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Posts Tagged ‘tax planning’

A large number of NRIs do not file taxes, as they live overseas and therefore believe that there is no need. However, there are two major situations when NRIs should file returns in India. Firstly, if the income earned in India exceeds the maximum permissible limit as basic exemption. At this point, the maximum exemption limit is Rs. 250,000. Incomes like salary arising from services provided in India, income from house property, capital gains arising from sale of property in India, income from deposits held in India will be taxable in India. Secondly, they should be filed to claim return if deducted tax is more than what was payable, so that you can claim a refund.

There are two major situations when NRIs should file returns in India. Firstly, if the income earned in India exceeds the maximum permissible limit as basic exemption. At this point, the maximum exemption limit is Rs. 250,000. Incomes like salary arising from services provided in India, income from house property, capital gains arising from sale of property in India, income from deposits held in India will be taxable in India. Secondly, they should be filed to claim return if deducted tax is more than what was payable, so that you can claim a refund.

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A lot of NRIs are unaware of the fact that in order to track expenses and investments above a certain threshold for all individuals – residents or NRIs, Annual Information Reports (AIRs) have to be filed by various entities in India like banks, Mutual funds,  bond issuers, registrars for real estate purchases above a certain value, amongst other transactions. Therefore, you could get a notice due to these reasons if your name appears in an AIR and you are not filing tax returns. Whilst this may not mean that taxes are due, you will need to respond to the notice, which can be rather challenging if you are out of the country. Thus, it is advisable to have your taxes in India in order.

If you are a tax resident in geographies where you may be able to take tax advantage of the double taxation avoidance treaty between India and that country, you must take advantage of that. If you sell direct equity/stocks, short term capital gain applicable is 15%. The long term capital gain on sale of direct equity is Nil ie for equities held over 1 year. NRIs have to trade through a broker if they wish to invest in direct equities. They can trade only on delivery basis and intraday trades are not allowed. They have to open a Portfolio Investment Scheme (PIS) account where their trades get reported within 24 hours.

If you are a tax resident in geographies where you may be able to take tax advantage of the double taxation avoidance treaty between India and that country, you must take advantage of that.

Debt and Equity Mutual Fundshave different tax rules. For equity Mutual funds the tax rate applicable is 15% for holding period of less than 12 months and for holding period of greater than 12 months it is Nil. Non equity mutual funds ie debt funds, gold funds, are taxed like real estate ie the tax rate for a holding period of less than 36 months is as per the marginal rate. If you hold them for a period greater than 36 months a long term capital gain tax rate of 20% with indexation is applicable .

If you are looking at investment options to save for your retirement goal then New Pension Scheme is an option you can look at. NRIs are allowed to invest in NPS.

NPS is useful for NRIs living in Middle Eastern countries, since they do not have mandatory social security benefits in their countries of residence unlike many other geographies. NRIs own contribution is eligible for tax deduction u/s 80CCD (1) of income tax act up to 10% of gross income with overall ceiling of Rs. 1.50 lakhs u/s 80CCE of income tax act.From FY 201516investors are allowed tax deduction of additional Rs. 50,000 under 80CCD1(B).

NRIs wishingto invest in FDs can look at Foreign Currency Non Resident ( FCNR) deposits. It is in the form of a fixed Term deposit account denominated in foregin currencies. In this case NRIs can park overseas income as foreign currency in India without having toconvert it to Indian Rupees. The rates on these deposits depend on tenure of investment and the currency in which you park your funds. Principal and interest are fully repatriable. For NRIs interest is not taxable in India. However, they could be taxed in the country of residence of the NRI, for example in the US. Similar is the case with NRE accounts.

A resident foreign currency account (RFC) account can be used by NRIs who are returning back to settle in India, to park overseas income as foreign currency in India without having to convert them into rupees. Funds are fully repatriable and can be transferred from RFC to NRE and vice versa. Interest earned on RFC account will be exempt from income tax as long as you are Resident but not ordinary resident (RNOR).

Image credit: www.taxinsightworld.com

 

 

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budget2016

 

Reams of paper have probably been dedicated to the Union Budget already, but here is a detailed analysis after going through the fine print in terms of Budget 2016 and its impact on your personal finances.

Your Income

  1. House Rent Allowance change: This has been hitherto a lesser used deduction as it comes with multiple conditions. Section 80GG allows individuals to claim a deduction in respect of house rent paid. The limit has gone up from Rs 24,000 previously to Rs 60,000 subject to following conditions:

a.If the person is either self-employed or salaried but does not receive deduction for       HRA from the employer

b.Does not own a residential property in the city in which he is staying on rent.

c.If the tax payer owns property at any place other than the one mentioned above, he        should not be claiming benefit of the property as self occupied. That property should be deemed to be let out.

