Over the years Guwahati has grown into a concrete jungle with apartments coming up everywhere. Buying an apartment in the capital city is a dream cherished by almost everyone who has settled here and for people from other parts of the State as well as the Northeast who are selling off their properties to buy apartments here. However, the high price of property in Guwahati pushes it out of the affordable limits of most people. Fingers point towards the State Government for the skyrocketing price of property in the State.
As compared to other States in the country, the registration fee and other taxes on immovable property is highest in Assam. In Guwahati, the registration fee on property is 8.5 per cent while in other cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, West Bengal and Goa, the maximum registration fee is 2 per cent. In fact, in Delhi, it is only Rs 200!
If a person desires to buy an apartment in Guwahati, he will have to pay stamp duty with surcharge at 8 per cent, registration fee at 8.5 per cent, sale permission fee at 1 per cent, 2.5 per cent service tax, 1 per cent VAT, 1 per cent workers’ welfare cess and other taxes. Thus, he will have to pay 35 per cent tax on the total property cost! But according to the National Habitat Policy, the combined burden of all taxes on housing should be kept within 10 per cent.
To avoid this heavy burden of taxes, many people are now taking possession of apartments without any sale deeds. This is undoubtedly an undesirable trend. But the high taxes and registration fee on immovable property has hardly left people with much of an option. With more and more people refraining from signing sale deeds, the government also is losing out on revenue.
Meanwhile, in the name of amending building byelaws, the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) and the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) have put a halt on the process of receiving fresh applications for building permission. Hundreds of earlier applications which had been approved, are now gathering dust in the GMC and GMDA offices and it is the people who are facing the brunt as many people had taken home loans for building their dream home. Some people had also broken down their old houses for construction of new houses. With no building permission, their stay in rented houses is expected to be longer than they had thought. However, the GMDA Citizens’ Charter mentions that a fixed time period must be set for accepting or rejecting applications for building permission. But this has not been implemented.
The value of apartments is fixed by the office of the Deputy Commissioner for the purpose of calculation of stamp duty and registration fee. This value is found to be arbitrary, and in many cases much higher than the actual market price of the apartment, said sources. To make matters worse, in Assam the prices of building materials like cement and iron rods, is higher than in other States.
As per a survey, in Guwahati 55 per cent housing need is in the low income category, 35 per cent in the middle income category and 10 per cent in the affluent class. Thus, it is eventually the middle-class people who have to bear the heavy burden of taxes while buying apartments. The government can, of course, ease this burden if it reduces the taxes on property.
Sources said that it was also unfair on the part of the government to increase the zonal circle rates or the government value of land in Guwahati. The new government value of a plot of land in the city is usually much higher than the actual market value of that particular land, sources added.
For instance, in interior areas like Gorchuk, Betkuchi and Lokhra in the city, the actual land value in these areas is around Rs 20 lakh to Rs 30 lakh per bigha and the earlier circle rate was Rs 6.5 lakh per bigha. But the government has enhanced the value of land in these areas to Rs 75 lakh per bigha.
Unless the government makes a move of reducing the high registration fee and other taxes on housing, the dream of owning an apartment will remain a dream for most people.