Real Estate Sector Seeks Lower GST On Critical Const Material
The real estate industry expects that the government acknowledges some of the following challenges faced by them and provides suitable relief in the Budget 2021:
The focus of the government is to provide affordable housing to all in urban areas by 2022. Therefore, sale of under-construction affordable property is taxed at 1 per cent. However, key construction materials attract higher GST rates such as cement (28 per cent), steel (18 per cent), tiles (18-28 per cent), etc.
This leads to increased cost of construction thereby limiting the affordability quotient of the consumer. Therefore, it is expected that these critical construction materials be taxed at a lower GST rate especially for affordable housing to meet the intended objective of housing for all.2 The definition of affordable housing has two components i.e. the value limit [Rs 45 lakh] and the area limit [60/90 sq. meters for metro and non-metro cities respectively].
As there is a common value limit prescribed for both metro and non-metro, most of the consumers residing in metros are deprived of such benefit offered by the government. Therefore, to ensure that the benefit of reduced rate of tax applies to all consumers in India whether residing in metro or otherwise, the value limit for the metro cities especially Mumbai Metropolitan Region should be enhanced in line with the current ready reckoner rates.
Transfer of development rights is liable to GST as a service at the rate of 18 per cent. However, the sale of land and building is outside the purview of GST. The grant of development rights coupled with conveyance in land in favour of residents is akin to sale of land. The GST payable on such development rights increases the cost of construction without any input tax credit.
Hence, there is an immediate need to construe such transfer of development rights akin to definition under transfer of properties act (which includes rights attached to land) and not be subjected to GST. This would reduce the effective burden of tax on the buyer.
As per Section 54, the taxpayer is allowed to claim refund of accumulated Input Tax Credit on account of inverted duty structure. However, real estate developers are restricted from claiming such refund leading to increased tax cost and discrimination in taxation policy. Making the said refund available to the real estate sector would help developers in offering reduced prices to the end consumer.
Another concern in the real estate industry from a consumer standpoint is the levy of GST on the common area maintenance charges recovered by the housing societies. The housing society functions on the co-operative principles and values of democracy, equity, equality and solidarity. Therefore, there is no service by the society to its members and also there is no consideration.
Hence, the government should exclude the maintenance charges collected by the housing society from the purview of GST. This will provide a much-needed relief to the flat owners and will reduce their burden in the current pandemic scenario and will be a welcome step.