After complaints surfaced of real estate developers asking for a higher rate of taxation of 12 per cent, against 4.5 per cent currently, after the goods and services tax (GST) rollout from July 1 from homebuyers who have booked flats and made partial payments, the finance ministry has asked the housing and urban poverty alleviation (HUPA) ministry to sensitise states and the real estate regulator to hold consultations with developers. The ministry wants developers to pass on benefits of input tax credit received by them on construction to homebuyers.
When asked on this issue, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said “this is wrong” and real estate developers should pass on the benefits of input tax credit to buyers or else they would have to face action under anti-profiteering rules.
Revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia has written to HUPA secretary, asking for sensitising all the states as well as the regulator under the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (RERA). “We have requested the HUPA secretary to hold meetings with real estate developers associations and make them understand,” Adhia told reporters here.
Construction of flats, complex, buildings will attract a 12 per cent GST compared to about 12.5 per cent excise duty at present and VAT of around 12.5-14.5 per cent levied by states.
Jaitley said the real estate builder will enjoy the benefit of input credit, which will be deducted from tax liability. “The lowered tax liability should lead to price reduction. The price reduction has to be passed on to the customer,” Jaitley said.
Asked if the anti-profiteering rules will apply if the home builder fails to pass on benefit, the minister said, “Anti-profiteering rules can apply. But we want to use the anti-profiteering rule as a deterrent. I hope we are not compelled to use it.”
The GST Council in its Sunday meeting cleared the anti-profiteering rules. As per the rules, if the Directorate General of Safeguards (DGS) after investigation establishes anti-profiteering, then the taxpayer would be directed to reduce price or return the amount equivalent to the amount not passed to the recipient by way of commensurate reduction in prices. Where the consumer cannot be identified, the recovered amount shall be deposited in the Consumer Welfare Fund as provided under Section 57 of the Central GST (CGST) and State GST (SGST) Acts, a senior government official said.
Also, as per the norms, the anti-profiteering provision will have a sunset date of two years.
A five-member anti-profiteering authority will be set up to decide on levying penalty if businesses do not pass on the benefit of price reduction to consumers under GST. The authority, to be headed by a retired secretary-level officer, can take suo motu action, besides acting on complaints of profiteering, the official said. A search-cum-selection committee will be set up for finalising the members of the anti-profiteering authority. Officials said it is likely to take about two months to finalise the members. Besides the Chairman, the four other members of the authority will be joint secretary-level officers who have been commissioners in central excise and service tax either at the Centre or states.
As per the structure, the complaints of profiteering would first come to the Standing Committee comprising tax officials from states and the Centre. It would forward the complaint to the Directorate of Safeguards (DGS) for investigation, which is likely to take about 2-3 months to complete the inquiry. On completion of investigation, the report would be submitted to the anti-profiteering authority which would decide on the penalty.
Section 171 of the Central GST Act provides that any reduction in rate of tax on any supply of goods or services or the benefit of input tax credit will be passed on to the recipient by way of commensurate reduction in prices.
[Copyright By ENS Economic Bureau]