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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Property gains tax makes comeback

The Government has proposed to reimpose real property gains tax (RPGT) for gains arising from property disposal.

Based on the Finance Bill, disposal within two years of acquisition will be taxed 30%; in the third year, it will be 20%; in the fourth year 15%, while disposal within five years and beyond will still be subject to 5% tax.

The latest measure, which will come into effect in January next year, has been described as “a knock-out punch” by Deloitte Malaysia country tax leader, Ronnie Lim.

“It was merely four short sentences in the 2010 Budget speech. However, that short reference to RPGT carried a knock-out punch,” Lim said in a statement yesterday.

He pointed out that from the speech itself, many would have thought that a low rate of tax of 5% would apply to most gains arising from disposals of real property.

“Be prepared for a shock – this is not the case and the highest rate of RPGT will be 30%,” he said.

Most rates of RPGT from January 2010 will be restored to those prevailing immediately before its suspension in April 2007.

Lim said one notable difference was that the exemption from tax for disposals after the fifth year of acquisition has been removed.

“Even where a property was purchased over 20 years ago, a gain on disposal from 2010 will attract 5% RPGT (without any indexation of acquisition price to reflect current purchasing power of the ringgit),” he said, adding that a flurry of property transactions could be expected soon.

Concurring with Lim, OCBC Bank Bhd director and chief executive officer Jeffrey Chew described the measure as a counter-productive move in efforts to encourage property investments among local and foreign investors, particularly to attract real estate investment trust investors.

“Furthermore, this would make Malaysia’s property market less attractive compared to other neighbouring countries in the region despite our property prices being among the lowest in the region,” Chew said.

However, Khong & Jaafar Sdn Bhd managing director Elvin Fernandez gave the thumbs up to the RPGT, saying “it shows that Malaysia, like other Asian countries, is not for unfettered speculation.”

“The RPGT is an anti-speculative tool, not a revenue earner for Government coffers,” he added.

To promote home ownership and enhance the people’s quality of life, the Government has also proposed a scheme to allow Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contributors to utilise their current and future savings in Account 2 for home purchase.

Meanwhile, to encourage green technology in the property sector, building owners obtaining Green Building Index (GBI) Certificates from Oct 24 until Dec 31 will be given income tax exemption equivalent to the additional capital expenditure in obtaining such certificates.

Those purchasing buildings with GBI certificates from developers will be given stamp duty exemption on instruments of transfer of ownership.

The exemption amount is equivalent to the additional cost incurred in obtaining the GBI certificates. This exemption is given to buyers who execute the sale and purchase agreement from Oct 24 until Dec 31, 2014.

And to promote rehabilitation of abandoned housing projects, the Government will consider extending appropriate financial assistance to rehabilitate low and medium-cost houses based on the existing project list.

An allocation of RM200mil will be provided under the housing and local government ministry.

Under the Government’s initiative to provide housing facilities for the low and middle-income groups, the National Housing Department will provide 74,000 low-cost houses to be rented in 2010.

By The Star

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