The GST Bill was approved in the Lok Sabha on March 29, 2017 with four supplementary legislations- The Central GST Bill, 2017; The Integrated GST Bill, 2017; The GST (Compensation to States) Bill, 2017; and The Union Territory GST Bill, 2017.
At the debate preceding the passing of the bills, finance minister Arun Jaitley said the GST, which will usher in a uniform indirect tax regime in the country, will make commodities ‘slightly cheaper.’ “Today, you have tax on tax, you have cascading effect. When all of that is removed, goods will become slightly cheaper,” he said. On why the GST Council has decided on multiple GST rates, Jaitley said one rate would be ‘highly regressive as hawai chappal and BMW cannot be taxed at the same rate.’
Intent of the GST
The GST will subsume central excise, service tax, VAT and other local levies to create a uniform market. GST is expected to boost GDP growth by about 2 per cent and check tax evasion. States will have to pass their State GST or SGST law that will allow them to levy sales tax after levies like VAT are subsumed.
Tax structure under the GST
The GST Council has recommended a four-tier tax structure – 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent. On top of the highest slab, a cess will be imposed on luxury and demerit goods, to compensate the states for revenue loss in the first five years of GST implementation. However, the Central GST (CGST) law has pegged the peak rate at 20 per cent and a similar rate has been prescribed in the State GST (SGST) law, which takes the peak rate to 40 per cent which will come into force only in financial exigencies.
GST’s impact on taxes
In the present tax system, there are a lot of different taxes that one has to pay, like the VAT, octroi or the local body taxes. GST will subsume all these taxes into it. Diipesh Bhagtani, Chairman-Exhibition, CREDAI-MCHI, explains: “Instead of paying various taxes, at various states and cities, we would soon have just one tax that is going to benefit us. So, in this process, a lot of labour will be saved, along with large sums of money. Also, we look at taxes to be in line with the standard of the absorption of the industry. We as an industry, who have been suffering from excess of taxes, which in sum, amounts to 40%; if all that can be reduced then it’s a big advantage to all of us.”
Current real estate transaction taxes
Source: Industry, JM Financial
Impact of GST on real estate
The construction of a complex building, civil structure, or a part thereof, intended for sale to a buyer, wholly or partly, is subject to 12 per cent tax with full input tax credit (ITC), subject to no refund in case of overflow of ITC. In other words, residential construction services, will invite GST at the rate of 12 per cent, which will apply to developers selling residential units before completion of construction to the home buyers.
According to the JM Financial report on GST, for states with non-composite VAT (Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh), the transaction value changes marginally from 10-11% to 12% under the new regime. With input cost credits available, developers in these regions may witness improvement in margins in case no price revision takes place (subject to the anti-profiteering clause).
Abhishek Anand, assistant vice-president (Equity Research), JM Financial Ltd, explains: “In the current regime, states with composite VAT require developers to pay lower VAT rates on the total property value without any input tax benefit (Maharashtra, Haryana) or partial benefit (intra state offset- Bangalore). Under this regime, developers pass on the transaction cost – VAT (1%) and service tax (4-5%) to buyers (total 5-6%). Developers get offset for only the input service tax component. In the GST regime, the transaction cost increases to 12%, with input credit available on both, services and material. Property transaction costs will increase by 6%, in case no input credit is passed on by developers. If developers pass on the input credit to buyers, the property price increase could be restricted to 1-2%.” If the developers pass on the credits completely and bring down the base prices, then, home buyers may marginally benefit under the GST regime.
Nevertheless, stamp duty will continue to be applicable, irrespective of whether the property is under-construction or constructed, in the pre-GST and post-GST regime.
GST on under construction property – Affordable housing
It is important to note that if GST exemption is extended to affordable housing projects (affordable housing is currently exempted from service tax and a clarification is expected from the government for exemption from GST), then, affordable homes may become cheaper under the GST regime.
Impact of GST on property prices – Luxury segment
In the case of a premium properties, while the basic construction cost may come down a little, but as the input tax credit is limited to 12 per cent, it will not be sufficient to bring down the fresh tax liability to nil because of the taxes paid on other expenditures.
GST rates for real estate – Input materials
|HSN||Description of goods||Rate|
|Chapter 72||Steel||18 per cent|
|2523||Cement||28 per cent|
|6802||Marble and granite||28 per cent|
|2515||Blocks of marble and granite||12 per cent|
|Chapter 68||Sand lime bricks and fly ash bricks||12 per cent|
|2505 & 2517||Natural sand, pebbles, gravel||5 per cent|
|8428||Lifts and elevators||28 per cent|
Data provided by: BMR
Under the tax regime, many of the construction materials are under the 18 and 28 per cent slab. For example, steel and steel products, are mostly in the 18 per cent segment and cement and prefabricated structural components for building or civil engineering, are in the 28 per cent slab. However, as the input tax credit is available on products utilised for construction, the overall tax incidence should be neutralised.
