Tax Reforms

Tax Collection at Source (TCS) on Foreign Credit Card Payments: Understanding the Intent and Impact is VItal


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Concepts: Tax Collection at Source (TCS) and Tax Terrorism

Mains level: Tax Collection at Source (TCS) on Foreign Credit Card Payments, Need, concerns and impact


Central Idea

  • The recent announcement regarding the applicability of tax collection at source (TCS) on foreign payments made through credit cards has sparked a range of emotive reactions and sweeping remarks. However, it is crucial to understand the concept and consequences of this measure and avoid unnecessary panic.

What is Tax Collection at Source (TCS) on Credit Card Payments?

  • TCS on credit card payments refers to the application of tax collection at source (TCS) on foreign payments made through credit cards.
  • When individuals use their credit cards for foreign transactions, a certain percentage of the transaction amount is collected as tax by the government at the time of payment.
  • This tax amount is then adjustable against the individual’s advance tax and final tax liabilities during the filing of their tax returns.
  • The purpose of TCS on credit card payments is to track foreign spending and ensure that individuals report their income accurately while encouraging tax compliance.
  • Applicability: TCS is applied when individuals use their credit cards for making payments in foreign currencies.
  • Tax Collection: A specific percentage of the payment amount is collected as tax by the government. This tax is collected directly by the credit card company or the payment processor.
  • Adjustable Tax: The tax amount collected through TCS is adjustable against the individual’s tax liabilities during the filing of their income tax returns. It is not an additional tax burden, but a prepayment of tax that can be adjusted against the final tax payable.
  • Purpose: TCS on credit card payments helps the government track foreign spending and ensure that individuals accurately report their income from foreign transactions.
  • Rates and Thresholds: The tax percentage and thresholds may vary based on government regulations. These rates and thresholds are subject to change from time to time.
  • Exclusions: Certain categories, such as education and medical expenses, may have lower tax rates or exemptions from TCS. Payments made using international debit or credit cards within a specified limit may also be excluded from TCS.


What is the Need for Changes in TCS?

  • Anomaly in Remittances: The Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS) allows individuals to remit a certain amount of money abroad without requiring prior approval from authorities. However, payments made through credit cards were not subject to the LRS limit, leading to an anomaly where significant foreign payments were being made without any restrictions.
  • Disproportionate Spending: The initial introduction of TCS on LRS remittances aimed to track foreign spending disproportionate to the reported income of individuals. It was an effort to ensure that individuals accurately disclose their foreign transactions and pay appropriate taxes on their foreign income.
  • Circumvention of the System: Despite the initial implementation of TCS, there were instances of individuals circumventing the tax collection process. This was done through various means such as splitting payments among multiple individuals, including minors and household staff, or absorbing the 5% tax as a cost without claiming it through tax returns.
  • Encouraging Tax Compliance: The intention behind TCS on credit card payments was also to encourage individuals to come forward and file tax returns. By imposing a tax collection mechanism, individuals are nudged to report their foreign income and fulfill their tax obligations.


Concerns over TCS on credit card payments

  • Increased Financial Burden: The higher TCS rate of 20% on certain categories, such as investments, gifts, donations, and overseas travel, has led to an increased financial burden for individuals making such payments. The higher tax rate may impact individuals’ disposable income and affect their spending patterns.
  • Impact on Foreign Travel: With the application of TCS on credit card payments for foreign travel, individuals may face additional costs and may need to adjust their travel budgets accordingly. This could discourage some individuals from undertaking foreign travel or limit their spending while abroad.
  • Administrative Challenges: The implementation of TCS on credit card payments poses administrative challenges for credit card companies, payment processors, and individuals. It requires proper mechanisms to collect and remit the tax, as well as ensure accurate reporting and compliance. Compliance with these requirements may add complexity to the payment process.
  • Concerns of Double Taxation: Some individuals express concerns about potential double taxation. They argue that since they are already paying taxes on their income, applying TCS on credit card payments can be seen as an additional tax burden on the same income.
  • Impact on Economic Growth: Critics argue that the higher TCS rate and additional tax burden on certain payments may hinder economic growth. It is feared that this could discourage investments, limit foreign spending, and affect sectors such as tourism and hospitality.
  • Perception of Tax Terrorism: The introduction of TCS on credit card payments has led to criticism of the overall tax system, with terms like “tax terrorism” being used. Critics argue that the tax collection measures may be seen as excessive and could create an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty among taxpayers.

Facts for prelims: Concept box from Civilsdaily

What is mean by Tax Terrorism?

  • Tax terrorism refers to a situation where taxpayers feel harassed, intimidated, or unfairly treated by tax authorities, leading to a perception of aggressive or punitive actions.
  • In simple words, it describes instances where taxpayers believe that the tax system or tax authorities are causing undue stress, fear, or anxiety.

Illustration: Understand tax terrorism this way

  • Let’s say an individual receives a notice from the tax authority demanding extensive documentation and explanations for every financial transaction they have made over the past five years. The individual feels overwhelmed and stressed due to the complexity and scope of the request.
  • Despite providing the necessary information and cooperating fully, they face repeated audits, additional scrutiny, and prolonged delays in the resolution of their tax matters.
  • This experience leaves the individual feeling unfairly targeted and harassed by the tax authority, leading to a perception of tax terrorism.

Way forward

  • Transparent Communication: The government should engage in transparent communication to clarify the rationale behind the implementation of TCS on credit card payments. Clear and accessible information about the purpose, impact, and benefits of the policy can help alleviate concerns and misconceptions among taxpayers.
  • Stakeholder Consultation: The government should actively engage with stakeholders, including taxpayers, industry associations, and experts, to understand their concerns and gather feedback. This can help in refining the policy and addressing any unintended consequences.
  • Review and Revision: Regular reviews of the TCS policy should be conducted to assess its impact on individuals, sectors, and the economy. Based on the findings, necessary revisions can be made to strike a balance between tax collection objectives and the concerns of taxpayers.
  • Simplification of Tax Regulations: Efforts should be made to simplify tax regulations and compliance procedures to reduce the burden on taxpayers. Clear and user-friendly guidelines can help individuals understand and fulfill their tax obligations more easily.
  • Taxpayer Education and Assistance: Providing adequate taxpayer education and assistance is crucial to ensure compliance and address concerns. The government should invest in educational campaigns, workshops, and online resources to enhance taxpayer awareness and understanding of tax laws and procedures.
  • Efficient Dispute Resolution: Establishing efficient and timely dispute resolution mechanisms can help address grievances and concerns raised by taxpayers. Timely resolution of tax disputes and appeals can foster trust in the tax system and alleviate the perception of tax terrorism.
  • Balance between Tax Collection and Economic Growth: The government should strike a balance between tax collection objectives and promoting economic growth. Careful consideration should be given to the potential impact of TCS on sectors such as tourism and investments to ensure that the measures do not hamper economic development.
  • Continual Monitoring and Evaluation: Regular monitoring and evaluation of the TCS policy, along with its impact on tax compliance, economic growth, and taxpayer sentiment, should be conducted. This will enable the government to make informed decisions and adjustments as needed.


  • Misinterpretation of the recent announcement on TCS for credit card payments has led to unwarranted panic and exaggerated reactions. While concerns should be addressed constructively, it is essential to acknowledge the government’s efforts in simplifying the tax system, leveraging technology, reducing processing times, and resolving disputes. Collaboration between the government and taxpayers is crucial to fostering a fair, easy, and compliant taxation environment in the country.

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