Understanding Tax Implications: Capital Gains for NRIs

Dive deep into the nuances of capital gain tax for NRIs. Learn about tax rates, property implications, taxation on shares, and beneficial strategies for NRIs.
min read
February 3, 2024


With the growing global economy, Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) have expanded their financial footprints beyond borders, often resulting in capital gains in their homeland, India. Capital gains tax, essentially a tax on the profit realized on the sale of a non-inventory asset, becomes a pivotal financial consideration for NRIs. 

For instance, consider Rohan, an NRI who has lived in the USA for a decade. He decided to sell his inherited property in Pune. While the sale brought a significant profit due to the booming real estate market, it also revealed the intricacies of capital gain tax that he wasn't previously familiar with.

The landscape of this tax for NRIs isn’t just limited to property but extends to shares, bonds,, and other assets. In this blog, we talk about the nuances of capital gain tax tailored explicitly for the NRI community, ensuring they're well-equipped to make informed financial decisions.

Differentiating Between Long-Term & Short-Term Capital Gains

Navigating the financial world can sometimes feel like deciphering a complex language. Understanding capital gains is crucial for NRIs, especially when discerning between long-term and short-term gains.

Picture this: Anika, an NRI based in London, bought shares of an emerging tech company’s listed stock in India in 2017. By 2023, their value skyrocketed, prompting her to sell and enjoy the profit.

Since she held these shares for over three years, her gains are termed 'Long-Term Capital Gains' (LTCG). However, had she sold them within a year, it would be categorized as 'Short-Term Capital Gains' (STCG).

The primary difference lies in the duration of asset holding:

Short-Term Capital Gains (STCG)

Long-Term Capital Gains (LTCG)

  • Profits earned from selling assets are held for a shorter duration (less than a year for shares and three years for property). 
  • Profits from assets held for longer periods (more than a year for shares and more than three years for real estate). 

The distinction is not just semantic; it affects the tax rates and exemptions available. Awareness of this difference can greatly influence an NRI's financial decisions and tax liabilities in India.

Capital Gains Tax on Property: What NRIs Should Know

Imagine Ravi, an NRI, settled in the USA. A decade ago, he inherited a beautiful ancestral home in Pune and recently decided to sell it. Upon finalizing the sale, Ravi was ecstatic about his significant profit. However, his happiness was soon met with realizing the capital gains tax that awaited him.

Selling property in India can bring substantial gains for NRIs like Ravi, but it's vital to understand the tax implications associated with it. 

  • Type of Gain: Ravi's duration of ownership of the property determines whether the gain is short-term or long-term. If he owned the property for over two years, it's considered a long-term capital gain (LTCG). Otherwise, it's a short-term capital gain (STCG).
  • Tax Rate: LTCG on property sale for NRIs is taxed at 20%, while STCG is added to their income and taxed based on the applicable slab rate.
  • Exemptions: Good news for Ravi! He can reinvest the sale proceeds in another property in India within a stipulated time or invest in specific bonds to claim tax exemptions.

Navigating the intricacies of capital gains tax can be challenging. Still, with a clear understanding and some expert advice, NRIs can make the most out of their property sales in India.

Capital Gains Tax on Shares: What NRIs Should Know

Meet Aisha, an NRI based in London who has always been keen on investing in the Indian stock market. Over the years, she has built a diversified portfolio of shares from various Indian companies. Recently, she decided to sell some shares, making a tidy profit. But now, she's puzzled about the capital gains tax she might owe.

For NRIs like Aisha, understanding the nuances of capital gains tax on shares in India is crucial.

  • Nature of the Gain: If Aisha holds the shares for over a year, her profit is categorized as a long-term capital gain (LTCG). It's a short-term capital gain (STCG) if held for less than a year.
  • Tax Rates: For LTCG, if her gains exceed ₹1 lakh, they are taxed at a rate of 10% without the benefit of indexation. For STCG, the gains are taxed at 15%.
  • Benefit of Indexation: Unlike property, shares do not enjoy the benefit of indexation, which adjusts the purchase price considering inflation. Aisha needs to be aware of this difference.
  • Tax Deduction at Source (TDS): There's a TDS deduction on capital gains for NRIs. Brokers will deduct TDS from Aisha's capital gains when she sells her shares.
  • Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA): Aisha should check the DTAA between India and the UK. It might offer some relief if she's liable to pay taxes in both countries.

