Yes, as silly as that might sound, Indian Customs and baggage allowance regulations – outdated as they are – forbid passengers from carrying gold jewellery worth more than Rs10,000 (Dh655) if you’re a male, and Rs20,000 (Dh1,310) if you’re a woman.
At today’s gold rates (Dh183 for 1gm of 24 carat gold), that translates into gold jewellery weighing a princely 3.57 grams for gentlemen and a rather lavish 7.15 grams for the ladies.
India’s Central Board of Excise and Customs, which falls under its Ministry of Finance, stipulates that “An Indian passenger who has been residing abroad for over one year is allowed to bring jewellery, free of duty in his bona fide baggage up to an aggregate value of Rs10,000 (in the case of a male passenger) or Rs20,000 (in the case of a lady passenger).”
Anything above that miserly limit is taxable under the Indian law, and if you’re passing through the green channel with more than a few grams of gold on your person, well, the officer in-charge will be well within his rights to ask you to pay duty on the jewellery and/or face prosecution for trying to ‘smuggle’ gold and evade duty.
While Indian Customs are quick to update the exchange rates (last updated May 26, 2012) and now value the US dollar at Rs55.95 for imported goods and Rs55.15 for exported goods, the baggage rules were apparently last amended in 2006 – even though the limits set for gold and silver ornaments appear to have been set some time in last century, if not earlier.
And this amazing ‘generosity’ in India’s baggage allowance is not limited to just jewellery. The Indian government does not allow even its own citizens to ‘import’ the Indian rupee, even if you are a non-resident Indian returning home for a vacation or visiting friends and family. The only exemption is for resident Indians, who may be returning home after a foreign visit. Even they can carry a maximum of Rs7,500 (Dh491).
However, the regulations do allow Indian expats returning home after a minimum of three months to carry household items (such as linen, utensils, tableware, kitchen appliances and an iron) up to an aggregate value of Rs12,000 (Dh787), and professional equipment up to a value of Rs20,000 (Dh1,311).
Those who’ve been out of India for at least six months get an additional quota of Rs20,000 for the professional equipment allowance.
But if you thought that professional equipment would include the likes of cameras and Dictaphones, well, you’re wrong. “For the purposes of baggage rules, professional equipment means: Such portable equipment, instruments, apparatus and appliances as are ordinarily required in the profession in which the returning passenger was engaged. This expression includes items used by carpenters, plumbers, welders, masons and the like,” the regulations specify.
And as if to drive the message home, the rules add: “This concession is not available for items of common use such as cameras, cassette recorders, Dictaphones, typewriters, personal computers and similar items.”
Anyway, if you still want to ‘import’ gold weighing more than the allowance, here are the ‘regulations’ (source: Central Board of Excise and Customs website) that you are expected to adhere to:
IMPORT OF GOLD AS BAGGAGE
Who can import gold as baggage?
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 the aforesaid period of six months shall be ignored if the total duration of stay on such visits does not exceed thirty days.
1. The duty shall be paid in convertible foreign currency.
2. The weight of gold (including ornaments) should not exceed 10kg per passenger.
Although the Customs website mentions 10kg allowance for dutiable gold import as baggage per passenger, according to latest reports, this limit has now been reduced to 1kg]
3. The passenger should not have brought gold or other ornaments during any of his visits (short visits) in the last six months i.e., he has not availed of the exemption under this scheme, at the time of short visits.
4. Ornaments studded with stones and pearls are not allowed to be imported.
5. The passenger can either bring the gold himself at the time of arrival or import the same within fifteen days of his arrival in India as unaccompanied baggage.
6. 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 (i) and (ii) above. He is required to file a declaration in the prescribed Form before the Customs Officer at the time of arrival in India stating his intention to obtain the gold from the Customs bonded warehouse and pay the duty before clearance.
RATE OF DUTY
- Gold bars, other than tola bars, bearing manufacturers or refiners engraved serial number and weight expressed in metric units and gold coins: Rs300 (Dh20) per 10gm + 3% education cess
- Gold in any form other than above, including tola bars and ornaments, but excluding ornaments studded with stones or pearls: Rs750 (Dh49) per 10gm + 3% education cess