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Income Tax for NRI

A guide to tax implications for NRIs

Updated on :  

08 min read

We all know that taxes collected from citizens are the foundation of the Indian economy. NRI taxation under the Indian Income Tax Act, 1961 applies to those earning income outside the home country. The income tax rules and perks allowed to them are drastically different from those applicable to resident Indians.

Budget 2021 update
FM proposes to notify rules for removing hardship for NRI due to double taxation on money accrued in foreign retirement accounts.

How do I determine my residential status?

You are considered an Indian resident for a financial year if you satisfy any of the conditions below:

  1. When you are in India for at least 6 months (182 days to be exact) during the financial year
  2. You have been in India for 2 months (60 days) in the previous year and have lived for one whole year (365 days) in the last four years.

Note: If you are an Indian citizen working abroad or a crew member on an Indian ship, only the first condition is available to you – which means you are a resident when you spend at least 182 days in India.

The same applies to a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) who visits India. The second condition does not apply to these individuals. A PIO is a person whose parents or any of his grandparents were born in undivided India.  

If you do not meet any of the above conditions, you are a Non-Resident Indian. 

Resident but Not-Ordinary Resident (RNOR) definition amended

Individuals will be considered as RNOR for the year if they meet the following conditions:

  • If you’ve been a non-resident in India for 9 years out of 10 previous years preceding the year of consideration, or
  • If you have stayed in India for 729 days or less during 7 previous years preceding the year of consideration

The Finance Act 2020 has amended the residency provisions to include Indian Citizen/Person of Indian Origin, who comes to visit India shall now be considered as RNOR subject to the following conditions:

  • Total income other than foreign income is Rs 15 lakh or more,
  • The individual has stayed in India for more than 120 days but less than 182 days in the previous year, or
  • The individual has stayed in India for 365 days or more in four years preceding the previous year

Before this amendment, such individuals were classified as non-residents. Due to the amendment mentioned above, the individual’s residential status may be classified as RNOR, which will lead to loss of DTAA benefits, increased scope of total income for taxability, loss of various exemptions allowed, etc.

It is to be further noted that in the above amendment, an individual staying for more than 182 days shall be classified as a resident irrespective of the level of income in the previous year.

Deemed residency status introduced in Finance Act 2020

Finance Act 2020 introduced the concept of ‘Deemed residency’. According to this, Citizens of India earning more than Rs 15 lakh from Indian sources shall be deemed a resident of India if they are not liable for payment of taxes in any other country.

The deemed residents shall be classified as RNOR with effect from the financial year 2020-21. This amendment was brought in force to tax the incomes of the Indian citizens who are not liable to pay tax in any country.

Special relief due to COVID lockdown

For FY 2019-20, if individuals have come to India on a visit before 22nd March 2020 and they are:

  • Unable to leave India because of lockdown on or before 31st March 2020– the period of stay from 22nd to 31st March shall not be considered.
  • Quarantined due to COVID-19 on or after 1st March 2020 and departed on evacuation flight on or before 31st March 2020, or unable to leave India- the period of stay from the beginning of quarantine to 31st March shall not be considered.
  • Departed on an evacuation flight on or before 31st March 2020– the period of stay from 22nd March 2020 to the date of departure shall not be considered.

Is my income earned abroad taxable?

An NRI’s income taxes in India will depend upon his residential status for the year as per the income tax rules mentioned above.

If your status is ‘resident’, your global income is taxable in India. If your status is ‘NRI,’ your income earned or accrued in India is taxable in India.

  • Salary received in India or salary for service provided in India, income from a house property situated in India, capital gains on transfer of asset situated in India, income from fixed deposits or interest on a savings bank account are all examples of income earned or accrued in India. These incomes are taxable for an NRI.
  • Income which is earned outside India is not taxable in India.
  • Interest earned on an NRE account and FCNR account is tax-free. Interest on NRO accounts is taxable in the hands of an NRI.

Am I required to file my income tax return in India?

NRI or not, any individual whose income exceeds Rs 2,50,000 is required to file an income tax return in India.

