As NRI/PIO (Non-Resident Indian/Person of Indian Origin), the overseas income and transfers in foreign currency are exempt from Indian income taxes. However, the account in India has to be designated NRE or FCNR.
There are three kind of accounts that an NRI can maintain
- Non-Resident Ordinary Rupee Account (NRO Account)
- Non-Resident (External) Rupee Account (NRE Account)
- Foreign Currency Non Resident (Bank) Account – FCNR (B) Account
Interest earned in NRE and FCNR accounts is exempt from income taxes. Interest earned in NRO accounts is not exempt from income taxes, in fact banks would withhold about 30% of interest (TDS). The exact tax liability would depend upon income generated in India and TDS could be applied towards that liability when the tax returns are filed.
There are other implications also of designating the account as NRE or NRO. NRE accounts can only be funded via inward remittance of permitted foreign currency e.g. deposit USD/GBP. So proceeds like rental income, pension etc. that are generated in INR within India can't be deposited in this account. The money deposited in NRE account can grow tax free and can be converted back in any foreign currency freely. On the other hand NRO accounts can be funded through both inward remittance of permitted foreign currency or local income e.g. rental, pension etc. All the amount in this account is treated as Indian originated INR (even if remitted in foreign currency) and thus is taxed as any other bank account. The amount in this account is subject to the annual cap of convertibility of USD 1 million.
Both NRE and NRO accounts are maintained in INR and can be Saving and Term Deposit. Any remittance made to these accounts in any foreign currency is converted to INR at the time of deposit and is maintained in INR. FCNR account are held in foreign currency and can only be Term Deposit.
Official definitions: Accounts for Non Resident Indians (NRIs) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs)