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Income tax Rules for NRI – Everything you need to know about NRI taxability and exemptions

The Indian diaspora is around 3 Crore. While it is only 2.25% of India’s population, their total wealth is estimated at USD1 trillion which is nearly over half of India’s GDP. The income of the Indian diaspora is estimated at USD 400 billion a year.

Returning Nri

The Indian Diaspora is sending around USD 80 billion back to home while maintaining its position of World’s Highest Recipient of remittance from overseas. With this whopping sum of transactions, it becomes necessary for an NRI/OCI/PIO to understand the Income Tax Implication for NRI in India.

This article will give you an in-depth view of various scenarios of the Income-Tax rules for NRIs from determining the Residential Status, Classifying the taxable incomes, Tax benefits for NRI and avoiding double taxation.

Table of Content:

Income tax liability for an Indian (Resident/Non-Resident) individual depends on three major factors – Residential Status, Source of Income & Amount of Income earned. The Income-tax implication for an NRI is margined by the Indian Income Tax Act 1961 u/s NRI Taxation. Basically, it says that the income earned by an NRI inside India is taxable and the Income earned by an NRI outside India is not taxable.

First things first. We will go with defining an NRI.

1. Determining your Residential Status

Your liability to tax in India is highly partial based on your Residential status. The Income-Tax Department of India has clearly mentioned the description of an NRI.

You are considered as a Resident,

(i) If your stay in India is 182 days or more in the relevant Financial Year

OR

(ii) If your stay in India is 60 days or more in the relevant financial year and more than 365 days in the preceding 4 Financial Years

If BOTH the conditions are NOT satisfied, then you are considered as a Non-Resident Indian.

An Indian citizen who is leaving the country during the previous year for employment or the citizen who leave India as a member of a crew of an Indian ship or a PIO/OCI who is on a visit to India is considered a Resident if the first condition alone is satisfied (less than 182 days of stay in India in a year is enough to be considered as an NRI).

As mentioned before, as an Indian citizen staying and working abroad, your NRI Income-Tax will depend on your residential status. If your residential status is described as a Resident, then your global income will be taxed in India. If you are a Non-Resident, then your income earned or accrued in India is only taxed your global income will not be taxed.

2. Incomes taxable for an NRI

If you are an NRI and the income you earned is directly credited in your bank account in India, it is considered as received in India and hence the salary income is subjected to tax as per slab.
residential status

But, if your salary income is credited in your overseas bank account outside India and then transferred to India, it is considered as received outside India and is not subjected to tax in India.Apart from salary income, there are other categories of income sources for an NRI which is accrued or deemed to be accrued in India that should be mentioned while filing IT return and are taxable.

We will discuss the taxability of such income sources in detail below,

a) Income from Salary

The income you receive as salary for the services you provide in India (working for an Indian company from abroad or working from India for a foreign company) is considered as income accrued in India. Such income will be taxed without consideration of where you receive your income or your NRI status.

An employee of the Government of India who is working abroad with an NRI status will also be taxed for the salary he/she receives; except for Diplomats and Ambassadors.

Example: Raj has been working in the US as an NRI and the company had to move him back to India and asked him to work from India due to some visa issue. Now the salary received by Raj while working from India for the US Company will be taxed.

Deepak is working in Europe for an Indian company for 3 years now and he is an NRI. He needs the salary money for his expenses in Europe and for his family needs in India. His salary will be taxed if it is received in Europe or in India.

b) Income from House Rental

An NRI’s income from any immovable property in India is taxable as per slab.

The tenant who pays rent to an NRI house owner can deposit the rent into the NRI’s account in India or the account in the country of the NRI’s residence. The tenant should deduct 30% of TDS (if the amount is taxable) before paying the rent to NRI owner.

While making payment to an NRI’s account the tenant must submit Form 15CA through online to the Income Tax Department.

Example: Vijay pays a monthly rent of 30,000 INR to his NRI house owner Arjun in Singapore. Vijay should deduct 30% TDS (9,000 INR) and submit the Form 15CA online while paying rent to Arjun. The rental income received by Arjun shall be taxed in India according to the tax slab he falls into.

In cases, a person remits more than 5,00,000 INR to an NRI’s account Form 15CB certification is required mandatorily from a Chartered Accountant, before submitting the Form 15CA online. The Form 15CB from a Chartered Accountant is to certify the details like nature & purpose of the payment, TDS rate, TDS deductions, and DTAA (Double Tax Avoidance Act – if applicable).

c) Income from Capital Gains

Capital gains from investments which are held in India shall be taxed by the Income-Tax Department of India. Capital gains arising from various investment options are treated at various standards.

