India

Individual - Income determination

Last reviewed - 29 June 2020

Employment income

An individual’s entire remuneration/salary received from an employer for services rendered in India is taxable in India. Taxable income includes all amounts, whether in cash or in kind, arising from an office of employment.

Apart from the salary, fees, bonuses, and commissions, some of the most common remuneration items are allowances, reimbursement of personal expenses, education payment, and perquisites or benefits provided by the employer either free of cost or at concessional rate. All such payments are included, whether paid directly to employees or on their behalf.

Reimbursement of expenses actually incurred wholly, necessarily, and exclusively in the performance of official duties is not included in taxable salary. However, concessional treatment is accorded to housing benefit, car facility, and certain retirement benefits. Certain allowances and benefits paid or provided by an employer, like house rent allowance (instead of housing benefit) and leave travel allowance, are treated as exempt, subject to applicable conditions and limits, and are, accordingly, not included in the computation of income.

Employer’s contribution to a recognised provident fund of up to 12% of employee’s salary is tax exempt in the year of contribution.

Effective 1 April 2020, if the aggregate amount of an employer’s contribution to an approved superannuation fund, recognised provident fund, and national pension scheme exceeds INR 750,000, it shall be taxable as perquisites in the hands of the employee. Further annual accretions on such employer contributions by way of interest, dividend, or any other amount of a similar nature shall also be taxed as perquisites in the hands of the employee and shall be computed in the manner to be prescribed in this regard.

An employee holding a foreign passport and employed by a foreign enterprise, who is not present in India for more than 90 days in a tax year, is not taxed on remuneration received from the foreign employer for services performed in India, provided the foreign enterprise is not engaged in any trade or business in India, and the remuneration is not deductible in computing the employer’s taxable income in India. The tax treaties entered into by India also provide short stay exemption wherein the 90-days period (as discussed above) is replaced by 183 days and two other conditions (i.e. remuneration received from an employer who is not a resident of India and where the salary is not borne by a permanent establishment of the overseas employer in India are provided on similar lines in many cases). The benefit under the tax treaty is extended to all individuals, including foreign citizens.

Equity compensation

Value of any specified security or sweat equity shares allotted or transferred directly or indirectly by the employer or former employer, free of cost or at a concessional rate, is taxable as perquisite in the hands of the employee. The valuation for this purpose is to be done on the basis of the FMV of the specified security or sweat equity share on the date when the option is exercised (i.e. allotment) by the employee as reduced by the amount recovered from the employee.

As per the income-tax rules, FMV shall be the average of the opening price and closing price of the share on the date of exercise by the employee on the recognised stock exchange of India on which such shares are listed. In cases where the shares are listed on more than one recognised stock exchange of India, then FMV shall be the average of the opening price and closing price of the share on the date of exercise by the employee on the recognised stock exchange that records the highest volume of trading in the share on such date.

Further, in cases where there was no trading on the said date, then such FMV on the closest date, immediately preceding the date of exercise, will be considered. In cases where the shares are not listed on the recognised stock exchange in India, the FMV is to be determined by a Category I merchant banker in India registered with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). The merchant banker valuation shall be the date of exercise or a date earlier than the date of exercise of the option, but not being a date that is more than 180 days earlier than the date of exercise.

Further, in case of sale of shares by the employees, capital gains may arise and the same will be taxable in the hands of the employees. The taxes on capital gains have to be paid by the employees depending on the residential status in the relevant tax year.

Effective 1 April 2020, taxation of any specified security or sweat equity shares that is taxable as perquisite in the hands of employees of eligible start-ups has been deferred. The tax is now required to be deducted/paid within 14 days from the earliest of the following events:

  • Expiry of five years from the end of the tax year in which such security is allotted.
  • Date of sale of specified securities.
  • Date when employee ceases to be in employment with the start-up.

This relaxation has been provided to ease the burden of cash outflow on employees of such start-ups arising at the time of exercise of such securities.

Income from business or profession

Profits and gains from a business or profession carried out by an individual are taxable in India, subject to certain deductions and allowance of depreciation and business expenses.

The following income, inter alia, is taxable in the hands of an individual:

  • Profits and gains of any business or profession carried on by the taxpayer at any time during the tax year.
  • Any interest, salary, bonus, commission, or remuneration, by whatever name called, due to, or received by, a partner of a firm from such firm. This would be deductible in the firm’s hands.

Note that the share of profit from a partnership firm is not taxed in the hands of the partner since it is paid out of the post-tax profits of the partnership firm.

Presumptive taxation scheme for persons having income from a profession

Income of a taxpayer who is engaged in a specified profession, such as legal, medical, engineering, or architectural profession or the profession of accountancy or technical consultancy or interior decoration or any other profession, and whose total gross receipts does not exceed INR 20 million in a tax year is estimated at a sum equal to 50% of the total gross receipts. In other words, if the total turnover or gross receipt of the business exceeds INR 20 million, then the scheme cannot be adopted. The scheme will apply to such resident taxpayer who is an individual, HUF, or partnership firm, but not a limited liability partnership firm. Under this scheme, the taxpayer will be deemed to have been allowed all the business expenses that he/she is otherwise eligible to claim. The taxpayer is not required to maintain books of accounts and get them audited unless the taxpayer claims profits and gains from the aforesaid profession are lower than the profits and gains deemed to be his/her income and the taxpayer’s income exceeds the maximum amount that is not chargeable to income-tax.

