Dubai: The Indian Government’s move to hike import duty on gold from 10 to 12.5 per cent in its latest budget announced on July 5 has raised fresh concerns over the “low” baggage allowance for Indian travelers seeking to carry gold back home.
According to the Customs Guide for Travellers put up by the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, “An Indian passenger who has been residing abroad for over one year is allowed to bring jewellery, free of duty in his bonafide baggage up to an aggregate value of Rs 50,000 (Dh2,683) in the case of a male passenger or Rs 1,00,000 (Dh5,366) in the case of a lady passenger.”
Indian expats, who traditionally wear gold jewellery and visit India frequently for weddings and other occasions, have long been complaining about the low limit, with claims of ‘harassment’ by customs officials to pay duty at Indian airports.
K.V. Shamsudheen, Chairman of the Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust said, he has been campaigning for a higher duty free gold allowance for NRIs for the past 30 years. “When the customs rules were introduced in 1967, male and female passengers could bring gold worth Rs10,000 and Rs 20,000 respectively (It corresponded to nearly half a kg and one kg of gold at that time). Whereas today, the limit is set at Rs50,000 and Rs100,000 for male and female passengers (it corresponds to less than 20 grams and 50 grams, depending on making charges). The weight of even a mangal sutra (necklace symbolising marriage) will be much more than the permitted value. The Indian Government should increase the duty free allowance of gold jewellery to 50 grams for men and 100 grams for women.”
Beena K, another Indian said, “These days, you can hardly get anything solid within the prescribed limits. It’s high time they increased the baggage allowance.”
Most jewellers in the UAE agree.
Chandu Siroya, managing director of Siroya Jewellers, said, “These limits were set when the gold prices were probably $400-500 an ounce. The price has now gone up to $1,300. It would be more prudent to set limits in terms of the weight or grammage rather than the price as the rates fluctuate all the time.”
Vinay J. Jethwani, managing director of Meena Jewellers, said with prices being lower in Dubai, he expects sales to go up. “The appetite is bigger as Indians are calculative.”
Industry sources fear the high import duty could affect the way people buy gold back home, with “more margins to work on unconventional routes”.
Who can import gold as baggage in India?
According to the Indian Customs Guide for Travellers, any passenger of Indian origin or a passenger holding a valid passport, issued under the Passport Act, 1967, who is coming to India after a period of not less than six months of stay abroad; and short visits, if any, made by the passenger during a period of six months shall be ignored if the total duration of stay on such visits does not exceed 30 days.
(i) The duty shall be paid in convertible foreign currency at the current rate of duty (12.5 per cent)
(ii) The weight of gold (including ornaments) should not exceed 1 kg per passenger.
(iii) The passenger can either bring the gold himself at the time of arrival or import the same within 15 days of his arrival in India as unaccompanied baggage.
(iv) The passenger can also obtain the permitted quantity of gold from Customs bonded warehouse of State Bank of India and Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation subject to conditions.
How much gold you can carry?
Rs100000 or Dh5,366 worth of gold if you are a woman, which means around 31 grams of gold jewellery (factoring a making charge of Dh10 per gram)
Rs 50,000 or Dh2,583 worth of gold if you are man, which means around 14 grams of gold jewellery (factoring a making charge of Dh10 per gram)