Long-Term Capital Gains: Capital gains are considered as Long Term if the asset is held more than a particular threshold period.

The threshold period is,

  • 1 year for Stocks/Equity mutual funds
  • 2 years for Real-estate.
  • 3 years for Debt funds/Bonds/Debentures/other assets.

Taxability for LTCG is at – 20% TDS for Real-estate and Debt funds with indexation benefits; and 10% for Stocks/Equity Mutual funds. As an NRI you can claim capital gains tax exemption on sales receipt of house property by investing the gains in a house property u/s 54 or investing the gains in capital gain bonds u/s 54EC.

For a house property which is inherited is considered as Long-Term investment asset. The procedure to sell such an inherited property is very complicated and thus we have made a whole article about the sales procedure of inherited property.

Short-Term Capital Gains: Any asset held less than the above-specified threshold period is considered as Short-Term Capital Gains.

Short-Term Capital Gains are added to the income of the person and is calculated as per slab.

CategoryType of InvestmentHoliding PeriodTax Rate
Short-Term Capital GainsStocks/Equity funds< 1 year15%
Real-Estate< 2 yearAs per slab
Debt fund/bonds/debentures/other investments< 3 yearAs per slab
Short-Term Capital GainsStocks/Equity funds> 1 year10%
Real-Estate> 2 year20%
Debt fund/bonds/debentures/other investments> 3 year20%

Example: Arun sold a property in India for 1 Crore which he bought before 5 years for 20 Lakh. The sales proceeds need to be deposited to Arun’s NRO account. Since the period of holding the property is more than 3 years it comes under LTCG and thus TDS must be deducted by the buyer at 20% after indexation.

Meanwhile, Tharun sold a property in India for 50 Lakh which he bought before 1 year for 30 Lakh. In this case, Tharun held the property for less than 3 years and thus it falls under STCG. The gains of 20 Lakh rising from this sale is taxed as per slab i.e. 1,12,500 + 30% of income exceeding 10 Lakh. [To read a detailed article about sale & purchase of property by NRI click here]

d) Income from Fixed Deposits & Savings Accounts

Interest income earned through Fixed Deposits and Savings Accounts held in a bank in India will be taxed including the interest earned through NRO accounts.

However, interest earned through NRE & FCNR accounts is tax-free for NRIs.

e) Income from Business & Profession

Income earned from a profession or business situated or governed from India by an NRI is taxed in India.

f) Income from Long-Term Capital Gains with special provision

Long-Term Capital Gains arising from the sale of foreign assets are not eligible for indexation benefits and deductions u/s 80. But tax exemption is allowed for the transfer of foreign exchange assets u/s 115F on the gains if you reinvest it in the following options

    I. Shares in an Indian company
    II. Debentures of an Indian public company
    III. Deposits with banks and Indian public company
    IV. Central government securities
    V. NSC VI and VII issues

You can avail the special provision of tax exemption even after becoming a Resident until the asset is invested and an appropriate declaration for the application of the special provision is submitted to the assessing officer. If you decide to opt-out of this special provision, you will be taxed for those investments in the usual provision.

3. Tax Deductions/Benefits

As paying tax is a basic duty of every citizen of India; it is a basic right of every citizen to claim tax exemptions that are available. Tax exemptions/deductions are available for NRIs and Residents under many sections. We will discuss all the available sections that provide tax deductions/exemptions to an NRI here.

Section 80 is an important tax exemption rule with many sub-sections based on the nature of payments. Most of the exemptions available to Residents are also available for NRIs and some are exclusively for NRIs which are,

tax benefits
a) Deduction for NRI under Section 80C

A minimum deduction of up to 1.5 Lakh is allowed by Section 80C from the overall income of an NRI. The nature of payments eligible for tax exemption to an NRIs under Section 80C is categorized and mentioned below in detail,

i) Principal repayments on loan of house property: As mentioned before, if your house property is in a loan you can claim a tax deduction for the principal repayment. You can also claim tax deductions for the stamp duty, and registration fees under Section 80C.

ii) Children’s tuition fee payment: Under section 80C your children’s tuition fee who is getting full-time education in any school (playschool, nursery, and pre-nursery), college, or university located in India is allowed for a tax deduction.

iii) Life insurance installment payment: A life insurance policy in the name of an NRI or spouse of NRI or the NRI’s child is allowed for a deduction under Section 80C.

iv) ELSS Funds (Equity Linked Savings Scheme): Being the most preferred savings cum investment option, ELSS also becomes eligible for a tax deduction of upto 1.5 Lakh INR under Section 80C per year.

v) ULIPS (Units Linked Insurance Plans): ULIPS is eligible for tax deduction under Section 80C.

