Income Tax Act – 1961 and the Problem of Black Money in Real Estate Transactions

Black money is so much a part of our white economy, a tumour in the centre of the brain – try to remove it and you kill the patient.”

Though India has come a long way in implementing a modern tax regime yet some pressing issues continue to create obstacles for its future growth. One such issue is that of black money transactions that create havoc in the Indian economy.

There are many areas where black money transactions take place, for example in real estate transactions. The shadow of black money looms large on the real estate scenario as the tax rate on real estate transactions is very high.

At present, the policy planners of the nation is concerned with the prevention of black money in real estate. For prevention of black money being used in real estate transactions, the Indian government has taken certain measures with the insertion of sections 43CA and 194 IA and with the reintroduction of earlier provisions by amendment of section 56(2) (vii)(b) in the Finance Act of 2013 which has given the Income Tax Act, 1961 more teeth to prevent the use and generation of black money in real estate transactions throughout the length and breadth of the country (except Jammu and Kashmir).

In this regard, the Indian government has signed the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with almost 85 nations of the world. But, black money continues to rotate in real estate transactions on a large scale that creates havoc in the Indian tax sphere.

Estimation of black money is extremely difficult; however Table 1 shows the proportion of black money in the real sector in the time period 1986-1991.

Table 1: Proportion of Black to White Money (in percentage)

Year Bangalore Bombay Calcutta Delhi Madras Total
1986-87 NA 74.14 NA 55.43 58.36 60.13
1987-88 40.56 37.03 NA 45.22 44.40 41.75
1988-89 53.81 29.03 NA 46.46 28.48 37.11
1989-90 21.34 34.09 16.62 47.79 25.60 32.20
1990-91 49.27 50.43 16.19 NA 31.83 47.19

Source: NIPFP (1985) 3 & Tandon (1987) 4


Predictions for Housing Market in 2016

How Will The Real Estate Market Look Like In 2016?

The Indian real estate market has been treading the slugging path for the last two years. There has been no recovery in buyers’ sentiment as prices remain stable, and there is less hope of capital appreciation in the short-term.

In 2016, however, most of these factors will turn positive reversing buyer’s as well as developer’s sentiments. Here’s a summary of how the Indian real estate market will be in 2016:

Lowered Interest Rates
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has cut interest rates by 50 basis points in two rounds this year. Though the transfer of benefit by banks to their customers is much slower than expected, a few commercial banks are cutting interest rates for home loan seekers, giving the much needed boost to the sector. The positive effects of these cuts will become much more visible for the property for sale in India by the next year as those who are waiting for much deeper cuts will stop doing so and seal the deals.

Easy Payment Plans
Developers too are changing track to attract buyers into the residential markets. Builders with large debts and piling inventories are expected to ease the process of property investment with easy payment plans for homes. The prevalence of these schemes will help pick up buying properties in many cities.

Tier-II, Tier-III Cities Rise
The property in India has witnessed large unsold inventories, a majority of which is in Tier-I cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Bangalore. This has prompted most of the developers, both big and small, to head to other upcoming Tier-II cities like Pune and Chennai where there is higher chance of capital appreciation along with the rising demand for luxury and semi-luxury apartments.

Other Tier-II cities, like Indore, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Jaipur, Kochi, Coimbatore and Visakhapatnam, too are experiencing growth. The developments in these towns will be the biggest focus of the developers in 2016.

More Affordable Units
The change has already happened. A large number of developers are re-drawing their plans to converting 2BHK apartments into 1BHK apartments in India with fewer and simpler amenities. This will end the exclusive growth of luxury condominiums only in all the new locations, creating only posh localities out of most real estate hubs.

Increased FDI in Realty
The government is planning 100 smart cities across India and other such projects similar to the GIFT city in Gujarat. These projects have already garnered huge interest in the NRI and other communities.

The government has also made it easier for foreign direct investment (FDI) to flow in to Smart City projects. Such kind of money, in the form of private equity or seed funding, is expected to boost investment in the affordable segment, which will lead to growth in the real estate sector.

