Cost of house to include furniture for Income-Tax relief
In a recent order, the Income-Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) has held that the cost of a new residential house will not be limited to the construction cost but also include the purchase price of furniture—if it is an integral part…

In a recent order, the Income-Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) has held that the cost of a new residential house will not be limited to the construction cost but also include the purchase price of furniture—if it is an integral part of the property deal. The order comes as a relief to the petitioner as it will reduce his I-T liability.

In this case, Rajat Mehta, an NRI based in New Zealand, sold a large house in Vadodara. To continue ties with his motherland, he bought another smaller house in the same city. He entered into two separate contracts though—one for the purchase of the new house for Rs 6 million and the other for furniture for Rs 1.8 million, ToI reported.

According to tax laws, if a tax payer makes a profit on sale of a residential house that has been held for at least two years, then such profit is treated as a long-term capital gain (LTCG). This gain is taxable at 20% with adjustment for inflation, referred to as indexation benefit. Section 54 of I-T Act provides for investment-linked benefits.

If the LTCG component is invested in another house in India, within a stipulated period of time, then the cost of the new house, or, in other words, investment made in a property, is deducted. Only the balance component of LTCGs is taxable, which results in a lower tax outgo.

Mehta had sold his original house and earned LTCGs of Rs 19 million. Within the required time period, he invested in a new house and under Section 54 claimed a deduction of Rs 7.8 million.

At the tax assessment stage, the I-T officer held, “A separate agreement for furniture and fixtures was entered into to save on stamp duty (which is imposed only on property value) and now the tax payer was trying to evade income tax.”

According to the I-T officer, expenses incurred on buying furniture could not be treated as those for making the house habitable. Thus, he permitted only Rs 6million as deduction.

The ITAT’s Ahmedabad bench observed that the NRI did not have the option of not buying the furniture for Rs 1.8 million. In fact, irrespective of the purchase of furniture, he was under an obligation to pay Rs 7.8 million to the seller. Thus, the two contracts cannot be considered in isolation.

The ITAT bench pointed out that the NRI buyer was an unwilling party to artificially splitting up the sale transaction. The actual beneficiary would be the seller of the new house, as gains on sale of furniture were not taxable capital gains.

Based on these facts, the ITAT allowed a deduction of the entire claim of Rs 7.8 million made by the NRI. Denying him the legitimate deduction under Section 54 was not fair treatment, it ruled.

(ends)

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