New TCS regulations may pinch your wallet while travelling abroad. Here’s how you can minimise the impact
- A threshold relaxation of ₹7 lakh per financial year from
TCShas been given only for overseas spending using international debit or credit cards.
- TCS shall be applicable at 20% on forex cards and cash exchanges without any threshold limit unless a specific clarification is issued by the relevant authorities.
travelling abroadseparately or as a family may separately spend amounts up to ₹7 lakh per financial year on credit and debit cards. Group tours are set to cost more.
AdvertisementTax collected at source (TCS), and not the IT giant, was trending earlier in May after the Finance Ministry issued a notification stating that international credit cards would also be covered under the liberalised remittance scheme (LRS) – meaning a TCS of 20% would apply to credit cards as well.
After facing a backlash, on May 19, another clarification was issued stating that payments made using international credit and debit cards up to ₹7 lakh shall be excluded from LRS. Hence no TCS shall be applicable on payments made by international credit and debit cards up to ₹7 lakh in a financial year.
Any payment beyond ₹7 lakh shall attract TCS at the rate of 20%. However, confusion still prevails, and there is uncertainty on how this will impact foreign travel. People are wondering if there are ways to minimise the impact. We spoke to experts to find out.
TCS to apply on forex card, cash exchanges without threshold limit
“No specific clarification has been provided on the threshold limits for applicability of TCS on forex cards and cash exchanges, it is assumed that new TCS rules shall apply on forex card and cash exchanges,” says Kunal Savani, partner at law firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. Hence, TCS shall be applicable at 20% on forex cards and cash exchanges without any threshold limit unless a specific clarification is issued by the relevant authorities.
Says Suresh Surana, founder of RSM India, an audit, tax and consulting firm, “Assuming that a forex card would generate foreign exchange liability, the same would be covered under the scope of LRS, and TCS under section 206C(1G) would be applicable on the same without the threshold limit of ₹7 lakh as applicable in case of international credit, and debit cards.”
TCS @20% applicable on entire amount when booking foreign tours
“In case of overseas tours the Finance Act has amended section 206C(1G) of the Income-tax Act, 1961 thereby making TCS applicable on such overseas tours at the rate of 20%. No threshold limit has been provided, and hence a 20% TCS shall be applicable on the whole amount,” says Savani. The tour provider shall collect TCS at 20% in addition to the tour cost. This was introduced in Budget 2023, and has not been amended.
It should be noted that the threshold relaxation of ₹7 lakh per financial year (FY) from TCS has been given only for overseas spending using international debit or credit cards. “This relaxation shall not be available for any remittances made from India for tour booking; and TCS on tour operators shall continue to be levied from ₹1,” says Vivek Jalan, partner, Tax Connect Advisory, a professional services firm.
For example, if two people are going on a tour, and if the total cost is ₹5 lakh, then this will come under LRS, and the ₹7 lakh exemption will not be applicable. However, if they spend ₹5 lakh overseas on shopping, with international credit or debit cards, then the exemption will be applicable.
Exemption applicable on a cumulative basis on all credit, debit cards
“The exemption of ₹7 lakh applies to payments made through credit/debit cards only, and not to forex cards. From a reading of the press release, it appears that it is a combined limit applicable to payments made through credit, and debit cards taken together,” says Riaz Thingna, partner, tax, Grant Thornton Bharat, an assurance, tax and advisory firm.
So, let us say that when travelling abroad with family in a certain financial year, someone spends ₹5 lakh on a credit card, and ₹5 lakh on a debit card. The first spend of ₹5 lakh from the credit card will not attract TCS as it is below the threshold of ₹7 lakh. The next spend of ₹5 lakh from the debit card will attract TCS in the following manner – there will be no TCS on ₹2 lakh, but a TCS @ 20% will apply on the balance ₹3 lakh.
“However, if one uses a forex card, TCS @ 20% will be applicable on the amount of the foreign exchange credited to the forex cards without any exemption limit,” says Riaz.
Minimise the impact of TCS on a foreign vacation
When booking a tour package, there is no way one can minimise the impact of TCS when travelling abroad. “However, one may book in components, such as flights, hotels, etc., instead of booking a whole tour package,” says Nishant Pitti, chief executive officer and co-founder of EaseMyTrip. If the booking is done through a credit or debit card, one can get the benefit of the exemption limit.
Also, LRS is available to all resident individuals including minors. Further, effective 1 July 2023, these new regulations would be applicable on all aggregate card spends above ₹7 lakh in a financial year, calculated separately for each resident individual.
Advertisement“Therefore, individuals travelling as a family/individuals travelling together, may separately spend amounts up to ₹7 lakh per financial year on credit cards, debit cards, while travelling abroad. In that case, TCS would not be applicable since it is below the threshold limit for each individual,” says Rajesh Srinivasan, partner at Deloitte India. If the total spend is exceeding ₹7 lakh, one may use credit or debit cards of different family members for booking to not pay any TCS.
How to claim tax credit on TCS
From July 1, 2023, Reserve Bank of India (RBI)- authorised banks would need to collect TCS. They would need to file quarterly returns, and provide necessary details including PAN of the Indian resident individual, and the amount remitted under LRS. TCS amount collected by the authorised bank would not be a sunk cost, and can be set-off against the tax payable on the individual’s total income (or) claimed as a tax refund in India.
“Once quarterly TCS returns are filed by the authorised bank, the TCS amounts would reflect in Form 26AS of the Indian resident individual. Form 26AS refers to taxpayer’s records as available to the income-tax office, and contains details of taxable amounts remitted, and corresponding TDS and TCS,” says Srinivasan. TDS refers to tax deducted at source.
He says that, therefore, no separate records need to be maintained by the Indian resident individual to claim tax credit later. Based on the Form 26AS (available in the individual’s login on the income-tax portal), the Indian resident individual can claim TCS as a tax credit or tax refund, while filing his/her income-tax return for the financial year.
Also, the Indian government recently announced that it intends to automate the process of granting immediate TCS credit in case of salaried taxpayers. “The government proposes to link, and grant 20% TCS as credit against the monthly TDS due on the salary income of taxpayers. Procedures, and further announcements in this regard are expected in the coming weeks,” says Srinivasan.
However, there is something that one needs to keep in mind. “The foreign exchange spend should be in proportion to the earnings. A person who spends say ₹10 lakh on a personal foreign tour in a fiscal year cannot declare an income of say just ₹12 lakh, or for that matter ₹15 lakh, all other things being constant,” says Jalan.
TCS will make foreign tour packages more expensive upfront. However, the good news is that you can avoid TCS on your expenditures abroad, and get a tax credit easily in case you pay any TCS.
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