three percent to four percent more than in the earlier service tax + VAT regime. However, shady transactions are definitely reducing to a considerable extent and the cause of bringing more transparency and accountability into the sector is served. Additionally, the input tax credit is a boon to developers as it aids in bringing down the construction cost.

Road ahead

In line with its 'one nation, one market, one tax' philosophy, the GST reform will in all probability benefit the Indian economy in the long run. As the realty sector becomes more streamlined on the back of GST and other landmark reforms such as RERA, investor and consumer sentiments will become more positive and further strengthen the entire system in the future.

(The author is Chairman, ANAROCK Property Consultants)

Read the other articles from the series here: 

One year of GST: The roller-coaster ride is over and businesses are now prepping to switch to cruise control

One year of GST: Tax regime is anything but good and simple; govt can simplify it to improve ease of doing business

One year of GST: Integration of unorganised sector is major achievement; govt must ensure transmission of lower taxes to consumers

One year of GST: Government could push a raft of anti-evasion measures if compliance or collections dip

One year of GST: The tax regime is helping reduce shady realty transactions, but property prices aren’t down

One year of GST: Indirect tax regime is a great success; has led to growth in GDP, says Adi Godrej


Updated Date: Jun 29, 2018 17:19 PM

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