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Navigating Payroll and Tax in India: A Must-Read for all HRs

Navigating Payroll and Tax in India: A Must-Read for all HRs

In the global hunt for talent, India's vast pool of highly skilled professionals is an attractive target for international companies. However, the complexity of local payroll and tax regulations presents a considerable challenge.

Understanding the intricacies of payroll processing in India is paramount for global employers aiming to harness this talent effectively and compliantly. This guide offers a deep dive into the essentials of managing payroll and tax in India, ensuring that global businesses can navigate these waters with confidence.

The Landscape of Payroll in India

For global companies, the process of integrating Indian talent into their workforce involves more than just identifying the right candidates. It necessitates a thorough understanding of India's payroll and tax system, which is characterized by a mix of federal and state regulations.

These regulations govern everything from salary calculations to statutory deductions and contributions. However, with careful planning and the right tools, managing payroll in India can be a seamless process, allowing businesses to leverage Indian talent without the need for a local entity.

Mandatory Payroll Taxes and Contributions in India

A key aspect of payroll processing in India is navigating the mandatory taxes and contributions. These include the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF), Employees’ State Insurance (ESI), Employees’ Pension Scheme (EPS), and the health and education cess. Additionally, employers are responsible for withholding and remitting federal income taxes based on their employees' gross pay, along with a professional tax that varies by state.

Employees’ State Insurance (ESI)

The ESI scheme is designed to offer employees a range of benefits, including medical insurance, upskill training, unemployment allowance, and support for leave due to life events such as sickness, maternity, and job injuries. Employers contribute 4.75% and employees 1.75% to this fund, applicable to organizations with 10 to 20 employees, depending on the state.

Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Pension Scheme (EPS)

The EPF serves as a savings fund for employees, accessible under specific circumstances such as purchasing a house or funding education. Both employees and employers contribute 12% of the gross monthly earnings, with a portion of the employer's contribution directed towards the EPS for retirement benefits. The unique advantage of the EPF is its tax-exempt status for contributions, interest earnings, and withdrawals.

Health and Education Cess

A 4% cess on federal income taxes supports India's education and healthcare initiatives for underprivileged communities. This cess is applied to the income tax payable by an employee, effectively adjusting the overall tax rate marginally.

Calculating Payroll Tax in India

To accurately compute payroll taxes in India, employers must first determine an employee's gross pay. Subsequently, they calculate the liabilities for ESI, EPF, EPS, health and education cess, and income taxes as percentages of this gross pay. These calculations are crucial for understanding the total cost of employment and ensuring compliance with local regulations.

Setting Up Compliant Payroll in India

For global companies, setting up a compliant payroll system in India involves several steps, starting with obtaining a Tax Deduction and Collection Account Number (TAN). Employers must also gather detailed employee information for tax purposes and decide on their payroll processing method—whether in-house or outsourced. Ensuring compliance with local salary and tax regulations is a non-negotiable part of this process.

Payroll Options for Employers in India

Global employers can choose between managing payroll internally, outsourcing to a local vendor, or opting for a global payroll solution. Each option has its benefits and drawbacks, with considerations around compliance, transparency, and scalability playing a key role in the decision-making process.

Navigating Payroll Before Establishing a Local Entity

Partnering with an Employer of Record (EOR) allows global companies to hire and pay talent in India without establishing a local entity. EORs manage legal employment and payroll administration, offering a streamlined pathway to leveraging global talent.


The complexity of payroll and tax in India can seem daunting to global employers. However, with the right knowledge and tools, it's possible to manage these processes effectively, allowing companies to access India's vast talent pool without compliance concerns. By understanding the key elements of payroll taxes, contributions, and regulatory compliance, and by choosing the appropriate payroll management strategy, global businesses can ensure a smooth and successful integration of Indian talent into their workforce.

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