By understanding these nuances, NRIs like Aisha can more confidently navigate the capital gains tax maze and optimize their share investment returns.

Long-Term Capital Gains for NRIs: Implications & Rates 

Rajeev, a tech professional settled in Silicon Valley, has a penchant for real estate investments in his homeland, India. A decade ago, he bought an apartment in Bangalore. After ten fruitful years, he's considering selling it for a significant profit. But, he wonders, What's the tax hit?

NRIs like Rajeev must grasp the intricacies of long-term capital gains (LTCG) in India:

  • Definition: If Rajeev holds an asset for more than 24 months (for immovable properties) or 12 months (for shares), the profit from its sale qualifies as LTCG.
  • Tax Rates: LTCG is taxed at 20% with indexation benefits for property. A 10% rate applies for equities if the gain surpasses ₹1 lakh, and there's no indexation benefit.
  • Indexation: This adjusts the purchase price for inflation, reducing the capital gain amount. It's a boon for property sellers like Rajeev, effectively lowering the taxable amount.
  • Exemptions: Rajeev can invest his gains in specific bonds (like NHAI or REC) or purchase another property to claim exemptions on his LTCG.
  • Tax Deduction at Source (TDS): Banks or property buyers deduct TDS at 20% on LTCG for NRIs. Rajeev shouldn't overlook this step during his transaction.
  • Foreign Exchange Factor: Since Rajeev probably made his initial investment in dollars, he should consider the effect of the rupee-dollar exchange rate on his gains.

Understanding the nuances of LTCG can make the difference between a smart sale and a tax debacle. By being informed, NRIs like Rajeev can ensure they're making the most out of their investments.

Short-Term Capital Gain Tax for NRIs: Implications & Rates

Imagine Neha, an NRI banker in London who took a keen interest in the Indian stock market. She bought shares of a promising startup nine months ago and now sees a potential to make a quick profit. But she's hesitant: How will the profits be taxed?

For NRIs like Neha, understanding short-term capital gain (STCG) tax is crucial:

  • What is STCG?: If Neha sells her shares within 12 months of purchase, her profits fall under STCG. For property, this period is 24 months.
  • Tax Rates: In Neha's case, if she sells her equity shares on a recognized stock exchange and has paid Securities Transaction Tax (STT), her STCG will be taxed at 15%. However, other assets like property have a higher rate—30% for NRIs.
  • Tax Deduction at Source (TDS): When Neha decides to sell, the buyer or bank will deduct TDS. For property, it's a hefty 30%. For shares, it might vary based on the transaction mode.
  • No Indexation: Unlike LTCG, there's no indexation benefit for STCG. Neha can't adjust her purchase cost for inflation, which means potentially higher taxable gains.
  • Tax Treaty Benefits: Depending on the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) between India and the UK, Neha might be eligible for specific relief. She should consult a tax expert to navigate this.
  • Planning Ahead: If Neha can wait three more months, her gains will shift to LTCG, potentially saving her a significant tax amount.

Being aware of the intricacies of STCG allows NRIs like Neha to make informed decisions, maximizing their returns and minimizing their tax liabilities.

Smart Tax Strategies for NRIs: How to Minimize Capital Gains Liability

Meet Ravi, an NRI software engineer based in Silicon Valley. He's enjoyed some impressive returns from his investments in India, but with those returns come capital gains and the associated tax liabilities. He wonders, Is there a way to minimize these taxes?