To claim this deduction the tax payer has to furnish a declaration in Form 10 BA

The deduction allowed under section 80GG for payment of rent shall be least of the following:

  1. 5,000 per month
  2. Rent paid less 10% of the total income
  3. 25% of the total income of the tax payer for the year.

Your Expenses

  1. Tax collection at Source introduced – TCS of 1% on purchase of luxury cars of value greater than Rs. 10 lakhs and purchase of goods and services in cash exceeding Rs. 2 lakhs is now being levied. This does not change the price of the product but will create a trail of transactions in cash of high values, targeting cash usage.
  2. Increase in service tax – Service tax has been increased by 0.5% on all taxable services, with effect from 1 June 2016. As a result, expect the costs of all services to go up.
  3. Infrastructure cess- 1% on small petrol, LPG, CNG cars, 2.5% on diesel cars and 4% on high engine capacity vehicles and SUVs, will mean that cars will become more expensive.
  4. Excise duty on branded ready made garments – garments with a retail price of Rs. 1000 and above has changed from Nil to 2% without input tax credit. Thus, expect garments to become a wee bit more expensive.
  5. Excise duty on tobacco hiked – expect cigarettes to be more expensive as a result.

Your Investments

  1. Long Term Capital Gains tax on equities and debt investments did not see any change – This is positive for investors, as there were fears around tax being introduced on equities or the holding period for equities being changed. Status quo is good news.
  2. New Pension Scheme (NPS) – There are 3 types of withdrawals currently allowed under the NPS.
  3. Normal Superannuation – Lump sum withdrawal on retirement, which was 60% earlier has been changed to 40% now. Earlier this withdrawal was taxable. Now the government has proposed withdrawal upto 40% to be tax free. The balance 60% can be used  for purchasing annuities, to make the annuity portion tax free as well. Thus, the NPS is far more attractive as an instrument to be used for your retirement goals now, especially as its ability to permit equity exposure enables you to get the wealth creation benefit of equities over the long term.
  4. Upon death- The entire 100% would be paid to the nominee/ legal heir and there won’t be any purchase of annuity. These entire 100% proceeds are tax free.
  5. Exit before normal superannuation( 60 years) – At least 80% of the acculturated pension wealth of the subscriber should be utilized for purchase of an annuity and remaining 20% can be withdrawn as lump sum. Considering that this is a long term retirement product, be sure to use the NPS to fund your retirement goals, as early withdrawals make it less flexible.
  6. Other pension products like EPF and superannuation – There has been an attempt to bring all pension products on the same page in terms of taxation. Therefore, EPF and superannuation will also permit 40% of the corpus withdrawn to be tax free. The interest earned on the balance 60% of the contributions made post April 1, 2016 will be subject to tax unless it is used to purchase an annuity.

There is also proposed a monetary limit for contribution of employers to a recognized Provident and superannuation fund of Rs. 1.50 Lakh per annum or 12% of employer contribution, whichever is less, beyond which the same will be taxable in the hand of the employee. You could see smaller contributions towards the EPF from employers going forward as a result, and voluntary Provident Fund contributions could also reduce as a result.

  1. REITS (Real Estate Investment Trusts) and InvITs ( Infrastructure Investment Trust) – Real Estate Investment trusts are listed entities that primarily invest in leased office and real assets allowing developers to raise funds by selling completed buildings to investors and listing them as a trust. Previously REITs did not take off due to taxation challenges. This budget has done away with Dividend Distribution Tax, thus enabling exposure to commercial real estate at lower values.

Expect Infrastructure Investment Trusts to also take off as a result of this change in dividend distribution tax provisions.

  1. Gold Bonds- Long term capital gains from the sale of gold bonds will continue to be taxable but now eligible for indexation benefits. This facilitates taking exposure to gold in a paper form.

The budget has also proposed to make interest and capital gains from the gold monetization scheme tax free. Thus yields from gold are possibly now more attractive than rental yields from residential real estate, considering that the returns are tax free.

  1. Measures for deepening of corporate Bond Market-

a. LICof india will setup a dedicated fund to provide credit enhancement to infrastructure projects. The fund will help in raising credit rating of bonds floated by infrastructure companies.

b.Development of an online auction platform for development of private placement market in corporate bonds.

c.A complete information repository for corporate bonds covering both primary and     secondary market segments will be developed jointly by SEBI and RBI.

d.A framework for an electronic platform for Repo market in corporate bonds will be    developed by RBI.

