Come January, it is time to claim your annual reimbursements such as medical and leave travel allowance (LTA). These reimbursements are as good as tax savings. The difference being that you submit the required bills and treat them as tax-free income. Under Section 10 (5) of the Income-Tax Act, an employee can undertake a trip within the country by claiming earned leave. The employee can then claim an exemption for the amount spent on travel.
The underlying assumption here is that the employee's salary has the LTA component as a part of his/her salary package. This monetary component covers the travel related expenses such as air/train/bus tickets or a rented vehicle. However, you cannot claim expenses incurred on lodging and other allied expenses under LTA. Apart from the employee, LTA covers such expenses of the spouse, children as well as dependent parents and siblings. However, this exemption is limited to two children born on or after October 1, 1998.
The restriction is not applicable to children born before this date. An employee cannot claim this tax benefit every year. It can be claimed only twice in a pre-defined block of four calendar years. The claim can be in alternate years or even consecutive years. The present block started from January 1, 2010 and will last until December 31, 2013. You can carry forward one journey to the next block. However , this has to be utilised in the first year of the new block. The claim amount is either the bill amount or the amount set by your employer, whichever is lower.
If the amount of bills claimed is lower than the LTA component in your salary structure, the balance will be taxed as per your income tax bracket. In addition, there are a host of other nitty-gritty that need to be taken into account. For example, if you have opted to fly, only the amount equal to the economy class airfare of the national carrier by the shortest route would be allowed as deduction. This apart, if you are travelling by road or rail, the cost of firstclass air-conditioned ticket by the shortest route would be considered for exemption.
In case you are travelling to several places , the destination farthest from your residence will be taken into account for calculating the exemption amount. You have to submit the LTA form along with the copies of original tickets and travel bills to the company to file a claim. If you miss out on filing a claim at your company , you can claim for this exemption at the time of filing your income-tax returns and avail of a tax refund later. But that would make it a cumbersome and longdrawn procedure. However, the new Direct Tax Code (DTC), if implemented, will take away all deductions like HRA, LTA and medical allowance , currently allowed under Section 10 of the I-T Act.
Source:The Economic Times