The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) had proposed draft regulations relating to two new categories of investment vehicles namely, the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) & Infrastructure Investment Trust (Invit). These regulations were placed in public domain for comments. The final Regulations are yet to be notified.
The income-investment model of such REITs and Invits (referred to as business trusts) has the following distinctive elements:
(i) the trust would raise capital by way of issue of units (to be listed on a recognised stock exchange) and can also raise debts directly both from resident as well as non-resident investors;
(ii) the income bearing assets would be held by the trust by acquiring controlling or other specific interest in an Indian company (SPV) from the sponsor.
The expansion of asset delivery through the public-private partnership (PPP) model has increased the number of assets available for financing. The Indian infrastructure and the PPPs are currently in a challenging phase, with development of existing projects delayed, and diminishing attractiveness of new projects to private sector funds and strategic operators. In order to meet these challenges, new investment vehicle structure, an Infrastructure Investment Trust needs to be facilitated. Similarly, securitization of income earning real estate assets needs to be facilitated. Certainty in the taxation aspects of these trusts is necessary.
It is proposed to amend the Act to put in place a specific taxation regime for providing the way the income in the hands of such trusts is to be taxed and the taxability of the income distributed by such business trusts in the hands of the unit holders of such trusts. Such regime has the following main features:–
(i) The listed units of a business trust, when traded on a recognised stock exchange, would attract same levy of securities transaction tax (STT), and would be given the same tax benefits in respect of taxability of capital gains as equity shares of a company i.e., long term capital gains, would be exempt and short term capital gains would be taxable at the rate of 15%.
(ii) In case of capital gains arising to the sponsor at the time of exchange of shares in SPVs with units of the business trust, the taxation of gains shall be deferred and taxed at the time of disposal of units by the sponsor. However, the preferential capital gains regime (consequential to levy of STT) available in respect of units of business trust will not be available to the sponsor in respect of these units at the time of disposal. Further, for the purpose of computing capital gain, the cost of these units shall be considered as cost of the shares to the sponsor. The holding period of shares shall also be included in the holding period of such units.
(iii) The income by way of interest received by the business trust from SPV is accorded pass through treatment i.e., there is no taxation of such interest income in the hands of the trust and no withholding tax at the level of SPV. However, withholding tax at the rate of 5 per cent. in case of payment of interest component of income distributed to non-resident unit holders, at the rate of 10 per cent. in respect of payment of interest component of distributed income to a resident unit holder shall be effected by the trust.
(iv) In case of external commercial borrowings by the business trust, the benefit of reduced rate of 5 per cent. tax on interest payments to non-resident lenders shall be available on similar conditions, for such period as is provided in section 194LC of the Act.
(v) The dividend received by the trust shall be subject to dividend distribution tax at the level of SPV but will be exempt in the hands of the trust, and the dividend component of the income distributed by the trust to unit holders will also be exempt.
(vi) The income by way of capital gains on disposal of assets by the trust shall be taxable in the hands of the trust at the applicable rate. However, if such capital gains are distributed, then the component of distributed income attributable to capital gains would be exempt in the hands of the unit holder. Any other income of the trust shall be taxable at the maximum marginal rate.
(vii) The business trust is required to furnish its return of income.
(viii)The necessary forms to be filed and other reporting requirements to be met by the trust shall be prescribed to implement the above scheme.
This amendment will take effect from 1st October, 2014.