NRI

Case Study:

Srishti lives and works in the USA. She checked her Form 26AS online and found out that a TDS entry of Rs 20,000 is mentioned. This TDS had been deducted at 30% on interest earned by her in her NRO account. Srishti has no other income in India. Does Srishti have to pay any tax in India, and must she file an income tax return? 

Whether your income will be taxed in India or not depends upon your residential status. First, let’s find out about Srishti’s residential status.

She is an Indian citizen and has gone to the US for her job – she will be a resident if she spends 182 days or more in India.

Srishti left India on 3rd July 2020 and came back to India on 15th March 2021. Therefore in the financial year that begins on 1st April 2020 and ends on 31st March 2021, Srishti has spent less than 182 days in India. Since she is an Indian citizen on employment abroad, she must spend 182 days or more in India to qualify as a resident. Therefore, Srishti is an NRI for income tax in India.

For Srishti, only her income earned or accrued in India shall be taxable in India. Her income in the USA is not taxable in India since she is an NRI. Interest earned in India is taxable for an NRI (do note that interest on an NRO account is taxable, whereas interest earned on an NRE account is exempt from tax).

Srishti needs to add up all the income she has earned in India. The interest earned on the NRO account of Rs 70,000 is Srishti’s only income.

For FY 2020-21, the minimum income which is exempt from tax is Rs 2.5 lakh. Srishti’s total income in India is less than the minimum exempt amount, and therefore she does not have to pay any tax on it. Since no tax is payable, she must claim a TDS refund deducted from her interest income.

A refund can only be claimed by filing an income tax return for that financial year.

When is the last date to file an income tax return in India?

July 31st is the last date to file income tax returns in India for NRIs unless the government extends.

Do NRIs have to pay advance tax?

If NRIs tax liability exceeds Rs 10,000 in a financial year, they must pay advance tax. Interest under Section 234B and Section 234C is applicable if advance tax is not paid.

Taxable income for an NRI

When you receive it in India, your salary income is taxable, or someone does it on your behalf. Therefore, if you are an NRI and receive your salary directly to an Indian account, it will be subject to Indian tax laws. This income is taxed at the slab rate you belong to.

Income from salary

Income from salary will be considered to arise in India if your services are rendered in India.

So even though you may be an NRI, if your salary is paid towards services you provide in India, it shall be taxed in India immaterial of the place where you are receiving the income.

Suppose your employer is the Government of India and you are a citizen of India. In that case, if your service is rendered outside India, your income from salary shall be taxable in India.

Note that the income of Diplomats and Ambassadors are exempt from tax. For instance, Ajay was working in China on a project from an Indian company for 3 years. Ajay needed the salary in India to take care of his family’s needs and make payments towards a housing loan. However, since the salary received by Ajay in India would have been taxed as per Indian laws, Ajay decided to receive it in China.

Income from house property

Income from a property that is situated in India is taxable in the hands of an NRI.

The calculation of such income shall be in the same manner as applicable to a resident. This property may be rented out or lying vacant. An NRI can claim a standard deduction of 30%, deduct property taxes, and benefit from an interest deduction of a home loan. The NRI is also allowed a deduction for principal repayment under Section 80C. Stamp duty and registration charges paid on purchasing a property can also be claimed under Section 80C.

Income from house property is taxed at slab rates as applicable.

For instance, Nandini owns a house property in Goa and has rented it out while she lives in Bangkok. She has set up the rent payments to be received directly in her bank account in Bangkok. Nandini’s income from this house which is located in India, shall be taxable in India.

Rental payments to an NRI

A tenant who pays rent to an NRI owner must remember to deduct TDS at 30% while paying rent.

The income can be received to an account in India or the NRI’s account in the country they are currently residing in.

For instance, Maria pays a monthly rent of Rs 30,000 to her NRI landlord. She must deduct 30% TDS or Rs 9,000 before transferring the money to the landlord’s account.
Maria must also get a Form 15CA prepared and submit it online to the income tax department. A person making a remittance (a payment) to a Non-Resident Indian has to submit Form 15CA. This form has to be submitted online. In some cases, a certificate from a chartered accountant in Form 15CB is required before uploading Form 15CA online. In Form 15CB, a CA certifies details of the payment, TDS rate, and TDS deduction as per Section 195 of the Income Tax Act, any DTAA (Double Tax Avoidance Agreement) applicable, and other details of nature and purpose of the remittance.

