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What is Section 16 of the Income Tax Act

Save Tax Now
  • 17th May 2021
  • 5,788
What is Section 16 of the Income Tax Act

​The Income Tax Act (ITA), 1961, lists the expenses and investments that taxpayers can deduct from gross income while computing payable taxes. Awareness about such exemptions and deductions is essential to pay the correct tax amount.

Section 16 of the ITA is one such deduction applicable to salaried employees. It allows various deductions from salary income. Hence, if you are a salaried person, you need to know the deductions you can claim under this section to reduce the taxable portion of your salary.

Section 16 deduction from salary income

Under Section 16, the following deductions are permitted:

1. Standard deductions
2. Entertainment allowance
3. Professional Tax (Tax on employment)

You have to deduct these amounts from the total salary you receive to arrive at the sum taxable under the head ‘Salaries’.

1. Standard deduction [Section 16(i)/(ia)]

As a salaried taxpayer, every financial year, you can claim the lower amount between the following as the standard deduction from your total salary:

  • ₹50,000 (from AY 2020 – 21 onwards)
  • Your salary amount
  • You can claim this deduction as an exemption regardless of your actual spending. The government introduced this benefit in place of:

    • Transport allowance
    • Medical allowance

    What is the benefit of standard deduction on tax for salaried individuals?

    The government introduced the standard deduction in the 2018 Union Budget to provide tax relief to salaried individuals. Later, in 2019, the finance ministry raised the limit to ₹50,000.

    Before 2018, you could claim reimbursements for the transportation expenses incurred on work-related travels and medical bills. However, those deductions were limited to:

    • ₹15,000 per annum as medical allowance
    • ₹1,600 per month (₹1,600 X 12 = ₹19,200 per year) as transport allowance

    Thus, the total amount you could reduce from your gross salary through such benefits was ₹(15,000 + 19,200) = ₹34,200.

    Therefore, with the new standard deduction, the extra tax benefit has become ₹(50,000 – ₹34,200) = ₹15,800.

    For example, suppose your salary details are as follows:

    • Basic pay: ₹5,00,000
    • Dearness Allowance: ₹2,00,000
    • Contributions towards EPF: ₹24,000
    • Deposits in PPF: ₹50,000
    • Transport allowance: ₹19,200v
    • Medical allowance: ₹15,000
    • Thus, your total income = ₹(5,00,000 + 2,00,000) = ₹7,00,000
    • Gross total income = ₹7,00,000 – ₹(24,000 + 50,000) = ₹6,26,000

    Before standard deduction

    Deductions available on your gross income: ₹(19,200 + 15,000) = ₹34,200
    Thus, your taxable income: ₹(6,26,000 – 34,200) = 5,91,800

    Your total tax outgo as per current income tax slab rates (old tax regime):
    Tax on income up to ₹2,50,000 = Nil
    Tax on the amount between ₹2,50,000 and ₹5,00,000 at 5% tax rate = ₹12,500
    Tax on the remaining amount at 20% tax rate = 20% of ₹(5,91,800 – 5,00,000) = ₹18,360

    After standard deduction

    Your taxable salary income: ₹(6,26,000 – 50,000) = ₹5,76,000
    Your tax liability = ₹12,500 + 20% of ₹(5,76,000 – ₹5,00,000) = ₹15,200

    Therefore, the standard deduction helps you save on taxes. However, for AY 2021-22, you can avail of this deduction only if you opt for the old tax regime.

    Moreover, your employer need not process any bills before you can avail of this tax break. Thus, this facility eliminates elaborate paperwork, making tax calculation straightforward.

    How does standard deduction impact pensioners?

    The income tax laws consider pension received from former employers as income under the head ‘Salaries’. Thus, if you are a pensioner, you can claim ₹50,000 or your pension amount, whichever is less, as the standard deduction.

    As a pensioner, you might not enjoy allowances on transport or medical expenses. Thus, with standard deduction, you can get significant tax relief.

    Is there any limit to standard deduction?

    The standard deduction amount cannot exceed ₹50,000. Even if your salary is more than this amount, you can deduct only this sum under Section 16.

    Also, if your net salary is less than ₹50,000, you can deduct a sum equal to your salary, and not more.

