In view of several complaints received by CBEC and states that the people who have booked flats and made part payment are being asked to make entire payment before July 1, 2017 or face higher tax incidence for payment made after 1st July, the Ministry of Finance has said that this is against the GST law. It has also advised builders and construction companies that in case of flats under construction, they should not ask customers to pay a higher tax rate on instalments to be received after imposition of GST.
The government has clarified that:
1. Construction of flats, complex and buildings will have a lower incidence of GST as compared to a plethora of Central and state indirect taxes suffered by them under the existing regime.
2. Central excise duty is payable on most construction material @12.5%. It is higher in case of cement. In addition, VAT is also payable on construction material @12.5% to 14.5% in most of the states. In addition, construction material also presently suffers Entry Tax levied by states. Input Tax Credit of the above taxes is not currently allowed for payment of Service Tax. Credit of these taxes is also not available for payment of VAT on construction of flats etc. under composition scheme. Thus, there is cascading of input taxes on constructed flats, etc.
3. As a result, incidence of Central Excise duty, VAT, Entry Tax, etc. on construction material is also currently borne by builders, which they pass on to customers as part of the price charged from them. This is not visible to the customer as it forms a part of the cost of the flat.
4. The current headline rate of service tax on construction of flats, residences, offices etc. is 4.5%. Over and above this, VAT @1% under composition scheme is also charged. The buyer only looks at the headline rate of 5.5%. In other cities/states, where VAT is levied under the composition scheme @2% or above, the headline rate visible to the customer is above 6.5%. What the customer does not see is the embedded taxes on account of cascading and sticking of input taxes in the cost of the flat, etc.
5. This will change under GST. Under GST, full input credit would be available for offsetting the headline rate of 12%. As a result, the input taxes embedded in the flat will not (and should not) form a part of the cost of the flat. The input credits should take care of the headline rate of 12% and it is for this reason that refund of overflow of input tax credits to the builder has been disallowed.
6. Builders are expected to pass on the benefits of lower tax burden under the GST regime to the buyers of property by way of reduced prices/ installments. It is, therefore, advised to all builders/construction companies that in case of flats under construction, they should not ask customers to pay higher tax rate on instalments to be received after imposition of GST.
7. Despite this clarity on law position, if any builder resorts to such practice, the same can be deemed to be profiteering under section 171 of the GST law.