This will enable investors to invest in corporate bonds and give them another option to add fixed income exposure to their portfolio.

  1. Fiscal target to be maintained at 3.5% – With the government sticking to its target of 3.5% of GDP for FY 17, fiscal discipline has been adhered to for now. This could lead to drop in bond yields and could be particularly positive for duration funds or portfolios having longer duration bonds. Transmission of falling interest rates could finally be a reality.

Your Taxes

  1. There has been no major change in income tax slabs , for individuals earning upto Rs 1 crore.
  2. Surcharge- There has been an increase in Surcharge on income above Rs. 1 Crore from 12% to 15%.

For an individual below 60 years with an income above 1 Crore ( eg. 1.1 Crore), he will end up paying approximately Rs 91,000 more due to the 3% increase in Surcharge.

  1. Rebate- Under Section 87A, for individuals with income not exceeding Rs. 5 lakhs, the rebate has increased from Rs. 2,000 earlier to Rs. 5,000.
  1. Dividend Distribution Tax- The amendment in dividend distribution tax law is applicable to dividend declared under Section 115O. The section is applicable to domestic companies and it is proposed to amend the Income-tax Act so as to provide that any income by way of dividend in excess of Rs. 10 lakh declared by such domestic company shall be chargeable to tax at the rate of 10%.The above amendment will have no impact on the dividends received by the Mutual Fund unit holders as dividend paid by a mutual fund scheme to a unit holder is covered under Section 115R of the The Income tax Act, 1961. This will hit investors drawing higher dividends but since it is not applicable to dividends from mutual funds it’s a relief.
  2. Presumptive Tax – This scheme is available for small and medium enterprises with turnover not exceeding 1 crore rupees. These were free from getting audited and maintaining detailed books of account and could pay tax at 8% .This turnover limit has increased to Rs. 2 Crore.

Also under the presumptive taxation for professionals with gross receipts up to Rs. 50          Lakh, the presumption of profits has been introduced to 50% of gross receipts.

This should result in significant time saving and costs for professionals and small business owners. However, remember to read the fine print on this clause.

  1. Reduction in tax slabs for companies with business income upto Rs 5 crores – The path to reduction of corporate tax rates has begun with a 1% reduction in tax rates for smaller businesses. Expect more to follow going forward.
  2. Undisclosed income – A window from 01 June 2016 to 30 Sep 2016 has been introduced for people to pay 45% on their undisclosed domestic income. This undisclosed income will not be subject to any scrutiny if done within this window. This is an attempt to garner additional revenues and solve the challenges of black money.

Your Loans

  1. Additional deduction of Rs. 50,000- For first time home buyers an additional deduction of Rs.50,000 on top of already existing Rs. 2 lakh has been proposed for loans upto Rs. 35 lakh sanctioned during the next financial year subject to the value of property not exceeding Rs. 50 lakh.

All in all, it’s a budget that will probably not change your money life significantly – but it has a little here and a little there. “Fortunately, there is a sane equilibrium in the character of nations. As there is in that of men.”

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UTI Swatantra (99)

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Siddharth (all names changed) left India for his masters in the US when he
was 21. Whilst he loved the quality of education and the freedom that he
had, he was sure that he would return back to India once he was done with
his education. Whilst still completing his masters, he found a job with a
Fortune 500 company, offering him a very exciting opportunity and an ability
to earn a handsome salary. He decided to take up the offer and deferred his
plans to return to India for another couple of years. One thing followed
another – he started to go out with a colleague at work , Amrita, and before
long, they were in Chennai exchanging wedding vows. Kids followed and Sid
suddenly found himself on the wrong side of 40, living the great American
dream with a nice house, nice car and a happy family. All of a sudden,
whilst speaking to some friends one evening , Sid and Amrita realised that
besides paying down their home loans and cars, they also needed to plan for
the education of their children and their own retirement. Since they were on
their way to India for their holidays in a couple of weeks, they decided
they would discuss it in greater detail once they were in India.

Since I was the financial planner for one of his friends, Sid called me when
he was in India to understand how he could get started with his investments.
As we started to discuss his financial goals, I asked him what his future
plans were.  Was he looking to retire to India or was he likely to continue
to be in the US? Well, well, Amrita and me have discussed this a lot. Its
always wonderful to spend time with friends and family. Life is good in the
US – its convenient, its comfortable and we have a great work life balance.
But if I put my hand on my heart and ask myself where it feels like home,
its when I land back in India. So India it is for us, where we finally wish
to retire.