Example: Arjun is an NRI and has his family residing in India. In the financial year 2018-2019 Arjun has paid 30,000 INR as tuition fee for his children; invested in ELSS funds of about 20,000 INR; repaid 80,000 INR of his house loan; and also paid a life insurance premium for himself & his family for about 30,000 INR(assured sum is 3,00,000).

The total sum paid by Arjun is 1,60,000 INR. But these types of payments are eligible for a maximum tax deduction of only 1,50,000 INR under section 80C. Thus the exemption limit for Arjun u/s 80C is limited to only 1,50,000 INR.

b) Deduction for NRI under Section 80D

Under Section 80D, an NRI can claim deduction on the medical insurance for self, spouse, children, and parent for upto 25,000 INR per year. In addition, the tax deduction on insurance for parents less than age 60 is upto 25,000 INR; if the parents are senior-citizen the tax deduction allowed is upto 50,000 INR per year.

Within the allowed limit, deduction of upto 5,000 INR can be availed for preventive Health Check-ups.

Covered IndividualsExemption Limit For Medical InsuranceHealth Check-up (Within The Limit)Total Tax Deduction Allowed
Self and Family25,000 INR5,000 INR25,000 INR
Self and Family + Parents25,000 + 25,000 INR5,000 INR25,000 INR
Self and Family + Senior citizen Parents25,000 + 50,000 INR5,000 INR75,000 INR
Self (senior citizen) and Family + Senior citizen parents50,000 + 50,000 INR5,000 INR1,00,000 INR

Example: Ramesh did a Health check-up for himself at 5,000 INR; paid a medical insurance premium of 23,000 INR for his wife and dependent children; and a medical insurance premium of 45,000 INR for his senior citizen parents.

For himself & his family, Ramesh paid 28,000 INR in total, of which he can only claim a deduction of 25,000 INR. Here the 5,000 INR he spent on his health check-up is limited to 2,000 INR since the maximum limit of deduction allowed is only 25,000 INR for self & family.

For his senior citizen parents, the premium Ramesh paid is 45,000 INR which can get full deduction since it is within the maximum limit of 50,000 INR.

c) Deduction for NRI under section 80E

Section 80E allows an NRI to claim a tax deduction on the interest paid on the education loan taken for the higher education of the NRI, or NRI’s spouse or children or for a student for whom the NRI is a legal guardian. This section does not have a maximum limit for the amount of deduction. You can claim a deduction of a maximum of 8 years or till when the interest is paid, whichever is lower.

Important note: This section does not allow deduction of tax for the principal repayment of the education loan.

d) Deduction for NRI under section 80G

You can claim a tax deduction for donations made to India for social cause/welfare under Section 80G.

There are types of donations that are eligible for either 100% or 50% deductions with or without restrictions. But, any type of donation more than 2,000 INR if made in cash is not eligible for any deduction.

e) Deduction for NRI under section 80TTA

Available from FY 2012-2013, you can claim a deduction on the interest income from bank savings account upto a maximum of 10,000 INR under Section 80TTA. This deduction is applicable for accounts with a bank, co-operative society or post office.

f) Deduction for NRI on House property Income

The income from home, office, shop or any building is taxed under the head, ‘House property Income’. An NRI’s house rental income is eligible for a tax deduction of property tax, interest payment on home loan and also a standard deduction of 30% under Section 24 if the property is purchased on a loan. As an NRI you can also benefit from the deduction of principal repayment, stamp duty, and registration charges upto 1,50,000 INR under Section 80C.

In case the house property is self-occupied (spouse/children/parents) then there is no income arising from the house. If you further pay the property tax, and interest on a loan, then it is a loss from the house property. This loss can be adjusted against income from other heads.

If the loss from House property is being offset during the same assessment year, then it can be adjusted with any other heads. If you are planning to carry forward the loss to subsequent years, then it can only be offset from income arising out of the house property only.

First-time house owners have a special tax deduction of up to 50,000 INR under Section 80EE if they own only one house property on the date of sanction of loan.

g) Exemption on Sale of Property for NRI

tax exemption
NRIs are allowed to claim exemption from Long-Term capital gains tax on the sale of movable & immovable property under Section 54, Section 54EC, and Section 54F. Long-Term Capital Gains (>2 years from budget 2017) is taxable at 20% TDS. An NRI can claim a refund of the TDS deducted on Capital Gains at the time of filing an IT return.