Form 15CB is not required when:

  • Remittance does not exceed Rs 5,00,000 (in total in a financial year). Only Form 15CA has to be submitted in this case.
  • If lower TDS has to be deducted and a certificate is received under Section 197, lower TDS has to be deducted by order of the AO.
  • Neither is required if the transaction falls under Rule 37BB of the Income Tax Act, listing 28 items. Check out the entire list here.

In all other cases, if there is a remittance outside India, the person asking for the remittance should take a CA’s certificate in Form 15CB. After receiving the certificate, submit Form 15CA to the government online.

Income from other sources

Interest income from fixed deposits and savings accounts held in Indian bank accounts is taxable in India. Interest on NRE and FCNR accounts is tax-free. Interest on NRO accounts is fully taxable.

Income from business and profession

Any income earned by an NRI from a business controlled or set up in India is taxable to the NRI.

Income from capital gains

Any capital gain on transfer of capital asset which is situated in India shall be taxable in India.

Capital gains on investments in Indian shares, securities shall also be taxable in India. If you sell a house property and have a long-term capital gain, the buyer shall deduct TDS at 20%. However, you can claim capital gains exemption by investing in a house property as per Section 54 or investing in capital gain bonds as per Section 54EC.

Special provision related to investment income

When NRIs invest in certain Indian assets, they are taxed at 20% on the income earned. If the special investment income is the only income the NRI has during the financial year and TDS has been deducted, then such an NRI is not required to file an income tax return.

What are the investments that qualify for special treatment?

Income derived from the following Indian assets acquired in foreign currency:

  1. Shares in a public or private Indian company
  2. Debentures issued by a publicly-listed Indian company (not private)
  3. Deposits with banks and public companies
  4. Any security of the Central Government
  5. Other assets of the central government as specified for this purpose in the official gazette.

No deduction under Section 80 is allowed while calculating investment income.

Special provision related to long-term capital gains

For long-term capital gains made from the sale or transfer of these foreign assets, there is no benefit of indexation and no deductions allowed under Section 80.

But you can avail an exemption on the profit under Section 115F when the profit is reinvested back into:

  1. Shares of an Indian company
  2. Debentures of an Indian public company
  3. Deposits with banks and Indian public companies
  4. Central Government securities
  5. NSC VI and VII issues

In this case, capital gains are exempt proportionately if the cost of the new asset is less than net consideration.

Remember, if the new asset purchased is transferred or sold within 3 years, then the profit exempted will be added to the income in the year of sale/transfer.

The above benefits may be available to NRI even when they become a resident – until such an asset is converted to money and upon submission of a declaration by the NRI to apply the special provisions to the assessing officer.

The NRI may choose to opt out of these special provisions, and in that case, the income (investment income and LTCG) will be charged to tax under the regular provisions of the Income Tax Act.

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Deductions and exemptions for NRIs

Similar to residents, NRIs are also entitled to claim various deductions and exemptions from their total income. These have been discussed here:

Deductions under Section 80C

Most of the deductions under Section 80 are also available to NRIs. For FY 2020-21, a maximum deduction of up to Rs 1.5 lakh is allowed under Section 80C from gross total income for an individual.

Of the deductions under Section 80C, those allowed to NRIs are:

i. Life insurance premium payment: The policy must be in the NRI’s name or in the name of their spouse or any child’s name (child may be dependent/independent, minor/major, or married/unmarried). The premium must be less than 10% of the sum assured.

ii. Children’s tuition fee payment: Tuition fees paid to any school, college, university or other educational institution situated within India for full-time education of any two children (including payments for play school, pre-nursery and nursery).

iii. Principal repayments on loan to purchase house property: Deduction is allowed to repay the loan taken for buying or constructing residential house property. The deduction is also allowed for stamp duty, registration fees and other expenses to transfer such property to the NRI.

iv. Unit-Linked Insurance Plan (ULIP): ULIP is sold with life insurance cover for deduction under Section 80C. It Includes contribution to the unit-linked insurance plan of LIC mutual fund, e.g. Dhanraksha 1989 and contribution to other units-linked insurance plans of UTI.

v. Investments in ELSS: ELSS has been the most preferred option in recent years as it allows you to claim a deduction under Section 80C up to Rs 1.5 lakh, it offers the EEE (Exempt-Exempt-Exempt) benefit to taxpayers and simultaneously offers an excellent opportunity to earn as these funds invest primarily in the equity market in a diversified manner.

