A seafarer, merchant navy worker or mariner is a person who travels on a boat or ship on the sea. Seafarers hold a variety of ranks and professions, each of the crew members executes unique responsibilities. A seafarer navigates water bone vessels or assists as a crew member in the operation or maintenance of a ship. Seafarers receive remuneration in the form of salary from a ship owner or company. Income tax rules for Indian seafarers will depend on their residential status. However, there is no specific provision of income tax exemption for Indian seafarers.
Income tax rules for Indian seafarers/ merchant navy
Here are the important points about the residential status of seafarers and income tax rules:
Income tax on seafarers/ mariners FY 2020-21
Tax on the income of a seafarer is applied based on his/ her residential status.
a. Income tax for resident seafarer
The salary of a resident seafarer or merchant navy personnel will be taxed as per the Indian Income Tax Law. There are no income tax exemptions for merchant mariners/ seafarers.
b. Income tax for non-resident seafarer
If a crew member of a ship works outside India for 183 days or more during the financial year as per his/ her CDS (Continuous Discharge Certificate) or passport, his/ her residential status changes to a Non-Resident Seafarer. Overseas salary of a non-resident seafarer/ Merchant Navy staff shall not be taxed in India.
Calculation of period outside Indian
Rules applicable for voyages start and end outside India
Stamping dates in the passport is considered for the calculation of the period outside India. When you join and sign off from a ship outside India, passport dates are used for the calculation. However, dates of the CDC are taken into consideration at the time of scrutiny that you are abroad for the purpose of employment.
Rules applicable for voyages start or end in India
When you join or sign off from India, the CDC dates are used for the calculation of a period outside India.
Eligible voyage is a voyage undertaken by a ship carrying passengers or freight in international traffic where: either the port of origin or the port destination of a voyage is in India.
New resident provision from FY 2020-21
As per the new Section 6(1A), applicable from the financial year 2020-21, an NRI (including seafarer) can be categorized as a resident in India if his/ her stay in India exceeds 119 days and his taxable income in India exceeds Rs. 15 lakh during a financial year. However, visiting NRIs, including Indian seafarers, whose taxable income in India is up to 15 lakh during the financial year will continue to remain NRI retrospectively if their stay in India doesn’t exceed 181 days.
Note: The ship income of a visiting NRI will not be included for the purpose of calculation of Rs. 15 lakh.
Further, even if the Indian income of a seafarer exceeds Rs. 15 lakh and his stay in India exceeds 119 days during a financial year, and he is categorized as a resident in India, as per the new NOR rules, he will be categorized an NOR (Not Ordinary Resident). Hence, his foreign income will not be taxable in India.
Income Tax Return Filing in India
As per the Income Tax Rules, it is not mandatory for a seafarer to file ITR in India. Since a seafarer doesn’t pay tax or file ITR anywhere in the world, it is important and beneficial for a seafarer to file an ITR in India. It will help you as an important document for various purposes, such as loan application, visa application, etc. and as evidence for any enquiry from the Income Tax Department in future.
Due to a complicated tax system, understanding tax laws can be confusing and NRIs may miss claiming deductions and other benefits. At SBNRI, we understand this struggle. You can download SBNRI App to connect with our NRI Tax Experts and get end-to-end assistance related to NRI tax filing. SBNRI will also help you get a lower TDS Certificate.
Seafarers who stay outside India for more than 183 days as per their CDC/ passport are not required to pay taxes on their merchant navy receipts.
If a seafarer stays outside India for 183 days or more during the financial year as per his/ her CDS (Continuous Discharge Certificate) or passport, his/ her residential status changes to a Non-Resident Indian under the Income Tax Act 1961.
An NRE account can be used to park the foreign income of an NRI. NRO account, on the other hand, is used to deposit the Indian income of an NRI.
Any exemption will be as per Income Tax Law. However, there is no specific provision of income tax exemption for Indian seafarers.