Income Tax Levied on Burmese Refugees in India
By Salai Elaisa Vahnie – May 21, 2007—Washington DC: The Young Men Christian Association (YMCA) in New Delhi has recently announced that refugee employees under its self-reliance program in partnership with the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will liable to pay income tax as required by the Indian Income Tax Law.
Mrs. Irac, the refugee self-reliance project coordinator at the YMCA says the refugee worker who earns rupee 20,000 or more per year is held liable to pay Income Tax is a direct requirement by the Indian Income Tax Department (ITD). Refugees who work under its program has informed about paying 10.30% Income Tax effective from April 2007.
Income Tax System in India requires that every income not exceeding 5,000 rupee per month are exempted from paying taxes. The refugee workers under the Don Bosco Ashalayam (DBA) have been paying a 5.1% income tax. However, no Income Tax is levied on refugee workers under the Social Legal Information Center (SLIC).
“This is causing a lot of confusions and dissatisfactions among refugee workers under the YMCA in New Delhi”, said Maipa, a Chin refugee leader who has been working under the YMCA program as a community service provider for five months. “As of today, we do not receive any notice or document of ITD that states a refugee is liable to pay Income Tax out of a small amount of allowance stipends that they receive in the form of salary under the YMCA. We all who work under the YMCA are refusing to receive the cut salary until the reason is clarified and justified”, he says in our telephone correspondence.
The office of the UNHCR in New Delhi has admitted that this is a very complex and wide issue. It, therefore, cannot immediately send a conclusive message to the refugee workers, but it probably will need to consult with the experts to solve the problem.
The DBA, SLIC, and YMCA have been working in partnership with the UNHCR in New Delhi to implement refugee self-reliance program since the refugee Subsistence Allowance was “phased out” in 2001. The primary responsibilities of these implementing partners with respect to this program have been securing a local job for a recognized refugee under the mandate of the UNHCR.
The money that a refugee earns under this program is considered to be an allowance stipend. A refugee who earns 1,000 rupee per month will receive 2,160 rupee from the UNHCR through its implementing partners to secure their minimum allowance.