Seafarers seeks exemption from qualifying rules for NRI status for FY21 as crew change bites

P Manoj Mumbai | Updated on December 01, 2020

Indian seafarers seen disembarking from US cruise ship Marella Discovery at the Mumbai Port Trust (file photo)

Seafarers have sought government intervention to be exempted from meeting the qualifying rules for Non-Resident Indian (NRI) status that grants tax-free income for FY 21 due to the pandemic induced restrictions on crew change.

“On one hand, Indian seafarers who were serving on ships when major lockdowns were announced worldwide could not be brought home. On the other hand, those seafarers who were waiting to join or were on leave could not join ships to replace those returning home,” Amar Singh Thakur, general secretary, Maritime Union of India, wrote in a 26 November letter to Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways. The MUI represents merchant navy officers.

“As a result of this dual challenge, the seafarers on shore have not been in a position to fulfil the officially declared criteria of working outside India for more than 182 days in a year to qualify as NRI,” Thakur said. BusinessLine reported the “collateral damage” on seafarers emanating from the crew change issue on June 13.

While shipping companies are doing their best to overcome the challenge on crew change, “the damage is already done as six months have already elapsed (April to September)”.

“As a result, there is no possibility for an overwhelming majority of seafarers to qualify as NRIs for the current financial year,” Thakur stated. The issue, according to Thakur, has affected seafarers’ employment prospects and it appears this will continue in the coming months.

“In order to improve the morale of seafarers, we need to be fair to them and grant exemption from income tax for FY21 since the pandemic continue to hamper their jobs,” Thakur said while urging the Minister to ensure that “appropriate circulars” are issued to exempt seafarers who are not in a position to qualify as NRI for no fault of their own. Ends/

Published on December 01, 2020

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