Capital gains

Refer to Capital gains taxes in the Other taxes section for a description of the treatment of capital gains.

Dividend income

Previously, dividend income received from an Indian company was not taxable in the hands of the shareholder if dividend distribution tax (DDT) had been paid on the same by the company. This was applicable to resident as well as NR shareholders.

However, dividend income in excess of INR 1 million was chargeable to tax in the case of an individual, HUF, or a firm that is a resident in India at the rate of 10%. Also, dividend income received from an SEBI-registered Indian mutual fund was not taxable in the hands of recipient. This applied to resident as well as NR shareholders.

Effective 1 April 2020, dividend will now be taxed in the hands of the shareholders or unit holders at the applicable rates, and, correspondingly, the domestic company or mutual fund will not be required to pay any tax on distribution of income.

    Interest income

    Interest income is taxable in India. A deduction of up to INR 10,000 is allowed in respect of savings bank interest on deposits (not being time deposits) with specified banking companies registered with the banking authority/cooperative societies engaged in carrying on business of banking/post office in India.

    Further, the exemption limit on interest income for resident senior citizens is INR 50,000. Interest income will also include interest earned from fixed deposits and recurring deposits.

    Rental income

    Any income earned from the letting-out, or renting, of any building, or land appurtenant thereto, is taxable as ‘income from house property’ in the hands of the individual. The tax is levied on the annual value of the property computed in terms of the provisions of the Income-tax Act. Deduction of municipal taxes paid during the year (irrespective of the year to which the expense pertains) and a standard deduction at the rate of 30% is available on the gross annual value while computing the ‘income from house property’.

    If an individual owns two or more house properties for his/her use, then such individual may exercise an option to treat any two house properties as self-occupied. The remaining house property(ies), if any, are deemed to be let-out, and a notional rent as per the provisions of the Income-tax Act is computed as the taxable income under the head ‘income from house property’. In other words, the third house property is treated as let-out and an expected rental income is treated as taxable income.

    The amount of rent received in arrears or the amount of unrealised rent realised subsequently by a taxpayer will be charged to income-tax in the tax year in which such rent is received or realised, whether the taxpayer is the owner of the property or not in that tax year. 30% of the arrears of rent or the unrealised rent received/ realised subsequently by the taxpayer will be allowed as a deduction. There are separate property taxes levied as per municipal tax laws, apart from income tax on rental income (see the Other taxes section for more information).

    Deduction on housing loan interest

    Income from house property shall be reduced by the amount of interest paid on borrowed capital where the loan has been taken for the purpose of purchase/construction/repair/renewal/reconstruction of the residential house property. However, no deduction shall be allowed unless the individual furnishes a certificate from the person to whom the interest is payable on the capital borrowed, specifying the amount of interest payable by the taxpayer for the purpose of such acquisition or construction, etc. of the property.

    Unlike the deduction on property taxes or principal repayment of home loan, which are available on actual payment basis, the deduction on interest is available on accrual basis (i.e. it is immaterial whether the interest has been actually paid or not during the year). Charges like service fee or other charge in respect of the loan amount related to the housing loan is eligible to be included in interest and qualifies for tax deduction.

    Deduction on housing loan can be claimed once the construction is completed and possession of the property has been obtained. The law provides a deferred deduction on the interest payable during pre-construction period (i.e. period prior to the tax year in which the property has been acquired or constructed). The deduction on such interest is available equally over a period of five tax years starting from the year acquired/constructed.

    Maximum limit of deduction 

    In case the house property is not let out during the year, the maximum amount of interest that can be claimed as deduction is limited to INR 200,000, subject to conditions that the loan is taken on or after 1 April 1999 for the purpose of purchase or construction and such property is acquired or constructed within five years from the end of year in which loan is taken. For all other cases, where the house property is not let out, the maximum amount that can be claimed as deduction is limited to INR 30,000.

    In case a house property is let out during the tax year (including deemed to be let out), there is no restriction on the maximum amount of interest that can be claimed as deduction.

    Interest in excess of taxable rental income

    Individuals, subsequent to claiming deduction of interest as per the above-mentioned prescribed limits, can set off loss under the head house property (due to claim of excess interest) from any other head of income up to a maximum of INR 200,000. Any unabsorbed loss under the head of house property will be carried forward for the next eight tax years and will be eligible to be set off against the income from house property only.

    To incentivise first-time home buyers availing home loans during the period 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2021, an additional interest deduction of up to INR 150,000 will be available, provided stamp duty value of the property does not exceed INR 4.5 million and other prescribed conditions are met. 

    Exempt income

    Certain income is eligible to be claimed as exempt from taxable income. The exemption can be based on income or investment. Some of them are detailed below:

    • Income source based:
      • Tax holiday of profits of business engaged in infrastructure development or development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs).
      • Agricultural income, dividend income from domestic companies/specified mutual funds, and long-term capital gains on sale of securities that are subject to STT.
    • Investment based:
      • Income arising from investment in certain mutual funds, infrastructure bonds, investment in government securities, etc.