Other allowable deductions

Besides the deduction that an NRI can claim under Section 80C, they are also eligible to claim various other deductions under the income tax laws, which have been discussed here:

Deduction from house property income for NRIs

NRIs can claim all the deductions available to a resident, including parents’ insurance deductions from income from house property for a house property purchased in India. Deduction towards property tax paid and interest on home loan deduction is also allowed. You can read about house property income in detail here.

Deduction under Section 80D

NRIs are allowed to claim a deduction for the premium paid for health insurance. This deduction is available up to Rs 25,000 in the case for insurance of self, spouse, and dependent children and up to Rs 50,000 for senior citizens. Additionally, an NRI can also claim a deduction for parents’ insurance (father or mother or both) up to Rs 50,000 if their parents are senior citizens and Rs 25,000 if the parents are not senior citizens.

Within the existing limits allowed, a deduction of up to Rs 5,000 for preventive health check-ups are also available.

Deduction under Section 80E

Under this section, NRIs can claim a deduction of interest paid on an education loan.

This loan may have been taken for higher education for the NRI, NRI’s spouse, children, or a student for whom the NRI is a legal guardian.

There is no limit on the amount which can be claimed as a deduction under this section. The deduction is available for a maximum of eight years or till the interest is paid, whichever is earlier. The deduction is not available on the principal repayment of the loan.

Deduction under Section 80G

NRIs are allowed to claim a deduction for donations for social causes under Section 80G. Here are all the donations which NRI can claim under Section 80G.

Deduction under Section 80TTA

Non-resident Indians can claim a deduction on income from interest on savings bank accounts up to a maximum of Rs 10,000 like resident Indians.

This is allowed on deposits in savings accounts (not time deposits) with a bank, co-operative society or post office and is available starting FY 2012-13.

Deductions not allowed to NRIs

Some investments under Section 80C:

  • Investment in PPF is not allowed (NRIs are not allowed to open new PPF accounts. However, PPF accounts that are opened while they are a resident are allowed to be maintained)
  • Investments in National Savings Certificates (NSCs)
  • Post office 5-year deposit scheme
  • Senior Citizen Savings Scheme (SCSS)

Deduction for the differently-abled under Section 80DD

Deduction under this section is for maintenance, including medical treatment, of a handicapped dependent (a person with a disability as defined in this section). Such deduction is not available to NRIs.

Deduction for the differently-abled under Section 80DDB

Deduction under this section towards medical treatment of a dependent who is disabled (as certified by a prescribed specialist) is available only to residents.

Deduction for the differently-abled under Section 80U

Deduction for disability where the taxpayer himself has a disability as defined in the section is allowed only to resident Indians.

Exemption on sale of property for an NRI

NRI

Long-term capital gains are taxed at 20%. Do note that long-term capital gains earned by NRIs are subject to a TDS of 20%.

NRIs can claim exemptions under Section 54, Section 54 EC, and Section 54F on long-term capital gains. Therefore, an NRI can take benefit of the exemptions from capital gains when filing a return and claim a refund of TDS deducted on Capital Gains.

Exemption under Section 54 is available on long-term capital gains on the sale of a house property. Exemption under Section 54F is available on the sale of any asset other than a house property. Read more about Section 54.

The exemption is also available under Section 54EC when capital gains from the first property sale are reinvested into specific bonds.

