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Land Transfer Tax Policy Regime and Its Influence on Property Markets: Analysing the Land Transfer Tax Policy of Kerala in the Last Decade

Part of the India Studies in Business and Economics book series (ISBE)


Even though pervasive, land transfer taxes (LTTs) and its impacts on the economy are rarely studied. This paper analyses the role of governments as market regulating institution in land markets by studying the land registration tax policy regime. While land registration can be considered as a way in which government intervenes/participates in the land markets, it is also source of taxation revenue for the government. Considering the fact that land taxes are meagre in India and LTTs provide more revenue to the state governments, LTTs have got relevance in the current Indian scenario. This paper attempts to analyse the impacts of LTTs on the land markets of Kerala, in the background of changes in the tax rates as well as structures. Findings indicate that intervention of new taxes has not distorted the land markets while bringing out the pro-policy seasonal nature as well as the short-term nature of the tax policy shocks on the land markets and revenue generated from it. The paper also highlights the importance of tax waiver scheme on harnessing the revenue potential from land transfers while discussing the distorting nature of LTTs on the land and real estate markets.

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  1. 1.

    Seventh schedule (Article 246) of the Indian constitution defines the powers of the centre and states into three lists; the union list, the state list and the concurrent list.

  2. 2.

    The stamp duty rates used to vary across Panchayath, Municipality and Corporation areas in Kerala until 2013.

  3. 3.

    In fact the low rate during 2004–05 was on the expectation of a possible introduction of fair value land taxation which however was not materialised.

  4. 4.

    In the 2010–11 Budget speech where the fair value land taxation was notified, the finance minister Sri T.M. Thomas Isaac mentions that it was insisted that the fair value should not exceed 50% of the market value.

  5. 5.

    As per this, stamp duty was fixed to 2% at Panchayath level, 3% at Municipalities and 4% at Corporation premises for immovable property conveyances. Surcharge of 2% of stamp duty was also included for all the regions.

  6. 6.

    See the previous section for details regarding increased rates during 2004–05.

  7. 7.

    Capital assets are distinguishable on the basis of the period of holding. This can vary across taxing institutions. For example, Kelkar in the Report of the Task force on Direct Tax (2002) considers any transactions involving capital assets more than 3 years as long term. In the case of equity, more than one year is considered as long term.

  8. 8.

    Stamp duties were increased to 6, 8 and 8.5% respectively at Panchayath, Municipality and the Corporation. Surcharge on the stamp duty were at the rate of 4% at Panchayath and Municipality and 5% at Corporation (Budget Speech 200506).

  9. 9.

    Please see Table 1 for a comparative picture.

  10. 10.

    Regarding providing power of attorney to a promoter or developer for construction or development of a property or sale or transfer, stamp duty has to be paid on the value of the property par with conveyance rate prescribed in respective locations. Stamp duty if paid earlier for such agreements regarding the construction shall be deducted from the stamp duty payable for the conveyance (Budget speech 200708).

  11. 11.

    The effective rate of stamp duty, surcharge and registration fee in Corporation areas was brought down from 15.5 to 11%; in Municipality/Township/Cantonment areas from 14.5 to 10%; and in Grama Panchayathh from 12 to 9%.

  12. 12.

    However, it was insisted that the fair value of land should not exceed 50% of market value (Budget Speech 201011).

  13. 13.

    As per this, re-sale of a land purchased within a period of 3 months from the date of registration of the purchase deed shall be subjected to double the stamp duty of the previous conveyance deed and for those after 3 and before 6 months of purchase to warrant one and half times the stamp duty of the previous conveyance (Budget Speech 201314).

  14. 14.

    But the revenue curve represented here in real variable did not maintain the momentum shown in the early couple of years, and could not recover after the fall during 2008–09 unlike the previous acceleration. This may be due to the fact that after the introduction of fair value taxation and subsequently short-term capital gains taxation, the rates of stamp duty and registration fees were normalised to lower rates. Though these measures have increased revenue in nominal terms it has actually brought lower real revenue.

  15. 15.

    Tax rates on transfers were normalised to lower rates in the recent years with the introduction of fair value and short-term capital gains tax policies.


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Correspondence to V. P. Nirmal Roy .

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Nirmal Roy, V.P. (2017). Land Transfer Tax Policy Regime and Its Influence on Property Markets: Analysing the Land Transfer Tax Policy of Kerala in the Last Decade. In: Pellissery, S., Davy, B., Jacobs, H. (eds) Land Policies in India. India Studies in Business and Economics. Springer, Singapore.

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