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Saturday, June 25, 2016
Get REITs Right
Jun 19, 2016: Ever since the idea of Indian Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) emerged, the capital market regulator has been putting in efforts, including the changes proposed in the week gone by, to attract REIT proponents and to make it work. Along with SEBI, it’s time now for state governments and tax authorities to make a cohesive attempt for the same.
The process, which started much ahead of SEBI notifying the regulations in 2014, is yet to see any REITs going in for listing. It’s given that any new market or instrument development will undergo its own dynamics. But, all related authorities need to move in tandem to ensure that this works.
After starting in the US in 1960, REIT regime is well established now in over 30 countries including Singapore, Australia and Finland. In India, it is still work in progress and investors here may have to wait a bit more to get an opportunity to invest in real estate securities.
REIT proponents have been seeking rationalization of stamp duty, which falls under the state government’s jurisdiction, for long. According to current regulations, transfer of income-producing commercial properties from any special purpose vehicle to a REIT will attract stamp duty, in case of direct transfer of land, and it would vary from state to state. This, among other factors, remains a key challenge for any REIT listing.
In a bid to smoothen the process of REITs registration, the Securities & Exchange Board of India has now proposed allowing REITs to invest up to 20%, in under construction assets as against earlier limit of 10%. It has also proposed change in the number of sponsors and removing the restriction on the special purpose vehicles (SPVs), when it is REIT’s holding company to invest in other SPVs holding the assets.
Just a few months ago, the government had removed Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT) through a proposal in the Union Budget 2016-17. The pace with which the authorities are moving gives a clear indication of its intention to make REITs a reality here. And it’s time now, for other stakeholders to chip in to ensure REITs kick off to offer commercial developers a liquidity option and retail investors a chance to participate in office realty market's growth.