  • Suppose you are not very keen to reinvest your profit from the sale of your first property into another one. In that case, you can invest them in bonds for up to Rs 50 lakh issued by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) or Rural Electrification Corporation (REC).
  • The homeowner has 6 months to invest the profit in these bonds, although to be able to claim this exemption, the investment should be
  •  before the tax filing deadline.
  • The money invested can be redeemed after 3 years but cannot be sold before the lapse of 5 years from the date of sale. With effect from the FY 2018-2019, the period of 3 years has been increased to 5 years.
  • With effect from FY 2018-19, the exemption under Section 54EC has been restricted to the capital gain arising from the transfer of long term capital assets being land and building or both. Earlier, the exemption was available on transfer on any capital assets. The NRI must make these investments and show relevant proof to the buyer to get no TDS deducted on the capital gains. The NRI can also claim a refund of excess TDS deducted at the time of return.

How are you taxed when you are a…

Resident individual on a temporary foreign assignment

Rahul worked out of Singapore on a temporary assignment for 4 months and earned in Singaporean Dollars during that time. He got this income credited to a bank account here in India. He has returned home now. How should he file his income tax return?

Rahul’s taxes for this year will depend on his residential status. Since Rahul has not been outside  India for more than 182 days, he will be considered a resident. He will be required to file his income taxes in India this year.

This will also include his salary earned during the foreign assignment in Singapore. If the assignment extends to more than 182 days, Rahul’s residential status will change, and he will be required to pay taxes only on the Indian income earned so far. Here, note that Rahul’s foreign income credited to an Indian bank account is taxable in India.

Resident individual recently moved abroad

Prashant moves to the US on a new assignment. He gets his US income credited to an NRE account in India. He continues with his FD investments and has some money put away in a savings account in India. He just received Form 16 from his Indian employer. Should he file his returns this year in India?

NRI or not, every individual must file a tax return if their income exceeds Rs 2,50,000. But note that NRIs are only taxed for income earned/collected in India. So, Rahul will pay taxes on India’s income and accrued from FDs and savings accounts.

Edit
Prashant's income from India
Income from Indian employerRs 3,00,000
Interest income from FDsRs 25,000
Bank account savings interestRs 4,500
Gross total incomeRs 3,29,500
Deductions
Section 80C - LIC PremiumRs 20,000
Section 80TTA exemptionRs 4,500
Taxable incomeRs 3,05,000
Tax slab at 5%Rs 2,750
Cess at 4%Rs 110
TDS deducted by employerRs 3,000
TDS deducted by bankRs 2,500
Tax RefundRs 2,640

Living in a foreign country

It’s been 3 years since Arjun moved to the US. He is paid in US dollars. He has his money invested in a savings account and FDs in India. He has bought an apartment in India and gave it on rent for Rs 35,000 per month. He gifts his parents a car and transfers Rs 10,000 every month to their account to help with their household expenses during the year. He also transfers Rs 20,000 to his father’s account in India to meet the cost of the insurance policy he has purchased for his parents.

Rental IncomeRs 4,20,000
Less: Standard 30% deduction under Section 24Rs 1,26,000
Income from house propertyRs 2,94,000
Income from FDs and bank accountRs 30,000
Gross total incomeRs 3,24,000
Deduction under Section 80DRs 20,000
Taxable incomeRs 3,04,000

Arjun’s gift to his father and money transfer of Rs 10,000 to his mother is exempt from tax. Regarding the insurance expenses on his parents, Rahul can claim a deduction under Section 80D of Rs 20,000. He will be required to file a tax return in India as his gross income exceeds Rs 2,50,000.

NRI recently moved back to India

Returning NRIs assume RNOR (Resident, Non-Ordinary Resident) status when:

  • You have been an NRI in 9 of the 10 financial years preceding the year of your return
  • You have lived in India for 2 years or less (729 days or less) in the last 7 financial years

The IT Department allows RNORs to continue to enjoy exemptions available to NRIs for 2 years after their return. Therefore, deposits held in foreign currency, exempt from an NRI, shall be exempt from returning NRIs for 2 years. After these 2 years, returning NRIs are treated as resident individuals.

Resident with global income

If you are a resident Indian, your global income is taxable in India. This income may have been earned or received outside – but it shall be taxed in India. If this income is also taxable in another country, you can take benefit of DTAA (Double Tax Avoidance Agreement).

Case study:

Shreya returned to India in 2010 after living in London for more than 5 years. The French company she worked for has retained her as a consultant and sends her fees in pounds. Her salary is credited to a bank account there, and Shreya pays tax in the UK. Does Shreya need to pay tax on this income or include it in her income tax return in India?

