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NRIs can take more gold to India, but not all are happy

Sajila Saseendran / 2 March 2013

Indian expatriates can now carry five times more gold without paying any tax when they visit their home country.

The Indian government revised the clauses for duty-free gold that can be carried by passengers to India in the 2013 budget on Thursday.

Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram amended a 1967 customs rule that had fixed the value of gold that can be carried by male and female passengers at Rs10,000 and Rs20,000 respectively.

Citing complaints from Non-Resident Indians, he raised the value of gold exempt from taxes to Rs50,000 and Rs100,000 for men and women respectively.

Indian expatriates in the UAE, many of whom had vehemently campaigned for revoking the 1967 rule, voiced mixed responses to the new rule.

While some heaved a sigh of relief and welcomed the government’s move, a large number of Indians were upset that the government did not fix the limit as per the weight of the gold, but its value, considering the ever-changing and generally skyrocketing gold rates.

K.V. Shamsudheen, the chairman of Sharjah-based Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust that had launched a campaign demanding a hike of the limit for carrying gold freely to India, appreciated the minister for increasing the present value to its five times. “In the budget, it is the only advantage for NRIs.”

However, he said it was not adequate for Indians, particularly women, who are known to wear a lot of gold jewellery, especially for functions. “But under the current value (of gold), the value of their wedding ring and mangalya soothra itself would be much more than the new allocation which is not adequate,” he said.

Thousands of people had signed an online petition launched by Shamsudheen who had requested the Indian prime minister and finance minister to allow 100gm gold to be carried by male passengers and 200gm of gold by female passengers without paying tax.

Sunny Chittilappilly, chairman of Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group, said that it was a welcome move by the government to amend the age-old law. “Something is better than nothing. But, considering the current gold rate, the women can hardly take 36gm of gold. It would have been ideal had the government not repeated the mistake of tagging the limit to the value, not the weight.”

Citing the Indians’ obsession with gold and the spiraling rates, he said it would be reasonable for the government to allow male and female passengers to carry 50gm and 100gm of gold without paying tax. “It is a reasonable quantity and there won’t be demands for amendments in future.”

Dhilna Dinesh, a dance teacher from Dubai, said the new rule was likely to create problems for women like her. “If customs officials will start strictly imposing this rule, it will be difficult for women like me to wear gold ornaments of our choice for functions in India. This can lead to people trying to carry ornaments by hiding them somehow and it can also pave the way for opportunistic customs officials to demand bribe.”


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