The sector has been slow for a very long time now. With enough boost from the government, this state of affairs is all set to change in 2016.


Despite of 30% drop in sales, home prices will not go south in 2015-16

Even an expected pick up in the country’s economic growth in fiscal year 2016, wouldn’t be enough for common man to buy is dream home due to persistently high prices of residential properties, India ratings said.

Home prices are unlikely to correct from the current higher levels in 2015-2016 even as inventories are being piled up with investors pumping in money raised through debt and other hybrid instruments.

Property prices have remained high and unaffordable to end-customers. While economic growth is likely to improve in FY16, property prices might not correct. This could lead to end-customers postponing purchase decisions.

Even property consultant CBRE on Tuesday pointed out that  housing  sales fell by about 30 percent last year in seven major cities due to costlier flats and higher interest rate.

The general slackness in residential sales was primarily triggered by the Affordability Index going down in certain cities.

Residential property launches and sales were at a three-year low during the December quarter across the six tier-I cities— NCR, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad. According to the report, new launches have fallen by 43% in Mumbai, followed by 30% drop in Hyderabad. A 24% in the number of project launches in 2014 compared with 2013, Bengaluru 13%, Pune 26% and Chennai 25%.

Consequently, brokerage do not  expect real estate companies to see a revival in home sales. The agency, however, expects a pick-up in demand for both office and retail spaces during fiscal year 2016 “because better economic growth will boost net hiring by IT/ITeS and banking financial services insurance sectors and better customer sentiments will revive the expansion plans of both local and foreign retailers.

According to the assessor, any improvement in demand for houses will depend on not only a positive change in consumer expectations of economic growth, job and income prospects but also lower property prices.

On the other hand, even though the demand in the residential property is likely to remain subdued, the companies are likely to continue building up inventory levels using bank funding, the agency said.

As of September, the inventory levels in various cities in the country had hit an all-time high. According to this article, Mumbai had the highest inventory of 50 months, followed by Gurgaon at 30 months, Hyderabad at 27 months, Bangalore at 22 months, Chennai at 20 months and Pune at 21 months. The number of months denotes the time estimated for a company to completely sell its apartment stock.

The increase in inventory level is because of the falling demand and sales in the sector as genuine buyers are deterred because of logic-defying high prices. For instance, in Mumbai a two-bedroom flat is priced anywhere above Rs 1.2 crore even in distant suburbs like Thane.

According to India Ratings, sales of fresh residential units (in sq ft) by listed real estate companies continued to decline during 2014, falling 25.6% for the 12 months ended September 2014. The fall in sales can also be gauged from the sharp decline in the 12-month trailing disbursements of housing loans during in first half of current financial year.

However, builders have been able to hold on to the high prices because of the support they get from the investors.

And this investor interest is likely to continue unabated through the next financial year.

The interest of investors in the sector remains high, especially in rent-yielding commercial properties. Transactions continue in the residential segment though investors are now using structures such as debt or debt-like hybrid instruments and bulk unit purchases, instead of equity investments to better secure their interests.

Adding to the inflation in the sector are the the Narendra Modi government’s policies. In a bid to increase the money flow into the fund-starved sector, the government had recently opened up the FDI window.

This move, which was aimed at handholding a sector where most of the companies are reeling under huge debt, had killed any hope of price decline. Had the fund flow continued to remain restricted, the companies would have been forced to cut the prices to dilute their inventory and raise funds.

The rating agency says the new guidelines for the introduction of real estate investment trusts and the clarification of tax pass-through status for such vehicles will also improve fund availability to companies owning rent-yielding assets.

However, if the companies continue to build on inventory levels it is likely to result in deterioration of their credit metrics further next year, the rate agency has warned, keeping a negative to stable outlook on the real estate sector for the next year.

Their EBITDA margins could become stable during FY16, as commodity prices are likely to be under control. However, some margin erosion may be seen due to overheads, if sales do not increase.

Margins declined marginally during 2014 due to the companies, inability to pass on increases in input prices to end-customers and falling sales.

Another concern is increased use of debt/hybrid instruments by investors, as this only shifts the funding gap to the redemption date with high funding costs.