Non Resident Indians can buy property in India and this is regulated by the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) under the aegis of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA). NRIs can purchase residential or commercial property but cannot buy agricultural land, plantations or farmhouses without clearances from RBI. NRIs investing in property in India must be cautious at every step to ensure they are compliant with various regulations, and avoid exploitation by builders, agents and sellers of property.
- Due Diligence
Hire a lawyer to examine all legal documents before buying the land. Ensure the residential project is not built on agricultural land. Ask the seller for original title deeds which must be in the name of the seller. Ensure the property has secured all environment and municipal clearances.
- Financing options
A maximum of 80% of the property’s value of can be funded by banks or financial institutions, and the rest must be self-funded. The buyer is also allowed to take loans from institutions abroad. However, all transactions must go through banks, and repayment must be done by inward remittances.
- Repayment options
The buyer can repay the loan through EMIs using money parked in his NRE or NRO accounts or FCNR deposits. The rent accrued from the property can also be used to repay the loan amount.
- Agreement & Registration
A sale agreement must be drawn on a 50 rupee stamp paper and must mention the sale amount, payments made till date, and the payment schedule for the balance amount. The sale deed must be registered at the sub-registrar or Sub-District Magistrate, and in case of another person representing the buyer, the power of attorney should be notarized with the Indian consulate in the buyer’s country of residence.
- Applicable Taxes
- NRIs must pay a withholding TDS at the rate of 1% if you buy a property worth more than Rs 50 lakh
- Only properties that are vacant and declared as ‘self-occupied’ are exempt from wealth tax. Else, the property must be rented out for a minimum of 300 days a year to avoid paying wealth tax.
- For a second property that is vacant, the buyer must pay tax at the rate of 1% of the value (net of outstanding loans) in excess of Rs 30 lakh.
- Property held for 3 years is treated as long-term capital gains and taxed at 20%.
- Short term capital gains (any term shorter than 3 years) are added to income and taxed at the normal rate of tax.
- 20% TDS on sale of property
- Capital gains may also be taxable in country of residence if it doesn’t have a Double Tax Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with India.
- Available Rebates
- Interest on home loan is deductible to the extent of Rs 1.5 lakh per annum under section 24 of the Income Tax Act, even in case of self-occupied property.
- Up to Rs 1 lakh of principle repayed can be deducted under section 80C (subject to an overall limit of Rs 1 lakh under that section).
- This interest can also be deducted from rental income
- Renting of property
- NRIs who rent out property must pay tax on income from this property and file IT returns in India. They must also declare this income in their country of residence and pay taxes there unless the country has a DTAA with India.
- In case the property in India is rented out, the NRI owner must still pay income tax on deemed rent in India, which is determined by some valuation norms stipulated in the Income Tax Act.
- Sale of property
- NRIs who own a property in India can sell it to another NRI or Indian resident who is clear by the law.
- Agricultural land or plantation land or a farm house that is inherited can only be sold to a resident of India
Realty is a great sector for NRIs to invest in and earn good returns over time. Just ensure that you are compliant at every step, considering that Indian laws and stipulations regarding buying or selling of property can be very involved.
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