The expensive gift that you kept for your overseas cousin or friend may attract tax from this year with the Budget 2019-20 proposing to impose withholding tax all such transfers, plugging an earlier loophole that allowed its tax- free treatment.
The Finance Bill 2019 has imposed tax on any sum of money paid or any property situated in India, transferred by a person resident in India to a person outside India, as it would be deemed to accrue or arise in India. The changes will be applied for all such transfers made on or after July 5, 2019.
Currently gifts given by Indian residents to non-resident Indians - apart from the specified list of relatives - would be claimed as non-taxable. This is because the earlier tax put the onus on the recipient of the gift to make the disclosure and pay tax. As a gift to NRIs means that income is accrued abroad, it remained outside the tax net.
But now, all gifts to NRIs will be income accruing in India and would be taxed as per the normal slab rates applicable to resident Indians. This means that the origin of the gift becomes important for tax purpose, instead of the destination of the gift abroad.
The onus will be on the recipient (the NRI in this case) of the gift to disclose such gifts received if they originate in India and then pay a tax on it.
So, if the value of the gift is above Rs 10 lakh, the recipient will have to pay 30 per cent tax. The tax rate would get higher if the value of the gift, be it payment for studies or a house abroad, is more than Rs 2 crore or Rs 5 crore. In such cases, the highest tax rate for super rich, i.e. 35.7 and 42.7 per cent respectively would apply.
For the purpose, gift will constitute shares, property, vouchers, cash etc exceeding Rs 50,000 made to anyone, apart from the specified relatives or blood relations.
While making gifts to NRIs taxable, the Budget has proposed that in a treaty situation, the relevant article of applicable DTAA (double taxation avoidance treaty) shall continue to apply for such gifts as well.
This amendment will take effect from April 1, 2020 and will, apply in relation to the assessment year 2020-21 and subsequent assessment years.
The specified relatives list in terms of Section 56 of the Income Tax Act is fairly wide. It includes brothers and sisters, and their spouses. Gifts to this category will not attract any tax. But acquaintances, friends, and other close family relations would come under the purview of the tax.