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Indian Customs Guide for Travellers

It has been a puzzle for every traveller when travelling internationally what can be permitted and what will be charged the customs duty. Here are few things that will help in getting to India, to know before you actually pack things.

General rule of thumb for every passenger to India coming from US
1. The free allowance shall not be pooled with the free allowance of any other passenger.
2. The free allowance is not applicable to the following goods

  • Fire arms
  • Cartridges of fire arms exceeding 50
  • Cigarettes exceeding 200 or cigars exceeding 50 or tobacco exceeding 250 gms.
  • Alcoholic liquor or wines in excess of 2 litres.
  • Gold or si,lvienrany form, other than ornaments. 3. One laptop computer (notebook computer) over and above the said free allowances mentioned above is also allowed duty free if imported by any passenger of the age of 18 years and above.
    4. The goods over and above the free allowances shall be chargeable to customs duty @ 35% + an education cess of 3% i.e. to say the effective rate is 36.05%. 5. Alcoholic drinks and tobacco products imported in excess of free allowance are chargeable to custom duty at the rates applicable to their commercial imports as per the Customs Tariff Act, 1962.
    6. Passengers normally resident of India who are returning from a visit abroad Indian currency upto Rs. 7,500 is allowed.
    7. In case the value of one item exceeds the duty free allowance,the duty shall be calculated only on the excess of free allowance.

    An Indian passenger who was engaged in his profession abroad shall on his return to India be allowed clearance free of duty, in addition to the aforesaid allowances, articles in his bonafide baggage to the extent as mentioned below:- (a) Indianpassenger returning after atleast 3 months - (i) Used household articles upto an aggregate value of Rs.12000/- (ii) Professional equipment upto a value of Rs.20,000/-
    (b) Indianpassenger returning after atleast 6 months - (i) Used household articles upto an aggregate value of Rs.12000/- (ii) Professional equipment upto a value of Rs.40,000/-
    (c) Indian passenger returning after a stay of minimum 365 days during the preceding 2 years on termination of his work, and who has not availed this concession in the preceding three years. - (i) Used household articles and personal effects, (which have been in the possession and use abroad of the passenger or his family for at least six months), and which are not mentioned in Annex I, Annexure II or Annexure III of the Baggage Rules 1988 upto an aggregate value of Rs.75,000.

    Professional Equipment:
    Such portable equipments, instruments, apparatus and appliances as are ordinarily required in the profession in which the returning passenger was engaged. Items meant to cover are that used by professions such as carpenters, plumbers, welders, masons and the link. It does not include items of common use such as cameras, cassette recorders, dictaphones, personal computers, typewriters, and other similar items. e.g., the person in computer profession cannot import computers under this scheme.

    Taking Gold to India
    Those who are travelling to India from Gulf/GCC and other Countries, please keep the following points in mind. As per rule you are required to declare the details of the gold/siliver in any form including jewelery on arrival. This you can do by filling the required customs forms supplied in the airlines or you can collect these forms from the Emigration/Customs counter at each airport. If your intention is to take the jewelry back out of India when you leave, you should be prepared to present appraisals etc so the jewelry can be documented to ensure that you take it out when you leave. If the jewelry was originally bought in India, sometimes you would need to provide the required proof. The government is very particular about discouraging the gold import to India and recently the Custom duty on gold has been increased from 6% to 8%.

    It is given to understand that, Customs Officials are very much vigilant now a days to find the gold which has been brought to India as part of your baggage. These types of activities from the part of customs officials, do cause concern for those intending to travel to India with gold jewelery, there are some things that NRIs can do to minimize problems when taking gold jewelery to India. Most of the NRIs and PIOs are very much worried about this and it is the duty of every law abiding citizen to declare all gold filling –up the required forms. There are no restrictions on how much jewelery a person of Indian origin (NRI, PIO) can take to India when they visit friends and family in India. As long as such Jewelery, that is beyond the duty free allowance is taken back by the incoming passenger when they return. Those who have receipts, appraisal with photographs and jewelery is identifiable, can declare the jewelery items on arrival in India with the customs authorities and get the items endorsed on their passports. This ensures that they will take the items back when they leave India. If jewelery was originally purchased from India and receipts are available, this might also help. The primary purpose of customs officers in India regards to gold, is to stop the illegal importation of gold. Most customs officers are not simply on the lookout for NRIs coming for a short visit and bringing in a reasonable amount of jewelery to wear during their stay in India. Carrying gold above the allowable limit without proper declaration will be treated as smuggling and are subject to punishment.

    Tips when taking Jewelry in or out of India
    Previously the duty free limit for Jewelry taken into India by a male passenger was Rs. 10,000 and for a female passenger Rs. 20,000. As per Government of India, Ministry of Finance Notification No. 25/2013-Customs (N.T.) Dated March 1st 2013. This has been increased to Rs. 50,000 for men and to Rs. 100,000 for female passengers.

    While there may be no limit on the amount of jewelery you can take when visiting, take only what you really need. A passenger wearing a large amount of jewelery and walking out from the green channel, is naturally going to make customs officials think and check such passengers. If you are taking gold in any other form than jewelry, declare it. The duty free allowance in India is for gold jewelery and NOT for gold biscuits/coins etc. Those who are living in India, when traveling abroad should get an export certificate from the customs when they leave India, so that they are not charged duty on the same jewelry when they return to India. Normally most NRI families will not face harassment by customs at Indian airports if they simply have a reasonable amount of jewelery to use in India during their visit. Problems do occur when passengers try and hide items and get caught. If a passenger is worried about taking jewelry, they can either simply not take it, or declare the items if they are over the duty free limit with the explanation that they would take the items back on departure. In the event the items are not identifiable and cannot be documented. The worst thing that can happen is that the jewelery items will be held by customs, a receipt given to the passenger and they can take it back when they leave India. For those who simply carry a lot of gold/jewelery and knowingly fail to declare the items on arrival, their gold/jewelery items can be confiscated and they can face fines and prosecution under the customs laws of India. NRIs should also keep in mind that when they take jewelery to India from countries like USA, Canada etc. they may be also questioned by customs officials on their return. Canada is one country where asking passengers arriving from India about gold jewelery is quite common. Be prepared to show that you did take the jewelery when you left and did not buy it in India.

    If a person intents to take gold to India, please keep in mind that,a minimum stay of six months is required abroad and gold must be declared to customs officials and applicable customs duty paid in foreign currency. The NRI/POIs are allowed a duty free allowance, as per baggage rules, they are allowed to import goods valued up to Rs. 25,000 each, as their duty free allowance. However the same rules state that ‘The free allowance is not applicable to Gold or silver, in any form, other than ornaments.

    Carrying of gold if stay abroad is less than three months is not allowed and hence illegal. In case the gold is identified/discovered by the Custom when the bag is scanned, would be deemed to be an attempt to smuggle gold, the end result would be prosecution, fines and confiscation of the gold. The rules state that attempting to smuggle gold, without declaration may lead to arrest & prosecution. Even the customs declaration passengers fill on arrival in India warns passengers about the importance of making a true declaration. Arriving in India with Gold, anyone taking gold to India from abroad should NOT walk out via the green channel at the airport. Even if they don’t have any other dutiable items to declare, you must declare the gold, regardless of how small the amount of gold you are bringing in may be.

    Please note that customs rules are subject to change from time to time. For more current information, visit the link at the Indian Customs Booklet. Also follow the Indian Customs Webpage
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