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Tax Sops May Help REITs Attract $1 Billion Funds in 2015: Report

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New Delhi: Real Estate Investment Trusts or REITs could attract $1 billion worth funds this calendar year following tax benefits announced in the Union Budget, according to property consultant JLL India.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday rationalised capital gain tax regime for the sponsors of newly-created business structure REITs.

Further, the Budget also proposed that the rental income arising from real estate assets directly held by the REIT would be allowed to pass through and to be taxed in the hands of the unit holders of the REIT.

"It's a great decision. REITs will become a reality now," JLL India chairman and country head Anuj Puri told PTI.

"We expect one or two REITs to be launched and get listed this calendar year worth about one billion dollar," he added.

He said that foreign and domestic institutions would invest in REITs initially, before retail investors get excited for this newly created product.

In September 2014, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) had notified norms for listing of REITs that would help attract more funds in a transparent manner into the real estate sector.

REITs, which can be listed on stock exchanges, would help channelise both domestic and overseas investments into real estate projects in the country.

India's largest realty firm DLF has recently announced plans to launch two REITs in the next fiscal to monetise its office assets. Others developers like Parsvnath and Bangalore-based Embassy Office Parks are also looking at this option.

Although partial pass through was given in the last year's Budget presented in July, real estate developers and property consultants have been demanding further tax clarity in REITs to ensure the launch of this trust for commercial assets.

"A step was taken in the last Budget to encourage Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and Infrastructure Investments Trusts (INViTs) by providing partial pass through to them," Mr Jaitley had said in his Budget speech.

Stating that these collective investment vehicles have an important role to revive construction activity, the Finance Minister had said that a large quantum of funds is locked up in various completed projects which need to be released to facilitate new infrastructure projects to take off.

"I therefore propose to rationalise the capital gains regime for the sponsors exiting at the time of listing of the units of REITs and INViTs, subject to payment of Securities Transaction Tax (STT). The rental income of REITs from their own assets will have pass through facility," Mr Jaitley said.

REITs, a new investment avenue in India on the lines of one in developed markets like the US, the UK, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, can be listed and trading would be allowed in units of REITs like any other security on stock exchanges.

The tax incentives would give much needed relief to the real estate sector, which is facing a huge slowdown in demand from last few years that had led to liquidity crunch and delay in completion of existing projects.

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