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How To Sell Property In India While Living In the US


Is it possible to sell property in India if you are a Non Resident Indian (NRI) currently living in the US? The answer is yes, but the real estate process can be cumbersome. Often selling Indian property isn't the hardest part. Getting the funds to the US is tricky, and the sale may have unanticipated tax implications.

Here's a quick guide to the most crucial steps involved in the process of selling a home in India while you are halfway across the globe! – from selling the house property to receiving the sale proceeds.

NRI Selling Property in India - Process Overview

The process of NRIs selling property requires an assortment of documentation and plenty of attention to detail. Here's what you should consider.

Getting the Paperwork in Order Should Be A Top Priority

As the original owner, here's a list of the common documents required to sell a property in India:

1. Passport - This is how you prove your identity for the transaction

2. Tax Returns - You may need to provide tax returns from the time you owned the property if you earned income on it

3. Proof of Address - You must provide documentation of your address in India with things such as telephone or utility bills, life insurance policy statements, or an aahdar card

4. Encumbrance -  You must provide a clear encumbrance certificate that shows the property doesn't have any dues to a legal authority

5. Title of the property - Proves ownership and should be in the seller's name

6. No objection certificate (NOC) - showing that the property is not under litigation and it is free from debts (or liens)

7. Occupation certificate (OC) - from the municipal corporation in India

8. Sanction certificate - Needs plan approval

9. Cooperative share certificate - for properties in a society building

10. PAN Card - Seller's Permanent Account Number (PAN), India's version of the Tax Identification Number

11. Non-Resident Ordinary (NRO) bank account - An NRO is a savings or current account that Non-Resident Indians (NRI) maintain to manage the income earned in India. The sales proceeds from the sale of your property will be deposited in this account as dictated by the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA). FYI: This NRO account may be considered a foreign financial account subject to US FBAR regulations. You'll need to file FinCEN Form 114 if the aggregate value of your investments exceeds $10,000. You may also have to file Form 8938 to satisfy Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) requirements if the value of your investments exceeds this threshold:

  • $150K (joint filers) or $75K (single filers) anytime during the tax year 
  • $100K (joint filers) or $50K (single filers) on the last day of the tax year 

What if I Won’t Be in India for the Sale?

If you won't be in India for the sale of the property, you can designate a representative through a power of attorney. Many NRIs opt for brokerage firms to help with the process of selling a property. Some places to find brokerages firms in India include NRI India Services and Brokers ADDA, among others. These firms usually charge 2% of the sales price plus 18% goods and services tax (GST). You may also have to pay for out-of-pocket expenses which include fees for tax consultants and legal services. 

Related Article: How To Pick Insurance For Visitors Coming To The US

What Should I Know if I Have Inherited the Property and Am Trying to Sell It?

If you are a Non-Resident Indian, you can sell the property to a Resident Indian without restrictions. If the buyer is a Non-Resident Indian or a Person of Indian Origin (POI), you may need the approval of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). You are not allowed to sell the property to a foreigner. 

If you are an NRI, but you inherited the property when you were a resident of India, you have more control on how to sell, rent, gift, or transfer the inherited property. As an NRI, you will only be subject to the capital gains tax when you sell the inherited property.

Related Article: Do I Have To Pay Taxes On Inheritance From A Foreign Relative?

Paying Capitals Gains Tax is a Must, but There Are Exceptions

As a general rule, when a Non Resident Indian (NRI) sells a property, tax deducted at source (TDS) applies. TDS is a type of tax withheld by the buyer from the purchase price of the property and remits the tax to the Indian government. 

For properties held by the NRI for fewer than two years, sales proceeds are treated as a short term capital gain and taxed at 30% by the Income Tax Department in India. Properties held for more than two years will be taxed at 20% plus applicable surcharge and cess. Cess is a tax for a specific purpose charged on top of the applicable tax. For 2018-19, applicable cess is 3%, so long term capital gains tax rate becomes 20.6%.   

The seller will receive the sales proceeds net of the TDS and receives Form 16A or TDS certificate from the buyer. You can cross-check the tax credit for taxes deducted at source through Form 26AS.

You may apply for a deduction at lower rates or no deduction of tax from the Assessing Officer of the Income Tax Department. If the officer determines the request to be justified, you will receive a certificate for a lower tax deduction or non-deduction of tax. 

You may also be exempted for paying long-term capital gains under a provision called Section 54 if you use the proceeds to buy a property or invest in certain bonds.

Take note that NRIs are only liable for taxes on capital gains. Since TDS is based on the sale price, there are instances where TDS is higher than the NRI's tax liabilities. For instance, if you sold the property at a loss but the buyer already paid the TDS, you would have a zero tax liability and you may be able to ask for a refund to claim the TDS you paid.

If this happens, you'll need to request a refund from the Income Tax Department.

Related Article: Remitting Money Across Borders? What You Need To Know

Sales Proceeds Have to Be Paid in India, and Repatriating Funds Can Be Tricky  

After selling the property, you need to get 2 certificates from a Chartered Accountant in India if you are sending the proceeds outside the country. These certificates are Form 15A Declaration of Remitter and Form 15CB Certificate of an Accountant. You need these forms to verify that your money is from legal sources and that all taxes have been paid.

Some banks will also request additional documents, such as the sale documents or the will for the inherited property.

As a general rule, you can transfer a maximum for $1 million from your NRO to a US account in a financial year, which is from April to March in India. This limit applies if you inherited the property or purchased it from funds from your NRO account. You need the approval of the Reserve Bank of India before you can remit funds exceeding the $1 million limit. 

You will need to get the special permission from the Reserve Bank of India if the property was inherited from another NRI.  

US Tax Implications of Your Property Sale In India

If you are a US resident alien, you need to declare Capital Gains on Losses on the sale of your property in India under Section D of Form 1040. You can deduct the amount paid for gains tax paid in India to the capital gains tax owed to the US government since the two countries have a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement.  

If you did not pay capital gains tax in India because you reinvested the proceeds, you would still be liable for the full amount of the capital gains tax due in the US if you are a US resident. 

Related Article: How Much Money Can I Bring Into The US On A Plane?

Expert Advice Recommended

Selling properties usually have tax consequences, and a foreign property adds another layer of complexity. For tax purposes, it's better to sell properties from January to March. India's financial year ends in March, while US taxes follow the calendar year.

Each sale is unique, so tax implications and other issues could also differ. So, before deciding when to sell, consult an expert to see possible tax remedies and bring transaction costs down. With different authorities involved, we suggest having a Chartered Accountant in India and a financial and tax advisor like MYRA in the US  to assist you through the process of going from owner to previous owner.

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India Property for Sale FAQs

Indian Citizens permanently residing in the US and looking to sell property in India may have a few more questions. Check them out here.

Can A NRI Sell Agricultural Land In India?

If you have land for sale in India, you may only sell it to a resident of India. NRIs are not allowed to purchase or own agricultural land in India. However, if you purchased the land while you were a resident of India, you may sell it as an NRI, but only to Indian residents.

Are There Websites That Can Help Me Sell Property In India?

If you're selling residential or commercial property in India, there are many house buying websites you can use to list it to make the sale of commercial and residential property easier.

  • 99Acres
  • NoBroker
  • MagicBricks

NRI Sell Property in India

Selling a property in India as a non-resident can be complicated because you aren't there, but knowing the requirements can make it easier. Gathering your documents, understanding the tax implications, and having professional support is the key to successfully selling property in India.

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