Salary structure comprises fixed and variable components. Certain amounts are fixed and paid monthly or periodically. Others may be variable and be paid on fulfillment of further conditions.
“I have got an offer!” Deep declared excitedly as he walked into the room waving a sheet of paper. “Congratulations, that’s great! I hope you are happy with your role and salary. What’s your ‘take-home’ pay?” I asked my 23-year-old nephew. “What do you mean?” he asked. “Let me explain,” I said.
“Instead of simply accepting the employment contract in haste, please take a close look at the details of the terms. Salary structure comprises fixed and variable components. Certain amounts are fixed and paid monthly or periodically. Others may be variable and be paid on fulfilment of further conditions. The components can vary from company to company, depending on their salary structure. Furthermore, not all these components are fully taxable. Some are partially or fully exempt from tax.”
“Can you elaborate?” asked Deep. “I really need to understand this”.
Let us look at some of the common ones:
Basic salary: This is a fixed component paid every month and depends on the employee’s level in the organisational hierarchy. This is fully taxable.
House Rent Allowance (HRA): This is a fixed monthly allowance and is usually tagged as a percentage of the basic salary. HRA can be fully taxable or exempt fully or partially, depending on certain factors including the actual rent paid for leased accommodation. To ensure that these are factored in for tax computation, you should provide the details and rent receipts to your payroll team in advance.
Leave Travel Allowance (LTA): This is usually an annual allowance for expenses incurred on self and dependents for holiday travel within India. There are certain tax exemptions available for this twice in a block of four years, subject to attached conditions.
Other monthly allowances: You may also receive a special allowance, miscellaneous allowance, etc. These will be usually taxable.
Perquisites: Apart from cash components such as those given above, employees may also be entitled to certain benefits in kind (called perquisites). These could include food coupons, subsidised meals in office, reimbursement of telephone expenses, conveyance expenses, books and periodicals, company provided accommodation, leased car arrangements, etc. In certain companies, employees may also receive certain stock incentives.
Most companies also pay a medical insurance premium under a group insurance scheme for employees and their families. This premium is borne by the employer and generally forms a part of the Cost to Company (CTC) or the full package.”
“Perquisites can be taxable or non-taxable depending on their nature and taxable value. It is important to understand tax implications as the tax that will be deducted from your monthly salary and will impact the amount credited to your bank account (the take-home salary). The valuation rules of perquisites is given under Rule 3 of the Income Tax Rules, 1962.”
“Goodness, that is a lot to understand,” said Deep. “What else can impact my take-home salary?”
“Apart from tax deducted at source (TDS), it is common for Indian companies to make contributions to Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF). This is a retirement benefit scheme wherein both employer and employee make a matching contribution every month. The employee’s contribution is deducted from the monthly salary, while the employer’s contribution may not be visible on the pay slip, but it is a part of the CTC.”
“These contributions continue to accumulate, even when you switch employment to another company, which is also covered under this scheme. The good part is that these contributions will be payable later when you retire eventually or if you decide to cease being in employment altogether. ”
“There is something called ‘Gratuity’ and ‘Target Bonus’,” said Deep, looking at his Offer Letter. “What are these?”
“Gratuity is also a retirement benefit given by the employer but is usually payable only if an employee works for a minimum of five years in the company. Depending on the quantum, it may be partly taxable when you receive it. Target Bonus, on the other hand, is a performance incentive. It is not guaranteed and depends on your performance evaluation at the end of the year. ”
“How can one reduce TDS?” asked Deep.
“Employees can invest in tax saving instruments, but need to first check the actual TDS before rushing off to do this. In any case, employees are entitled to certain deductions on account of their EPF contribution as well as a standard deduction of up to Rs 50,000 from the annual salary income. TDS is applicable only if you still have taxable income in excess of Rs 250,000 per annum.”
“Wow, I feel much more enabled now!” said Deep. “I will check my letter carefully and ask the company to explain if I am not sure of any element.”
“Way to go and all the best!” I said.
(The author is Partner- Personal Tax, PwC India; Rajvi V Shah, Assistant Manager-PwC, also contributed to this column. The views given are personal.)
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is generic in nature and for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for specific advice in your own circumstances. You should obtain specific professional advice before you take or refrain from taking any action. Tax benefits are subject to changes in tax laws. Please contact your tax consultant for an exact calculation of your tax liabilities.