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Presidential pay-slip: The debate over Ram Nath Kovind’s monthly tax outgo

President Ram Nath Kovind says he pays ₹2.75 lakh a month as income-tax; tax experts wonder if it is not rather high according to existing tax slabs

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President Ram Nath Kovind has been in the news recently for sharing the details of his salary slip. Addressing a gathering at Jhinjhak in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur Dehat district last week, he was quoted by media reports as saying: “If the President is the highest paid (government) employee of the country, then he also pays taxes. I pay a tax of ₹2.75 lakh a month. But people only talk about my ₹5 lakh salary.”

According to TV channels, Kovind had travelled to Kanpur on a special Presidential train from the capital last week. At two stop-overs — Jhinjhak and Rura — he met up acquaintances from his school days and youth (when he had been involved in social service).

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At a public interaction, urging people to pay up taxes to support development projects, he said 50% of his income went back to the government as income-tax. Thus, he said, he saves less than several senior officials in civil service. According to some reports, he said school teachers probably saved more than him.

Income and outgo

The media reports left tax experts bringing out their pens, papers and calculators. The President of India is certainly subject to taxes, they conceded. “The President’s (Emoluments And) Pension Act, 1951, lays down provisions for the salary, emoluments, and post-retirement benefits for the person holding the office of the President of India,” said a report in The Quint.

Kovind was right on the figure, too, it said. From ₹1.5 lakh a month, the President’s salary had been hiked to ₹5 lakh in 2017. Plus, he receives free housing and medical facilities for life. However, there is little clarity on “what is the nature of the President’s income – is it given as a ‘salary’ or in the form of ‘income from other sources’,” said Quint.

But, per current income-tax slabs, a ₹2.75 lakh outgo from a ₹5 lakh salary — which amounts to more than 50% — seems improbable, tax professionals have noted.

According to one set of calculations, Kovind would be paying ₹1.47 lakh a month under a concessional tax regime. If he has opted out of it, his tax would be ₹1.53 lakh a month.

He probably added what he is losing to a voluntary pay cut to arrive at the ₹2.75 lakh outgo, concluded an analyst quoted by Quint.

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