For NRIs like Ravi, strategic planning can make all the difference:

  • Holding Period: If Ravi holds onto his equity investments for over a year, they qualify for long-term capital gains (LTCG), which usually have favorable tax rates compared to short-term gains.
  • Use Exemptions: Ravi can claim an exemption on his LTCG from property sales by investing in specified assets, such as capital gain bonds, within six months of sale.
  • Gift Assets: Ravi can gift properties or shares to family members in lower tax brackets. However, the recipient may have to consider the tax implications when the property or shares are eventually sold.
  • Indexation Benefits: Using the Cost Inflation Index (CII), Ravi can adjust his property's purchase price, reducing the taxable capital gain amount.
  • Re-invest: Ravi might consider reinvesting gains into a new property to defer tax liabilities, ensuring it aligns with the stipulated time frames of Indian tax laws.
  • Seek Expert Advice: Tax laws can be intricate. Ravi should consult a tax expert familiar with Indian and American regulations to tailor a strategy specific to his situation.

With informed choices, Ravi can enjoy the fruits of his investments and optimize his tax liabilities. Balancing investments with strategic tax planning ensures NRIs stay financially smart and compliant.

Tax Exemptions for NRIs

Picture this: Sunita, an NRI based in London, has diligently invested in India's real estate and stock market. While aware of the taxes, she often wonders if she's overlooking any exemptions that could boost her returns.

For NRIs like Sunita, India offers a slew of tax benefits:

  • DTAA (Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement): India has DTAAs with several countries. Sunita can use this to ensure she isn't taxed twice on the same income in India and the UK.
  • Long-Term Capital Gains on Equities: If Sunita sells her equity investments after holding them for a year or more, she can enjoy a tax exemption on the gains up to a specific limit.
  • Reinvestment Benefits: Sunita can claim tax exemptions on her capital gains by reinvesting her property sale proceeds into another property or specified bonds.
  • Indexation Benefit: Sunita can adjust her purchase cost using the Cost Inflation Index for assets like debt mutual funds. This reduces her taxable gain, as the indexed acquisition cost will be higher than the actual.
  • Special Provisions for RNOR (Resident but Not Ordinarily Resident): If Sunita has RNOR status, her foreign income won't be taxed in India unless received or accrued in India.
  • Exemption on Gifts: Sunita can gift money to her parents or adult children without any gift tax implication in India. The recipient can then invest this money; only the income generated will be taxable.

By being well-informed and leveraging these exemptions, Sunita can optimize her tax liability and make her investments work even harder for her. As the adage goes, It's not about how much you earn but how much you keep. And for NRIs, the right tax strategies NRIs, the right tax strategies can make a difference.

Smart Capital Gain Management 

As the sun sets over the Dubai skyline, Arvind, an NRI based in the UAE, reflects on his diverse portfolio back in India. From bustling real estate in Bengaluru to promising stocks of start-ups, his investments span a broad spectrum. Yet, the maze of capital gains tax often leaves him pondering. 

For NRIs like Arvind, mart capital gain management is pivotal. It's not just about buying at a low price and selling high; it's about understanding the tax implications and strategically planning the sales to optimize returns.

  • Staying Updated: With tax laws in India evolving, being in the loop can save NRIs a hefty sum. Arvind regularly checks updates to ensure compliance and make informed decisions.
  • Leveraging Exemptions: NRIs can significantly reduce tax liability by reinvesting gains or utilizing bonds. Arvind, for instance, channeled his property gains into another promising venture, sidestepping hefty taxes.
  • Diversified Portfolio: Smart investors like Arvind diversify. This spreads risk and offers varied tax implications, allowing more room to maneuver and optimize gains.
  • Consultation is Key: Engaging with tax professionals or financial advisors familiar with NRI taxation can provide tailored strategies, ensuring maximum retention of gains.

In Conclusion

In the grand tapestry of investments, capital gains are but one thread. Yet, their management can drastically affect the overall picture.

For NRIs, it's not just about making investments but making them smartly, ensuring every rupee works as hard as they do. After all, as Arvind often muses, An informed investor is a successful investor.


Q1. What is capital gain tax for NRIs?

Capital gain tax is a tax levied on the profits of non-resident Indians (NRIs) who sell capital assets located in India.

