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Tax cut to attract more homebuyers
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Homebuyers in Beijing will have their contract tax halved if the price is below a certain level from today.

The Beijing municipal construction committee issued a circular on Saturday to this effect as part of its effort to encourage spending to boost the housing market and tackle the economic downturn.

For example, if a person buys a 120-sq-m apartment in the Wangjing area at the existing average price of 13,000 yuan per sq m, he/she has to pay a contract tax at the rate of 1.5 percent, instead of 3 percent because the total cost would be 1.56 million yuan.

The municipal government has made that possible by raising the tax benefit threshold to 1.65 million yuan.

Last month, the Ministry of Finance, too, cut the contract tax rate for apartments smaller than 90 sq m from 3 percent to 1 percent.

According to a 2006 municipal government rule, only people buying apartments smaller than 120 sq m for less than 9,300 yuan per sq m (in the Wangjing area), for example, were eligible to pay 1.5 percent contract tax.

But property prices have risen dramatically in Beijing in the past two years. It has become almost impossible for homebuyers to get a preferential tax treatment.

The move is aimed at rescuing the property market, said Li Wenjie, general manager of property agency Centaline China (North China region). But it may not be enough to make more people buy houses because the contract tax is only a small part of the cost.

"Especially when many developers are offering more than 10 percent discount, the tax reduction would hardly help," he said.

Xie Yiming, an advertising company employee, has been looking for an apartment. He plans to get married next year but would still prefer to watch the market for a while.

"The price trend is important for me and friends have told me the downward trend could continue for some time," he said.

The Beijing municipal bureau of statistics said on Saturday that the average price of apartments in October fell by 0.2 percent month-on-month, the first time since 2005. And investment in apartments in the first three quarters of this year dropped 15.7 percent year-on-year.

(China Daily November 24, 2008)

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