Expectations from Union Budget 2018

Laxman Jaiswal

Chairman & Managing Director

Ascon Infrastructure (India) Ltd

The annual Union Budget gives the Government an opportunity to steer and tweak the direction of the National economy. This year is no different, the current Government has done a lot for the Indian real estate industry, even when it was in the form of hard decisions like demonetization and the disruptive but very necessary RERA. With harsh decisions absorbed the Indian real estate sector expects some benevolence implied in a populist budget. This benevolence needs to go beyond improving personal finances and the implied boost to real estate investment appetite. 2017 was a year of transformation for the real estate sector. RERA, GST, affordable housing look set to change the entire landscape of the sector. RERA shall result in more information at the public domain and GST shall simplify the pricing structure and tax regime for the sector. Affordable housing shall further demand in the mid income housing.

To create a positive field for affordable housing, some of the suggested tax reforms can act as catalyst in the forthcoming Budget 2018.

1)      Increase limit in deduction for interest on housing loan to INR 3 Lakhs from existing INR 2 lakhs (Loss from house property). This shall result in more cash with the consumers.

2)      To make it more attractive for Developers there should be relaxation of the period in case the project is delayed under Section 54 & 54F (Exemption of Long Term Capital Gains) for 3 years.

3)      Higher income tax benefits for the first time home buyers in form of Extension in loan period of Section 80EE & Increase in incentive for first time home buyers in metros for property up to INR 70 lakhs. This has the potential to be attractive scheme for real estate developers as well as Tax exemption should be increased so as to incentivize first-time home buyers. It is vital to take into account the size and location of the house property and fix limits accordingly, to provide benefit for first time home buyers across the country.

4)      Single window clearance mechanism for real estate projects is almost a must to make the real estate process more seamless and quicker.

5)      Reduction or removal of MAT (Minimum Alternative Tax) rates in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) shall help real estate developers. Incentives for Industrial Corridors to boost peripheral real estate. Will push investments in the sector.

6)      Inclusion of stamp duty under GST on Real Estate and clarity on tax treatment. Will significantly impact the real estate prices and enhance the reach of real estate to consumers.

7)      To push REITs to realty, further reduction of the long term capital gains holding period for REITs from 3 years to 1 year. This shall attract investments in REITs. At present, the first REIT is yet to be listed in India. Simplifying the taxation norms for REITs is critical for listings to start flowing in benefitting the entire real estate sector by the enhanced participation of a much broader bandwidth of investors.

8)      Industry status for Real Estate Sector for accessing long term financing at lower cost. The status shall ease the process of obtaining capital from banks.

9)      The house rent deduction limit (HRA) should be framed in such a way which brings in more consumers in the real estate sector.

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