Q2. How is short-term capital gain defined for NRIs?

Short-term capital gain refers to the profit from the sale of an asset held for less than 24 months. The tax rates can differ based on the asset type.

Q3. What is considered a long-term capital asset for an NRI?

An asset held by an NRI for more than 24 months is considered long-term, except for shares and securities, which have 12 months.

Q4. Are there exemptions available for NRIs on capital gains?

Yes, NRIs can avail specific exemptions under sections 54, 54EC, and others based on the type of asset and reinvestment.

Q5. How are capital gains on shares taxed for NRIs?

Capital gains on shares are taxed based on the holding period: short-term gains are taxed at 15%, while long-term gains might be taxed or reduced.

Q6. Is TDS applicable on capital gains for NRIs?

Yes, the buyer must typically deduct TDS when purchasing a property from an NRI.

Q7. Can NRIs invest in capital gain bonds to save tax?

Yes, NRIs can invest in specific bonds like NHAI or REC under Section 54EC to claim tax exemption on long-term capital gains.

Q8. How is the sale of inherited property by an NRI taxed?

The sale is subject to capital gains tax, calculated based on the period during which the inheritor and the deceased held the property.

Q9. What are the tax rates for short-term and long-term capital gains?

Short-term capital gains are taxed per the individual's tax slab, while long-term gains have specific rates based on the asset, often 20% with indexation.

Q10. Is indexation benefit available for NRIs?

Yes, NRIs can avail indexation benefits for long-term capital gains, adjusting the purchase price using the Cost Inflation Index.

Q11. How can NRIs avoid double taxation on capital gains?

NRIs can avail themselves of benefits under the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) between India and their resident country.

Q12. Are agricultural lands taxable for capital gains for NRIs?

Yes, gains from the sale of agricultural land are taxable unless specific exemptions under the IT Act are met.

Q13. Do NRIs need to file an income tax return for capital gains in India?

Yes, if an NRI has taxable capital gains in a financial year, they need to file an income tax return in India.

Q14. Can losses from capital assets offset gains for NRIs?

Yes, certain losses can be offset against gains, and unadjusted losses can be carried forward.

Q15. How can NRIs repatriate the proceeds from capital gains?

Repatriation is subject to conditions, and an NRI may need a Chartered Accountant's certificate.

Q16. What documents are required to claim capital gains exemptions?

Documents may include sale/purchase deeds, investment proofs for exemptions, and others relevant to the asset.

Q17. Are mutual fund gains taxable for NRIs?

Yes, gains from mutual funds are taxable, with the rate depending on the fund type and holding period.

Q18. Can an NRI get a refund for excess TDS deducted on capital gains?

Yes, if excess TDS has been deducted, NRIs can file an income tax return in India to claim a refund.

Q19. How are capital gains from assets outside India taxed for NRIs?

Capital gains from assets outside India are typically not taxable in India for NRIs unless brought to India.

Q20. Can NRIs set off capital gains against capital losses incurred abroad?

No, capital losses incurred on assets outside India cannot be set off against capital gains earned in India.

Q21. How much short-term capital gain is taxable in India?

Short-term capital gains in India are taxable at 15% if the asset is listed and the transaction is subject to securities transaction tax; otherwise, it's added to the income and taxed according to the individual's income tax slab.

Q22. How do I avoid short-term capital gains?

To avoid short-term capital gains, consider holding assets for more than 12 months, invest in tax-exempt securities like certain bonds, or offset gains with capital losses.

Q23. What is the exemption of capital gains tax in India?

Capital gains tax exemptions in India include reinvestment of gains into specified assets or real estate (under sections 54, 54F, etc.), investment in capital gains bonds (Section 54EC), and setting up a specified business (Section 54GB), among others.

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Arnav is a dedicated product leader with a passion for finance and fintech. He graduated from IIT Bombay and IIM Calcutta and heads the Product team at Vance. He has extensive experience in the financial sector, with a deep understanding of the cross-border space. In his free time, he enjoys playing the guitar, rock climbing, and training for triathlons.

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