  • Under Section 54, tax exemption is available on Long-Term Capital Gains of sale of house property of an NRI. To claim this tax exemption, an NRI,
  • i. Should reinvest the capital gains, not the entire sales receipt.

    ii. Should purchase a house property before 1 year of sale of property or should invest the gains in the construction of a property and the construction should be completed within 3 years of the sale.

    iii. Should purchase or construct only 1 house property from the capital gains to claim exempt.

    If the newly purchased property is sold within 3 years of its purchase, then the exemption will be taken back and your gains will be taxed.Under Section 54F, tax exemption is available on Long-Term Capital Gains of sale of any asset by an NRI, other than a house property. To claim this exemption, an NRI,

    i. Should reinvest the entire sales receipt.

    ii. Should purchase one house property in India within 1 year of transfer of the asset or construct one house property in India within 3 years of transfer of asset.

    iii. Should not own more than one house property and nor should the NRI purchase a house within a period of 2 years or construct a house within a period of 3 years.

    If the newly purchased property is sold within 3 years of its purchase, then the exemption will be taken back and your gains will be taxed. If the entire sale receipt is invested, then the capital gains a fully exempted otherwise the exemption is allowed proportionately.

  • Under Section 54EC, you can save tax on LTCG by investing them in certain bonds. To claim this exemption, an NRI
  • i. Can invest in bonds issued by NHAI (National Highway Authority of India) or REC (Rural Electrification Corporation) for up to 50,00,000 INR.

    ii. These sales receipts should be invested in the bonds within 6 months of the sale of the house property and should not sell those bonds before completion of 5years of the sale of the house property. Previously the lock-in period was only 3 years, from FY 2018-2019 the lock-in is extended to 5 years.

The NRI can also claim excess TDS deducted at the time of return filing and claim a refund.

h) Deduction NOT allowed for NRI

There are some investments which are not eligible for deduction under Section 80C for NRI. They are,

    a) Investment in PPF is not allowed. (New accounts cannot be opened, but existing PPF account which is opened when they are resident can be continued until maturity)
    b) Investments in NSCs are restricted for NRIs.
    c) NRIs cannot invest in POTD {Post Office Time (5-year) deposit scheme}.
    d) NRIs cannot invest in Senior citizen savings scheme.
    e) The tax exemption for the medical expenses of differently-abled dependents of the NRI or the NRI itself is not allowed for NRI taxpayers.
    f) Basic exemption of Income-tax liability for income generated by Senior Citizens from 3,00,000 INR to 5,00,000 INR is not available for NRIs.

4. Avoiding Double Taxation

There are possibilities for being taxed for the same income twice in two countries (country of residence and India). To avoid this double taxation on the same income, an NRI can use the DTAA (Doubt Tax Avoidance Act) between the two countries.

We have two methods to claim tax relief under DTAA,

    i. Exemption method
    ii. Tax Credit method

In the exemption method, an NRI is taxed in only one country and exempted in another. In the Tax Credit method, an NRI is taxed in both countries, tax relief is claimed in the country of residence.

Example: Let’s take Siva’s case as an example to understand DTAA. Siva works in Malaysia for an Indian company. His salary is credited to his Malaysian Bank account and he transfers some money to his NRO bank account in India for his family. Since his employer is an Indian company, his salary is considered as accrued in India, and thus taxed in India. According to the Malaysian Tax Norms, his salary is taxed since it goes through his Malaysian Bank account.

So clearly, Siva is taxed for one income at two places. To avoid such double taxation, Siva can avail the help of DTAA and can claim his tax relief from Malaysia or avail tax exemption from India.

To know more about Double Tax Avoidance Act click here.

FAQs

The most frequently asked questions by NRIs regarding Income Tax rules and benefits in India are collected and answered below in an easy structure.

i) How do I get an NRI status?

A person is described as a Non-Resident Indian if he is not a resident of India.

You are considered as a resident of India if you stay in India is,

More than 182 days in a financial year or;

More than 60 days or 365 days in the 4 preceding financial years.

If both the conditions are not satisfied then you are considered as an NRI.

FAQ by NRI's

ii) I am on a temporary foreign project that lasts for only 3 months. Do I have to pay tax for that money I earned abroad?

If your stay abroad is only 3 months, then you are considered as a Resident. Regardless of how and where you receive the salary, i.e. you receive the salary in foreign currency to a bank in the country of your temporary residence or if you receive the salary in Indian currency in a bank account in India, your income earned from the foreign project will be taxed.

