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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mixed reaction to property tax

PETALING JAYA: The Government’s proposal to reimpose the real property gains tax (RPGT) may ensure a more balanced property market in the long run but industry players see it as counter-productive to the ongoing efforts to stimulate investments in the property sector.

Under Budget 2010, the RPGT of 5% would be imposed from Jan 1 on gains from the disposal of real property irrespective of the holding period and category of owner.

Prior to the exemption of the RPGT in April 2007, tax on gains from property sales was on a progressive basis from 30% to 0% depending on the holding period of the property.

Industry players and analysts see the reinstatement of the RPGT as premature when the property market is just recovering from the global financial crisis.

However, they hope the move to allow Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contributors to utilise their current and future savings in Account 2 for home purchase would compensate for the imposition of the RPGT.

Datuk Ng Seing Liong ... RPGT will adversely impact fragile market’s confidence level

Real Estate and Housing Developers Association (Rehda) president Datuk Ng Seing Liong said re-instating the RPGT after a brief exemption period of less than three years would adversely impact the already fragile market’s confidence level among investors, both local and foreign.

“Worse, the move is also a reinforcement of Malaysia’s infamous ‘flip-flopping’ property investment policies,” Ng added in a statement yesterday.

He urged the Government to review the RPGT proposal and carefully study the cost-benefit analysis of such a move before its implementation.

Rehda also viewed the re-imposition of RPGT at 5% irrespective of number of years of acquisition as “punitive to owners of existing housing units who may have bought their properties decades ago.”

Ng said the owners might want to sell their houses to upgrade to better properties or to relocate.

HwangDBS Vickers Research said in a note yesterday the property tax was a “negative surprise” and would “dampen the velocity of transactions”.

Concurring with the view, CIMB Research said the 5% RPGT “was a shock to us as the Government had suspended RPGT 2½ years ago to give the property sector a boost and attract foreign purchasers.”

Although the real property sector had enjoyed some measure of recovery in the past three to six months, the research house said transactions remained subdued and many developers had yet to undertake new project launches.

“The RPGT of 5%, although low, could make developers pause and gauge market conditions before taking the plunge, which would push back their earnings recovery. Also, the re-imposition of RPGT may stir fears of more RPGT increases in future years, which could have a compounding dampening effect on the sector,” CIMB Research added.

ECM-Libra described the reinstatement of the RPGT as a “shocker.”

“This may dampen property buyers’ sentiment and may deter speculative activities to a certain extent,” it said in a note yesterday.

According to Mah Sing Group Bhd group managing director Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum, the waiver of RPGT since April 2007 had been effective in boosting sentiment and increasing domestic and foreign demand in the local property market as it had lowered the cost of property sales.

As Mah Sing catered mainly to first-time home buyers, owner-occupiers and the upgraders’ market, Leong said it would not bear the brunt of the impact of the RPGT.

SP Setia Bhd president and CEO Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin said:”We cannot assume that purchasers who have bought these properties are going to sell upon completion. Many are first time buyers looking to set up a home and we also have many purchasers who are upgraders.”

Liew said at 5%, the RPGT would not significantly impact decisions to buy or sell properties, regardless of the holding period.

“RPGT is a tax on gains derived and not proceeds received from the disposal of real property. The reimposition of the tax by the Government at this time indicates their confidence in the health of the sector and also that there are decent gains to be made from property transactions,” Liew added.

Sunway City Bhd managing director of property development Ngian Siew Siong concurred that a tax rate of 5% “is very minimal and should not be a deterrent to buyers and investors.” “Malaysia’s property prices are still comparatively lower than those in other regional countries,” he said.

However, Ngian wants gains from properties acquired more than five years ago to be exempted from tax, pointing out that those who kept their properties for over five years comprised mainly owner-occupiers and long-term investors who did not speculate in the property market.

“After all, the RPGT was introduced to curb speculative buying and as such, owner-occupiers and non-speculators should not be burdened by it,” he said.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

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