Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Implications of guideline value revisions in Tamil Nadu


The government of Tamil Nadu has revised the rates of guideline value of land in all zones, including residential, commercial and agricultural land across the state with effect from April 1, 2012. This revision comes after five years with the last set of values having come into effect in August 2007.

The revenue policy note, presented in July last year, reflected that this change was due to be ushered in and speculations were rife over the last eight months as to when the revision wouldcome into effect. In November 2011, the proposed revision of values for each region was put up for public opinion in all the Tahsildar offices and reviews were taken into consideration, before the current set of rates were introduced in the state.

The new values affect all types of land including agricultural, residential, industrial and commercial property in urban and rural areas equally. With a rise of almost 300% in many areas, the reaction to this revision has been mixed. There are three main aspects that this change brings in, the first being the prevention of black money and the loss of revenue to the state and country.

“The revision is a welcome move and is set to usher in a cleansing of the real estate industry and land transactions across the state,” states A S Shivaramakrishnan, Head, Residential Services, Jones Lang LaSalle India, Chennai, a premier international real estate consultancy firm. “The revision of the guideline values equaling the market value of land in most part across the state will greatly enhance the transparency index of real estate transactions in the city and promote investment and growth in a big way.”

A major concern in India is cash transactions in real estate deals, which is encouraged by the divergence of guideline value and market value. People often register the transaction at guideline value (sometimes as low as 20% of the transaction value itself), pay the registration and stamp duties based on the guideline value alone (affecting the buyer of property) and reflects the accounted portion equivalent to the guideline value alone for capital gains and tax purposes (affecting the seller of the property). With such high degree transactions happening in cash in most deals, it had become rare to find buyers or sellers insisting on a fully transparent deal. This led to huge revenue losses for the state exchequer. This is not only illegal, but also creates a vicious cycle of investment of black money in the real estate sector.

“Major legal reforms are still required with respect to property valuation and land acquisitions,” says RS Nambi, a Tax and Legal expert and advisor to the World Bank. “An ombudsman and valuation officer in every registering office to examine and evaluate the transactions, disputes and divergences between published values and the market can go a long way in ushering greater fluidity to real estate transactions. This revision of guideline values is the first step towards preventing the loss of revenue for the state and unearthing black money. We have to wait to see how the latest measures of the budget with respect to bringing in TDS on amounts greater than 2 lakhs will apply to property sales this year. The capital gains tax that the seller has to pay is calculated on transaction value or guideline value, whichever is higher according to law. “

The previous year saw close to `3,200 crores worth of stamp duties and registration fees being paid for property transactions between October 2011 and March 2012. The revision is expected to boost the revenue in the state this year to a figure greater than `8,500 crores in 2012-2013. Targets for revenue collections for the month of March were set for all the sub-registrar offices across the state by the Inspector-General of Registrations.

With expectations of a hike in the values, there has been a rush of registrations and many people who might have otherwise waited to conclude their transactions, were pushed to finish them before March 31. “With a high number of transactions having happened in March, the target of 21 crores set for the Neelankarai SRO was successfully achieved by the middle of the month itself,” states Vimala Jayakumar who runs a document services outfit in Neelankarai.

“Usually, there are around 40 registrations per day and in March it rises to about 60-70 per day. But this year, there was a heavy rush in the last two weeks of March, with more than 200 registrations happening per day.” This clearly shows that the revision of guideline values will not only promote transparency and usher in more revenue to the state, but it will also act as a mechanism to force people to complete delayed transactions all at once and bring in a combined revenue to the state, which has been starved of funds. It is estimated that the combined revenue of 1000 crores has been collected by the state for the month of March 2012 through these transactions alone.

The Inspector-General of registrations chairs the committee formed by different sub-collectors across the state to determine the guideline values. The proposed values were published in November 2011 and public opinion was invited. Accordingly, they were modified before coming into effect in April of this year. Says Vimala, “Overall, the new values reflect the market rates. Wherever people disagreed with the rates, appeals were submitted and they were taken into consideration. The older and newer guideline values have been listed by survey number, street and category on the official website of the Registration Department of Tamil Nadu (www.tnreginet.net) and the website itself mentions that values relating to 1.1 lakh streets and over 29 million survey numbers.

While it is a great move to bring in transparency in the state’s real estate industry, there are some concerns as to how this revision will affect the public and developers. With steep revisions of up to 270% in most cases, the question on how this re-evaluation of property will affect the common folk remains. The hardest hit areas are the centers of urban development and the heart of Chennai city. “In the peripheral areas, it is business as usual even with the hike in values. Similarly, for multi-storeyed buildings, the direct impact is not as high, since the undivided share values come up only to 20-30% of overall values. The significant impact is within city areas where the values have jumped up to unaffordable levels,” says AS Shivaramakrishnan.

“While the cost of land is already high in the city, the steep increase in guideline values will make it impossible for developers to be able to afford to get premium FSI for redevelopment projects. What this means is that, on old buildings that can come up for redevelopment with joint-development agreements between the owners and developers due to revision of the FSIs over the last two decades can be rendered unfeasible if the developer has to pay the kind of fees based on the new guideline values for the premium FSI that would be his profit centre. Any move to provide some incentives for redevelopment projects on 25-30 year old buildings are necessary to avoid bringing redevelopment to a grinding halt. The concern is that the move makes it all that more expensive and unfeasible for urban projects.”

“Similarly, peripheral development needs the social infrastructure to expand accordingly. In a city like Bangalore, this has happened in concentric circles and not in an unbalanced way like we are seeing in Chennai. With the city at a crucial stage of its metamorphosis, with major infrastructure projects like the metro in progress, a significant aspect that affects its citizens and growth itself is redevelopment of existing structures and buildings. New infrastructure is being built to raise a brand new city from the ashes of the former metropolis. This has been the story in cities all across the world, right from New York to Mumbai, where redevelopment has been key to boosting its growth ahead. Hence, while it is a positive move by the government to bring in equity in the values of transactions, it is important that the city and state authorities remember that the redevelopment of its buildings is necessary for growth. “

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