    For example, suppose you earn a gross salary of ₹3,00,000.
    The House Rent Allowance (HRA, exempt from taxes) you get as a part of this salary amount = ₹60,000
    Your Leave Travel Allowance (LTA, tax exempt salary component) = 50,000
    Other exemptions (such as contributions towards EPF and PPF) = ₹1,44,000
    Thus, your net salary = ₹46,000, which is lower than ₹50,000.
    Hence, you can claim a standard deduction of ₹46,000 only.

    How to calculate standard deduction if you worked under multiple employers in the same financial year?

    The standard deduction is a fixed sum applicable to your overall income for the entire financial year.

    For example, suppose you earned ₹50,000 net salary under one employer from April to September. Then, you changed jobs and earned ₹50,000 under your second employer up to the month of March. Thus, your total salary income for the financial year from April to March is ₹(50,000 + 50,000) = ₹1,00,000.

    Therefore, you are entitled to a standard deduction of ₹50,000. Your net salary this fiscal = ₹(1,00,000 – 50,00,000) = ₹50,000.

    Standard deduction under Section 16 vs income tax deductions under Chapter VI-A, including Section 80

    Standard Deduction Chapter VI-A Deductions
    It is a flat deduction regardless of actual expenditure. These deductions are based on actual expenses or investments.
    This deduction is available only to individuals earning salary income or pension. Self-employed taxpayers, professionals, or business owners cannot claim this benefit. These deductions are available on the gross income, which is the sum of the earnings from all income sources.
    This deduction is applied to the salary income before computing the gross income. These deductions are applied after arriving at the gross income.
    The limit is fixed at ₹50,000. The limits vary from section to section. For example, Section 80C allows deductions up to ₹1,50,000.

    How can you claim standard deduction?

    Usually, your employer includes this deduction when calculating the tax deducted at source (TDS) applicable on your annual salary. Form 16 that your employer issues should reflect this amount. However, if it is not included, you can claim the standard deduction while filing your tax return.

    What are the documents or bills necessary to claim standard deduction?

    The standard deduction requires no documents. You need not submit any proof of expenses to your employer or the tax department to get this tax break.

    2. Entertainment allowance [Section 16(ii)]

    a) For government employees
    If you are a Central Government or State Government employee, you can claim deductions towards entertainment allowance from your salary. The available deduction is the least among:

    • ₹5,000
    • 20% of your basic pay, excluding perquisites, benefits, or other allowances
    • The actual amount your employer provides as entertainment allowance

    The deduction does not depend on the amount you actually spent on entertainment.

    b) For non-government employees
    Entertainment allowance is not applicable.

    3. Professional Tax or Tax on Employment [Section 16(iii)]

    Some Indian states levy a professional tax or direct tax on employment under article 276(2) of the Indian Constitution. Any individual earning an income needs to pay this tax. The state cannot charge more than ₹2,500 per year as professional tax.

    The tax laws allow this taxation as a deduction from salary, as per the following rules:

    • If your employer paid the professional tax on your behalf, the sum is included in your salary as a ‘perquisite’. You can deduct the amount from your gross salary.
      For example, suppose your base pay is ₹2,50,000.
      You have to pay ₹400 as professional tax per month, and your employer pays the amount.
      Then, the gross salary you received is ₹2,50,000 + ₹(400 X 12) = ₹2,54,800.
      The amount you can deduct from it on account of professional tax = ₹4,800.
      Thus, your net salary income = ₹2,50,000.
    • If your employer deducted the tax from your salary, you did not receive the money from your employer. Therefore, you need not add the amount to your income under the head ‘Salaries’.
      Suppose your annual income is ₹2,50,000. You pay a professional tax of ₹5,000 from it during the year. Thus, you can deduct ₹5,000 from the salary you received.
    • The ITA allows the deduction of professional tax regardless of the amount paid.
    • You can claim the deduction only in the year in which you pay the professional tax. If the tax is due, but you did not pay it yet, you cannot claim the deduction.
      For example, suppose you have to pay ₹1,500 per annum as professional tax. You miss the payment in the previous financial year. But this financial year, you pay ₹3,000 as professional tax.
      Thus, this financial year, ₹3,000 is deductible, not just ₹2,500.

    Thus, this financial year, ₹3,000 is deductible, not just ₹2,500.


    Section 16 allows substantial savings on your tax outgo if you are a salaried individual. Knowing the rules will help you compute the exact tax amount to pay. Kotak Life offers a tax and savings guide that can help individuals save on their taxes in different ways.

- A Consumer Education Initiative series by Kotak Life


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