GST on ready properties
If the OC for the project has been received, then, no GST will be applicable. A CRISIL report points out that at present, a developer pays excise tax and VAT, on inputs like cement and steel, at 27.7 per cent and 18.1 per cent, respectively, which vary from state to state. Now, under the GST regime, cement and steel will be taxed at 28 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively, while other inputs like paint and white goods, will be taxed at 28 per cent. The final product – the housing unit – will be taxed at 12 per cent, with credit for taxes paid on inputs. As the tax levied on the entire cost including the land will be 12 per cent, the amount would be sufficient to provide for the input credit for developers. Hence, a buyer opting for a ready-to-move-in apartment, is saved from the tax burden.
However, the tax calculations under the GST regime, for the real estate market, are not so simple. For example, the GST on under-construction projects will be charged to home buyers on the sale price but the credit can be availed by the developers, only on the cost of construction. As the builder will have to pay the GST on the full project and the input availed is only on the construction cost, there may be a gap that is no less than 30 per cent. Consequently, whether you opt for an under-construction property or ready-to-move-in unit, the developer will hike the prices in that proportion, to make sure this gap is bridged.
GST on property rentals
“Credit/set-off of input GST is available to a developer, if the sale is executed prior to obtaining the completion certificate or prior to first occupancy. However, this credit is not allowed if the developer chooses to rent out the property. Hence, we might see a spike in commercial rentals,” explains Amit Sarkar, partner and head – indirect taxes, BDO India.
GST has also been levied on the renting of residential property, for use as an accommodation. Consequently, tenants may witness a hike in rent payment under the GST system, as there is no service tax applicable on residential properties, in the existing system.
Here’s how the GST will impact the tax computation on rental income:
With the clubbing of taxes on goods and services, under the GST regime, the confusion about levy of separate tax on service and goods is done away with.
Unlike under the service tax regime, the threshold limit for applicability of GST has been increased from Rs 10 lakhs to Rs 20 lakhs. So, many of the landlords who were covered under the service tax regime, will go out of the indirect tax net, under the GST.
It may be interesting to note that for the purpose of computing the aggregate limit of Rs 20 lakhs under the GST, all the taxable, as well as exempt goods and services supplied, shall be taken into account. So, unlike the service tax regime, where it is only the taxable services, which are taken into account for determining whether you have crossed the basic threshold, under the GST, the value of all the service and goods supplied in India, as well as exported, whether taxable or exempt, are taken into consideration for the Rs 20-lakh limit. The GST is proposed to be levied at 18 per cent, on the letting-out of commercial properties.
There is one more major tax implication under the GST, with respect to rent on commercial properties. The parliament has borrowed the concept of ‘reverse charge mechanism’ from the service tax regime, under the GST. However, unlike in the service tax regime, where the reverse charge mechanism is applicable in case of services and is not extended to the sale or manufacturing of goods, the same is made applicable for goods as well as services, under the GST regime. A person who is registered under GST, who gets supplies of goods or services from a person who is not registered under GST, will have to pay the GST under the reverse charge mechanism. Under the service tax regime, there is no provision of reverse mechanism, with respect to the rent paid by the lessee. The proposed GST provisions, due to the increased rate and the levy under the reverse mechanism, will eventually make it costlier to take any commercial premises on rent.
GST’s impact on home loans
GST is applicable on financial services, at 18 per cent. Hence, loan processing charges are likely to increase in the GST regime. Similar to the current regime, such GST charged always remains a cost in the hands of the buyer.
Grey areas in the GST that could determine the final price of properties
It is still not clear what would be the abatement available for the land cost, for calculating service tax on under-construction projects. The abatement rules, as applicable under the service tax regime and the input tax credit facility for developers, will determine if the effective tax incidence on real estate, is lower or higher under GST.
Effectively, the composition scheme allowing for abatement against cost of land to the extent of 75 per cent of the house cost, for residential units priced under Rs 1 crore and less than 2,000 sq ft, makes the effective rate at 3.75 per cent. In other cases, the abatement goes down to 70 per cent, making the effective rate at 4 per cent. This will go a long way, in determining whether GST is tax neutral or tax adverse for real estate.
In addition, as states have different state-level taxes, the implication of GST may not be uniform, across all states.