Shreya is a resident of India. The taxability of income in India depends upon residential status. A resident has to pay tax on their global income. The resident must disclose all the income earned from all sources and all countries in their income tax return and pay tax on it in India. (An NRI pays tax only on income earned or accrued in India).

Therefore, all of Shreya’s income, including the fee that she earns in a foreign currency, will be taxable in India.

Her income in pounds shall be converted to Indian rupees for income tax calculation and added to her total income, taxing at slab rates prescribed by the tax department.

If Shreya has already paid tax on the foreign income in the UK, she can claim the benefit under DTAA. Based on the relevant provisions of the DTAA between the two countries, Shreya will be saved from getting taxed twice.

If you are a resident and have earned any income from abroad, remember to disclose it in your income tax return.

Income tax filing for foreign nationals

An expatriate in India comes to live in India but is not a citizen of India.

Read more about income tax filing for foreign nationals here

How can NRIs avoid double taxation?

NRIs can avoid double taxation (meaning: getting taxed on the same income twice in the country of residence and India) by seeking relief from the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) between the two countries.

Under DTAA, there are two methods to claim tax relief – exemption method and tax credit method. By exemption method, NRIs are taxed in only one country and exempted in another. In the tax credit method, where the income is taxed in both countries, tax relief can be claimed in the country of residence.

Frequently Asked Questions

When are you considered as a non-resident Indian (NRI)?

A person who is not a resident of India is considered a non-resident of India (NRI).
You are a resident if your stay in India for a given financial year is:
(i) 182 days or more
(ii) 60 days or more and 365 days or more in the 4 immediately preceding previous years
In case you do not satisfy either of the above conditions, you will be considered an NRI.

I am an NRI. I have rental income from a flat that I own in India. I am employed in the US, and I receive salary income in the US. What income should I offer in India?

Since you are an NRI, only the income that accrues to you in India will be taxable. You are not liable to pay tax on your global income. Accordingly, you must pay taxes in India on the rental income received from the flat situated in India. However, you are not liable to pay any taxes on the salary income that you receive from the USA.

When should an NRI file his return of income in India?

An NRI, like any other individual taxpayer, must file his return of income in India if his gross total income received in India exceeds Rs 2.5 lakh for any given financial year. Further, the due date for filing a return for an NRI is also 31 July of the assessment year or extended by the government.

I am an NRI aged 65 years. Do I have to file a return even if my gross total income is Rs 2.8 lakhs during a year from India?

The basic exemption of Rs 3 lakh and Rs 5 lakh is available only for resident senior citizens and resident super senior citizens in the old tax regime. Hence, as an NRI, even if you are a senior citizen, when your income in India exceeds Rs 2.5 lakh, you will be liable to file your return of income in India.

Should taxes be deducted when payments are being made to NRIs?

Specified payments like rent, professional or technical fees, etc., made to an NRI requires tax deduction at source by the individual making the payment. The individual must obtain a TAN for himself to deduct taxes at source. Further, Form 15CA (to be filed by the person making the payment) and Form 15CB (to be obtained from a Chartered Accountant) are also required for making payments to non-residents.
Read our detailed article on Form 15CA and 15CB for further clarity.

Is an NRI taxable on the income he receives in India, in his country of residence? What is the role of the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAA) here?

If an NRI receives income in India, such income is taxable in India,i.e. India as a source state has the right to tax such income. However, the country where such NRI is a resident will also have a right to tax such income as it is the residence state. This way, the NRI will end up getting taxed twice on the same income. To overcome this, India has entered into DTAAs with various countries. It will help eliminate double taxation by allowing the taxpayer to claim credit for foreign taxes paid while filing their return of income in the home country.

I am an NRI. Will I be subject to capital gains tax if I sell a flat that I own in India?

Yes. You will be liable for capital gains tax in India upon the sale of your flat. Further, the purchaser himself must deduct taxes on the quantum of gains you make. The tax deduction rate for a long-term gain is 20%, while tax is deductible at slab rates if the gain is on a short-term capital asset.

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