In case your foreign project is more than 6 months (182 days), then you will be treated as an NRI and you will not be taxed for that salary. However, you will be taxed for that income if your salary is directly credited to your bank account in India.

iii) I’m working in an overseas project for my Indian company for more than 3 years and receive my salary in foreign currency to my overseas bank account. I have some savings & FDs in my bank in India. Should I file an income tax return in India?

Yes. Your employer is an India based company, which means your income is raised from India so the salary income you earn is also taxed in India. If your income from India exceeds the 2,50,000 INR you will be taxed irrespective of your residential status.

If you have incomes from India like house rental income, interest income from FDs and bank deposit which exceed 2,50,000 INR, then you should file an income tax return. After deducting the tax benefits you are eligible for, your income will be taxed as per slab.

iv) I am an NRI returning to India now for permanent settlement. I have bank deposits and FDs in the foreign bank account and also hold some shares. What should I do now and will I be taxed for the interest income I earn?

As a returning NRI, you will be provided with the RNOR status for 2 years if,

a) you are an NRI for 9 years out of 10 financial years preceding the year of the return

b) you have lived in India for less than 729 days out of 7 financial years preceding the year of your return.

The RNOR status will allow you to use the tax benefits allowed to an NRI for a period of 2 years. You can use this 2 years time to transfer all savings and FDs to India.

We have a detailed article to address the queries of a returning NRI.

v) I returned to India for settlement recently after living in Europe for 6 years. I’m still working for my European employer from India as a free-lancer. My salary is credited in Pounds to my bank account in Europe and the salary is taxed there. Do I still have to file IT return?

So, you are a Resident of India who is getting paid by a foreign company in Pounds. In this case, you will be considered as a Resident with Global income and you must mention all your income (local & global income) in the IT return.

Since your income from European employer is already taxed in Europe, you can use DTAA to get an exemption from taxability for the same income in India.

vi) When should an NRI file his return of Income in India?

An NRI should file an income tax return if his income earned in India exceeds 2,50,000 INR in a financial year. You should file IT return within July 31st of the assessment year.

vii) I am an NRI senior citizen. Do I have any benefits of tax exemption based on the senior citizen category?

No. Only Resident Senior Citizens have the benefits to get the basic tax exemption for annual income from 3,00,000 INR to 5,00,000 INR. As an NRI senior, you must file income tax if your gross annual income is more than 2,50,000 INR.

In addition, an NRI is restricted from investing in a Senior Citizen Savings Scheme.

viii) I am an NRI. I have plans to sell my house property in India. Will I be subjected to tax in India?

Yes, you will be subjected to capital gains tax when you sell your property in India. The tax rate for sale of the property is at 20% if the property is held for more than 2 years; if the property is held for less than 2 years then the gain is taxed as per tax slab. The tax charges can be done through TDS by the person who purchases the land.

ix) I am a differently-abled NRI. Do I have any exemptions from Income tax based on any differently-abled category?

No exemption is allowed for NRIs based on the differently-abled category. The exemption on payment made for medical treatment of the differently-abled dependent of the NRI or the NRI is available only for Resident Indians.

Final Verse

A famous quote about tax says, “The only thing worse than paying income tax is not paying income tax”. I don’t intend to explain the quote further because as a tax-payer you know what it means.Paying tax should be a high priority duty for every citizen since the revenue from the tax is the main source of income to the government. Being aware of the tax exemption is also equally important since it is the right of every tax-payer.

I hope this article gives a good insight into the taxability of various incomes of an NRI and the tax exemptions available for an NRI. Apart from the brief and examples which are given in this article, I have also answered some of the Frequently Asked Questions from our NRI clients for more clarity.

If you need any further clarification, post your queries in the comment session or feel free to contact us any time by making use of our Free 30-minute Consultation.

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2 thoughts on “Income tax Rules for NRI – Everything you need to know about NRI taxability and exemptions”

  1. My son booked a residential flat in India. Thereafter he became NRI and is till an NRI, (Foreign citizen with OCI card). To meet the installments for purchase of flat he got a loan from bank as NRI. Now after my retirement I want to gift him certain money (> 20 lakh) so that he can close the loan account. Bank says I can not directly deposit the money in bank, it has to come from NRO account of my son. What is the procedure for me to deposit money in his NRO account so that he can repay the entire loan? Are there any tax implications etc.?

    1. As a father, you can gift money to your son. No tax implications. Through a gift deed, you can transfer money from your account to your son’s NRO account. Then from your son’s NRO account, the money can be used to close the loan account.

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