Thats great, I said. In our experience, this is one of the most difficult
decisions to make for a large number of NRIs, irrespective of which part of
the world they are currently based in. Having clarity on where you are going
to retire to is one of the most crucial decisions to make before you decide
on how your investment portfolio needs to be constructed. Sid was surprised
to hear this and asked me to explain this in greater detail. Why would that
be?

There are two critical reasons for that, I said.

1. Inflation levels in India tend to be much higher than most other parts of
the globe. Whilst the current inflation rates in the region of 10% as per
the consumer price index may be a little higher than normal, they have
ranged between 7.5% to 8% pa over the last couple of decades. Thus, going by
historical trends, portfolios for investors looking to retire in India need
to be designed keeping these high inflation rates in mind, rather than the
low inflation rates that are prevalent in the developed world.

2. Costs of maintaining the lifestyle that NRIs have got used to overseas,
can end up being significantly higher in India. Take for example, the sizes
of homes. An NRI moving from most cities in the US will not only find it
difficult to find houses of the size that he has got used to, but also find
it far more expensive in large cities in India. Thus, he could end up having
to buy more than one apartment and then look to consolidate them, so that he
has more living space. Alternatively, he may need to look at gated
communities in certain locations, that will allow him to get a feeling of
the lifestyle that he has been used to.

So whats a good way to begin, asked Sid.

First of all, its a great idea to get a good estimate of what your
retirement in India are likely to be, as of todays cost. For a lot of NRIs,
this may not be easy to do , as they may not be completely aware of multiple
living costs in India. They may either need to sit down with a close family
member to go item by item in terms of expenses, both recurring and annual,
or sit with a financial planner who can guide them on the various components
and estimates that make up the cost of living for a particular lifestyle in
India.

Once these cost of living estimates have been made, an appropriate
retirement age will need to be established. This choice could either be
driven by the retirement age in the country of residence of the NRI, or by
other parameters such as the ages of children or dependent parents.

Post establishing both the likely costs and retirement age, by using an
appropriate inflation rate, the quantum of the retirement portfolio needed
can be established. Post this,the investment portfolio can be created
keeping in mind the risk profile, expected rate of return,and product
restrictions if any. For example, some investment products are not available
for NRIs or may have restrictions for NRIs from certain geographies to
invest in them.

This portfolio could be a blend of real estate, equities, fixed income and
commodities and could be created using managed solutions like mutual funds
or portfolio management services, or can be created through directly buying
an investment product like a stock, or physical real estate or a bank
deposit.

There are a few more things to be kept in mind if you are planning to retire
in India

1. Establish the location in India that you would like to retire to, so that
you can start to plan to purchase the ideal home that you would like to
retire to. It is not critical to make the purchase today, if you wish to
retire after 20 years. However, it is crucial to plan for this purchase as
well, so a portion of your investments need to go towards supporting this
goal.

2. Start thinking about your plan for some of the assets that you own for example, whats your exit strategy for your current home in Singapore. Its

great for you today because you are working there but what happens to it
when you retire.

3. Different countiries have different tax treatments for global income and
reporting of global assets. Be sure to consult with a tax advisor in both
India and your current country of residence.

4. There may be retiral plans that you are contributing to, in your country
of residence. Please understand how they would work when you would leave the country and go back to India.

5.  Since you will need medical coverage during your retirement, start
buildng a medical corpus or look for a medical insurance cover that will
support medical treatment in India as well.

Sid and Amrita now have their retirement plan in place and are looking
forward to spending their golden years in India. Start thinking about your
retirement location and plan accordingly, if you have yet to decide. I
promise, it will throw up many more questions than I have covered.

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From our experience of interactions with nonresident investors, we have found that a significant number of investments by NRIs tend to be made during their short visits to India.

During that period, when they visit their bank or speak to relatives/ friends, they get a broad view on what is happening to various asset classes – be it real estate, stock markets, or bank deposit interest rates. Between the various social obligations, time with family, and other things to do in their action packed agenda, quick investment decisions tend to be made, a large number of which tend to be long term commitments through investments in long term insurance policies/ real estate investments. Unfortunately, a large number of these investment decisions are not necessarily aligned to long term financial goals of the NRI and his family. Once NRIs return back to their home overseas, they then tend to wonder if it was the right investment decision or whether haste made waste, especially as they now get time to think about it. They wonder whether these investments fit in case they wish to return to India at a latter point in their lives or in case they wish to use these investments for children’s education or their own retirement, or to support their family members back in India.

