Flat owners told to pay stamp duty arrears of earlier tenants
Nauzer Bharucha | TNN
Mumbai: Thousands of flat owners queuing up everyday to take advantage of the state government’s stamp duty amnesty scheme have been left totally confused due to the lack of clarity in its implementation. As per the scheme, which commenced in June, flat owners have until September 8 to pay stamp duty at the rate that was applicable when the property was bought.
But what comes as a major jolt to many is a little known 2006 circular issued by the state inspector general of registration and controller of stamps which holds that the
current owner is liable to pay the unpaid stamp duty of the previous occupant of the flat at the current market value.
“If there has been a chain of transactions involving a flat over the past two decades and no stamp duty has been paid as required under the sale deed, the present owner must pay the stamp duty on all the earlier sale deeds,’’ said Ramesh Prabhu, chairman of the Maharashtra Societies Welfare Association. “Not many people know that such a circular exists,’’he added.
A senior official of the stamp duty and registration department at the old Custom House in south Mumbai told TOI that it was the duty of the owner to find out all the details of the property that he\she was purchasing.
The amnesty scheme was announced early this year. People who had evaded stamp duty on their property purchase agreements can now regularise their transactions with a token penalty of Rs 500 for stamp duty of Rs 25,000 and a Rs 1,000 fine for stamp duty over Rs 25,000. Once the scheme ends on September 8, residents will have to pay a 2% penalty on the total duty amount per month from the date of the flat’s purchase, with the maximum limit being 200%. WHOSE DUTY IS IT? Flat Owners Told To
Pay Levy That Previous Buyers Of Their Homes Didn’t Clear
Mumbai: Although a flat owner may have paid his stamp duty, he is liable to also pay the duty that previous owners of his flat did not pay, said a state government official who sits at Old Customs House. However, he hinted that discussions were on within the department to see how this issue could be resolved.
A 2006 circular calls for the payments on previous agreements. “Any legislation with retrospective effect is regressive. What makes this especially odious is that it holds the current incumbent of the property liable for taxes on past transactions that earlier did not attract such stamp duty,’’ said an angry Suresh Mehta, resident of a cooperative housing society in the western suburbs. “It also threatens him with confiscation of his property just because he is a soft target.”
The issue surrounding the 2006 circular has come up while stamp duty defaulters are being identified so that they can clear dues under a current amnesty scheme. “Unlike other amnesty schemes which are aimed at earning revenue from tax dodgers and willful defaulters, this one aims at making legitimate duty payers declared as defaulters for no fault of theirs,’’ Mehta added.
Chembur resident Sanjay Kothary, one of the thousands wanting to take advantage of the amnesty scheme, said, “How can any flat or shopowner produce documents as far back as two to three decades on transactions he was not a party to? In most cases, he may not even have been born and the parties that were involved may have died or emigrated, making it impossible to get sale deeds.’’
Ramesh Prabhu, chairman of the Maharashtra Societies Welfare Association, pointed out another lacuna.
“People who have purchased flats between 1980 and 1985 are being told they have to pay stamp duty on the current market value. The department’s strange logic is that between 1980 and 1985 there was no provision to collect stamp duty on the sale agreement, but it was to be recovered at the time of conveyance as per the current market value,’’ he said.
For example, if a person purchased a flat in 1980 for Rs 1 lakh, the stamp duty then would have been a mere Rs 11,000. But now, the department wants him to pay the stamp duty on the present market value. If the flat costs Rs 1 crore today, the duty works out to a hefty Rs 5 lakh.
Prior to July 4, 1980, parties tended to enter into an agreement where people grossly undervalued properties. It was only later that the government introduced the ready reckoner rates to determine the true value of property.
Prabhu also complained that the allotment letters issued by societies to flat owners were being rejected by the stamp office. On the other hand, allotment letters issued by Mhada were being accepted.
WHAT IS STAMP DUTY
Stamp duty is a tax collected by the state government on different documents executed in the state as per the Bombay Stamp Act, 1958. The Act specifies 63 documents, one of them being the agreement for property sales
Before December 10, 1985, stamp duty was only Rs 5 on the agreement for sale. But the second document executed after the transaction—sale deed/transfer deed/conveyance/possession letter—carried a stamp duty of: 10% for upto Rs 50,000, 12% for Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh and 15% for over Rs 1 lakh
On December 10, 1985, the government amended the Bombay Stamp Act by merging the agreement for sale and sale deed. Stamp duty on residential properties was reduced to 1% for property worth upto Rs 2.5 lakh, 4% for Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 5 lakh, 6% for Rs 5 lakh to Rs 7.5 lakh, 8% for Rs 7.5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh; and 10% for over Rs 10 lakh
In 2004, the state reduced the maximum slab to 5% for all properties valued over Rs 5 lakh
AMNESTY SEEKERS’ PROBLEMS
While pre-1980 and post-1985 agreements can be stamped on market rates at time of purchase, officials want to use prevailing rates to stamp 1980-85 agreements
State has not issued directives for documents executed prior to December 10, 1985
People don’t want to pay duty on past transactions
Serpentine queues. Clerks refuse to accept documents
People claim that the officials themselves areconfused.
To avail of the amnesty scheme, fill up the prescribed application form available with various stamp offices located at Old Customs House, Fort; MMRDA headquarters, Bandra-Kurla Complex; and Collector of Stamps, near Chembur flyover
Notarised affidavit giving details of the property Original property agreement
One piece of evidence proving date of execution of document, such as electric bill, BMC assessment bill, phone bill, share certificate, ration card, passport, etc
Society letter showing area of flat, year of construction, floors, city survey number, etc
Rule is ‘morally unfair’
Kumar Sambhav | TNN
For the residents of Green Field society in Lokhandwala Complex Andheri (West), Vijay Ranglani is the person who is supposed to answer their housing queries. But on the amnesty scheme, the secretary of the society has no answers.
“People are asking a lot of questions, but I am unable to give a convincing answer. What can I do when things are unclear even from the law’s side?’’ asked Ranglani. “Nobody is clear on which road to follow. We have approached the MMRDA and the Stamp Collector’s office, but they also are confused.’’
He said flat owners are unwilling to pay duty on previous agreements. “People say it is morally unfair for them to pay for agreements not related to them,’’ he explained.
Ranglani said the laws should not be so complicated. “The process should be simple. If a person has not paid the duty on the last agreement, he or she should be fined for that only and the flat should be regularised,’’ he added.