Tag Archives: Real Estate

Can Foreign Companies Acquire Land in Mongolia?

In this article we shall discuss what land rights are there for foreign citizens, foreign companies /foreign invested companies/ in Mongolia and is it prudent to invest.

Pursuant to laws there are three types of land rights in Mongolia: land ownership, land possession and land use right. All land, other than land granted for ownership to citizens of Mongolia, is owned and managed by the state. Thus, obviously aside from the state only citizens of Mongolia are entitled to land ownership. Therefore, restrictions on private foreign land ownership in Mongolia are absolute, meaning foreign citizens and companies are prohibited from outright land ownership. Domestic companies and Mongolian citizens may “possess” and “use” the land, where foreign companies and citizens may only “use” the land and only for purposes established by legislation.

Foreign citizens, who permanently reside (for more than 183 days) in Mongolia, may acquire land use right through open auctions for residential needs only. Foreign citizens may be given land for use up to 0.05 hectares for a residential lot, and up to 0.1 hectares – for gardening activities (such as cultivating vegetables, fruits and berries). Land may be given for use for up to 5 years through a contract and be extended by up to 5 years at a time.

For foreign companies or Mongolian companies with foreign shareholding the acquiring of land use rights is much more complicated process. Foreign companies may acquire land use rights through an open auction process similar to foreign individuals. However only the Parliament of Mongolia is entitled to make a decision on giving land for use to foreign companies (including or Mongolian companies with foreign shareholding); whereas, a decision on giving land for use to foreign citizens is made by governors of corresponding level. Land may be given for use to foreign companies under lease or concession contracts for up to 60 years and extended once for up to 40 years upon its initial term. The Government determines land borderlines and land use regulations.

Aside from restrictions on acquiring land use rights, there are a couple additional restrictions for foreign citizen and companies’ land rights. Foreign citizens and companies are prohibited to freely transfer, or pledge acquired land use rights. Such transfers and pledges may be undertaken only between Mongolian citizens, companies and organizations. Mongolian citizens and companies, who gave the land for utilization to foreign citizens and companies without proper prior approval from authorized state body, are liable to compensation of damages and termination of their land use rights. In other words, in order to acquire land use right from Mongolian citizens and companies, once again one must obtain approval from abovementioned authorized state bodies. Thus, it makes acquisition of land use right from domestic companies and citizens also complicated.

In conclusion, while the process for a foreign invested company is difficult, it is doable. For those foreign companies for which acquiring such land use rights is important, it will be important to obtain the advice and assistance of an independent Mongolian lawyer.

Foreign Investors in Mongolia: Know the Immovable Property Tax

The Immovable Property Tax Law was adopted in 2000 by the Mongolian Parliament and has been effective since 2001, over 16 years. Under the law, tax is imposed on all kinds of immovable properties which cannot be used for their original purpose when they are separated from the land. All persons or legal entities, who own immovable property in the territory of Mongolia, are considered taxpayers.

Local governments at the provincial level, and in Ulaanbaatar, are responsible for imposing a tax on immovable property within their respective locality. The tax level may be .6 – 1.0 of the value of the property as calculated considering the location, intended use, size, and overall demand of the property in question.

For tax purposes, the value of immovable property excluding the underlying land is determined, firstly, by the valuation as registered with immovable property state registry. If there is no such registration, the value is determined by the valuation of insurance on the property. And if there is no registration or insurance valuation, the value will be established as the value that is written down in financial records of the property owner in accordance with the law.

According to the law, the following immovable property types are exempt from immovable property tax:

  • immovable property of legal persons financed by state and local budget (state owned or funded enterprises);
  • residential houses;
  • buildings and developments for public use;
  • management of industrial and technological parks, unit production, structures within technological parks and other immovable properties; and
  • buildings and facilities constructed and registered in a designated tax free zone.

A Mongolian company or other legal entity which owns taxable immovable property will pay equal amounts of tax on the immovable property before the 15th of last month of each quarter for their annual tax liability. An individual citizen of Mongolia, or a foreign citizen who owns immovable property, must pay a once annual tax on immovable property before the 15th of February.

We have encountered many clients which confuse the immovable property tax with the tax on income from the sale of immovable property, but these are not the same. The tax on income from sale of immovable property is a onetime tax assessed upon transfer of real estate, and will be equal to 2% of the transaction cost. In contrast the Immovable property tax is owed each year for the duration of ownership of the property.

Mongolia Set to Allow Trading of Real Estate Interests Via Stock Exchange

Mongolian Parliament approved the Law on Allocation of Land to Mongolian Citizens for Ownership (LALMCO) in 2002 under the authority of Article 6.3 of the Constitution, “the state may give for private ownership plots of land, except pastures and areas under public and special use, only to the citizens of Mongolia”.

Implementation of LALMCO began May 1, 2003, granting every Mongolian Citizen a right to own a plot of land. This was the first time in the history that Mongolian citizens were entitled by law to own land. However, implementation of this law was not satisfactory. The right to acquire land for ownership is opened to all Mongolian citizens according to LALMCO, but implementation mechanism were not set out in this law, as result, many citizens face obstacles to their legal acquisition of land for their ownership. Those individuals who live in an apartment in the city, in particular have encountered difficulty in gaining access to land ownership despite the  guarantee in the LALMCO. Since LALMCO’s implementation only 7.6% of the 1.2 million city dwellers in Mongolia have been granted the land rights as guaranteed.

Reasons for the unsatisfactory implementation of LALMCO are not for lack of available land, or   limitations on use of land. The law is missing specific regulations and procedures with regard to establishing and confirming land ownership rights obtained under LALMCO. As a result of the lack of clear regulations and procedures, some national and local authorities have used the law to distribute land to friends and family through corruption and without transparency or public oversight.

As set forth in the new draft law, a Certificate of the Right to Own Land will be issued to each citizen, and upon establishing Land Ownership, a Certificate of Land Ownership will be issued. A Certificate of the Right to Own Land will represent each respective citizen’s right to own land. The Certificate of Land Ownership will clearly set out the individual’s ownership rights to a specific plot of land.  Details regarding issuance of these certificates and relevant regulations are also set out in the draft law.

The draft law also provides an interesting mechanism regarding the Land Ownership Certificate. Land Ownership Certificates will be able to be securitized and traded via the Mongolian Stock Exchange. This will provide an avenue for profits for those citizens, such as city dwellers, who are not planning on living on or using the granted land rights themselves.

While real estate can be very valuable, undeveloped land, may not always offer any profit or other benefit to the owner. Development of the land often takes substantial resources and time commitment, which owners may not be able to provide. The ability to trade ownership interests in these plots of land could be a major reform for the Mongolian economy enabling many citizens to profit off land ownership in new ways.

Currently, it remains unclear whether foreign individuals or companies will be able to invest in and trade the Land Ownership Certificates once they are listed on the exchange. This could also be a substantial opportunity for foreign investments in Mongolia. We will keep our eye on developments and update here when we know more.