In India, an individual’s income is taxed at graduated rates, depending on his/her duration of stay in India and income level. Non-employment income is taxed at a variable rate according to income type. In this article, we outline the rates and calculation methods for both income sources and summarize common deductions and inclusions in income for expatriates working in India.
The Indian tax year runs from April 1 to March 31. Total income tax is calculated in accordance with the tax rates and rules that stand on the first day of April of the assessment year. Income earned in a year is taxable in the next year. The year in which income is earned is known as the previous year, while the next year in which income is taxable is known as the assessment year. (For more information, see article “Foreign Employee Salary Structuring” in this issue.)
Employment income includes all amounts, either in cash or in kind, that arise from an individual’s employment. Wages, pensions, bonuses, commissions, perquisites in lieu of salary, reimbursement for personal expenses, securities or sweat equity shares, contributions to superannuation funds, etc., are all includable in employment income.
In addition, India provides that certain perquisites and allowances also must be included in employment income. Perquisites and allowances are taxed differently under Indian law. Limited deductions from income also exist.
A perquisite is any benefit received by the employee that is in addition to salary. Perquisites increase taxable income. In general, the taxable value of the perquisites to the employee is its cost to the employer.
However, India has given specific rules for the valuation of the following perquisites provided by the employer:
- Residential accommodations
- Motor car
- Free or concessional educational facilities
- Free or concessional travel
- Sweeper, gardener, security, or domestic help
- Interest-free loans
- Gifts, vouchers, tokens
- Club memberships
An allowance is defined as a fixed quantity of money given regularly in addition to salary for employees to meet specific requirements. Allowances increase taxable income. Examples of common allowances for expatriates include:
- House rent allowance
- Travel allowance
- Children’s education allowance
Many allowances have a small exemption amount. For example, the children’s education allowance has an exemption for up to Rs. 100 per month for up to two children.
Other allowances are fully exempt as long as the employee incurs actual expenses. For example, reimbursement of expenses actually incurred in the performance of an individual’s employment are exempt. Many other exemptions exist for allowances, and taxpayers should consult with a chartered accountant in order to take full advantage of such exemptions.
A deduction from income is available up to Rs. 150,000 for investments in life insurance, contributions to social security funds, and tuition and fees for the purpose of full-time education at a university, college, or other educational institution.
Non-employment income taxable in India includes long- and short-term capital gains earned on the disposal of capital assets situated in India and royalties payable by an Indian concern. It should be noted that investments in shares by non-resident foreign nationals are governed by the Indian foreign direct investment policy. Long-term capital gains are taxed at a flat 20%. Short-term capital gains are taxed at 15% if listed on a stock exchange in India. Royalties and interest earned from an Indian concern are taxable at 10%.
India assesses a surcharge of 12% of the tax on taxpayers with income in excess of Rs. 10 million. There is also an education tax assessed at 3% of the tax. Foreign nationals are additionally required to contribute to the Indian social security scheme.
Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements
Most expatriates worry about double taxation–paying taxes to two different countries on the same income. Foreign taxpayers working in India may be able to reduce taxable income in their country of primary residence (and double taxation) under a double taxation avoidance agreement. For U.S. citizens, this is done using Form 1116, Foreign Tax Credit.
Opportunities for tax planning exist in how employers structure wages, perquisites, and allowances. In general, it is tax-favorable to have expenses reimbursed rather than given as perquisites or included in wages. However, every situation is different, and foreign nationals should consult a chartered accountant to determine the best structuring of wages and benefits for their situations.
Since its establishment in 1992, Dezan Shira & Associates has been guiding American investors through Asia’s complex regulatory environment and assisting them with all aspects of legal, accounting, tax, internal control, HR, payroll and audit matters. As a full-service consultancy with operational offices across China, Hong Kong, India and emerging ASEAN, including liaison offices in Boston and Waltham specifically established to support our American clients, we are your reliable partner for business expansion in Asia and beyond. For inquiries, please email us at [email protected]. For further information about our firm and how we can support American investors in Asia, please visit our North American Desk.