In addition to the alignment to financial goals for self and family, it is critical to ensure that the investment products chosen allow non residents to invest in them, the repatriation restrictions (if any) on the principal amount and the gains, as well as the taxation of the gains in both India as well as the overseas location of the NRI. A lot of these answers can only be obtained when there is clarity in terms of what role the investment is expected to play for the NRI in his portfolio.

It is therefore critical to ensure that the focus on working to a financial plan is given the same degree of importance, irrespective of whether the individual is a resident or a non resident. In fact, working to a plan tends to be even more critical for a non resident than a resident, due to a legacy holdings and finances that they may have from their days in India.

A very large number of NRIs tend to leave India during a phase of their life when they have already begun their financial life – they have probably opened regular savings bank accounts in their names, bought investment products like stocks/mutual funds/insurance products/PPF accounts, or even made a real estate investment. Since there is a tendency to leave India on an overseas assignment/project, a higher education and then decide to settle down overseas, the starting point for a financial plan is to get your existing portfolio of investments in order.

 

The following steps need to be taken to ensure that the existing finances are aligned to the needs of a non resident

1. Close all resident bank accounts or convert them to nonresident ordinary (NRO) accounts. These NRO accounts can be used to credit amounts from investments that may have been made earlier, for example, dividends from stocks, rental income, amongst others.

2. Ensure that the tax returns in India have been filed. Whilst filing a tax return is not mandatory if the income is less than the taxable limit, it is important to be sure that the total income is less than the taxable limit.

3. Review your demat accounts so that they can be converted to nonresident demat accounts.

4. Change your mutual fund portfolios (if any) to a non resident status and link your NRO bank accounts to these investments.

Once the legacy portfolio of investments have been put into order, it is crucial to begin the process of setting up your financial goals through a financial plan. Whilst a financial plan may sound rather complex, it is simply a roadmap that allows you to think about what you want to achieve with your life goals and how your finances will allow you to get there.

Let me illustrate this with an example. Let’s say one of your life goals is to have your child study at a particular post graduate program. How would you design your financial plan towards this life goal?

1. Establish the current cost of the education that you want to plan for – The costs for higher education vary significantly depending on the type of college, country of education, type of program and number of years of education. The total costs of education should be established including the costs of living and travel and not just education costs.

2. Understand the impact of inflation on current costs – Inflation rates on education may vary significantly depending on whether you wish to plan an education in India or overseas. You need to establish the corpus required for the education after adjusting for inflation.

3. Choose the appropriate asset mix to achieve your target – It is critical to establish the right balance of stocks and fixed income exposure so that you understand the returns and associated risks that you will take on the portfolio in order to reach your target.

4. Choose the appropriate product/products to achieve this targeted amount – Once the above steps have been undertaken, you can move to the product selection stage where you can look at the merits/demerits of using deposits, mutual funds, insurance plans , stocks or other options to achieve your target.

5. Evaluate the progress towards your goal at regular intervals – It is important to review the progress of your financial plan to ensure that you are on track to achieve your financial goals. However, it is important that you give your products adequate time to deliver as per their designed objectives. A review once a year should be adequate.

A financial plan can be developed for all your life goals accordingly. You may need to take the help of a financial planner to integrate all your goals into a plan so that your overall finances can be aligned to all your goals. For example, your retirement plan could vary depending on whether you wish to finally settle down in India or continue to live overseas once you retire.

In addition to each of planning for your financial goals, you need your financial plan to cover:

1. Taxation of these investments in your home country – Tax treatment of investment products in the home country may be different from those in India. For example whilst there is no long term capital gains tax on equities or equity mutual funds in India, capital gains tax may be chargeable on these investments in the country that you live in. It is therefore critical to understand the tax implications at both levels as a part of your financial plan. You may need to seek the help of a tax advisor in both India and your home country, so that there is complete clarity on the same. In addition, there may be double tax avoidance treaties in place that allow you to set off the taxes you pay at in one country against taxes due in India, so that you are not taxed twice on the same amount. Your tax advisor should be able to help you on this.

2. Succession planning – Inheritance laws tend to vary from country to country. In addition, whilst India does not currently have any estate duties and taxes, a large number of countries have an inheritance tax. Since you could end up inheriting assets from your parents/ other family members and also having your assets transferred to your family members on death, it is critical to ensure that succession planning documents like wills are created keeping the inheritance laws of both countries in mind.

Once you are clear about your financial goals, taxation and succession laws, you will be in a position to pick your investment products far more easily and can focus on tracking how your investment products are taking you closer to your financial goals.

 

This article was written by Vishal Dhawan, CFPCM 

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