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Budget 2015-16

Positive, not big bang says RICS Sandhir

Sachin Sandhir, RICS

RICS, an international body for setting standards in real estate and construction, views the Union Budget 2015-16 as a positive incremental Budget focused heavily on boosting infrastructure investment, though not necessarily a big bang one as envisaged.

The following is the text of the reaction issued by Sachin Sandhir, Global Managing Director – Emerging Business and Managing Director – South Asia, RICS

The Government has perfectly capitalised the opportunity by ushering in clarity on taxation of rental income arising from REITs, currently viewed as a life-saver for the ailing cash-strapped real estate industry. The clarity on REITS is crucial as it is expected to have a far-reaching implication in foreign investment flows, bank funds and could also provide opportunities for domestic investors to invest in debt returns from income-yielding assets.

It is a welcome move that now the rental income arising from assets owned by the REIT will be allowed to pass through and be taxed in the hands of the REIT unit holders. Earlier, only partial pass through was provided to REIT’s and INViTs. However, in a major disappointment, no clarification was provided on the role of managers and valuers of assets under REITs, which globally are independently valued by professionally certified valuers.

While the Finance Minister has done well by coming down heavily on black money transactions in real estate by proposing introduction of ‘Benami Transaction prohibition Bill’, he has given a total short shrift to real estate sector’s crying demand for an ‘industry status’. The industry status could have eased the flow of bank loans towards the sector already under a severe cash crunch.

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Also, despite the requirement of two crore houses required for rural areas and four crore homes in urban areas and the vision of ‘Housing for All by 2022’, the Budget was somewhat disappointing when it comes to incentivising liquidity and reviving the housing sector. A clear roadmap or clarity on the outlay for undertaking this construction activity of mammoth scale should have also been included in Mr Arun Jaitley’s Budget speech.

While there is no direct benefit to housing and real estate, the reduction of corporate tax rate from 30 per cent to 25 per cent will benefit the industry at large.

A follow on the last year’s Budget announcement on smart cities should have made into the Budget 2015-16 as well. A clear roadmap on the development of proposed 100 smart cities, which was closely awaited by the industry has not found any mention in the Budget, other than assurance of GIFT city as a model smart city by March 2016.

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