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  • Writer's pictureGalactic Advisors

What to do with your 401K/ IRA if you plan to return to India?

Updated: May 30, 2022

We've had so many clients ask us about what they should do about their 401K/ IRA accounts (whether Traditional or Roth) when they plan to come back to India.

Update: Latest article on taxation of 401K and IRA is available here. While some of the strategies in this article still apply, we strongly recommend going through our new article to ensure you understand the rules correctly.

We thought we'll write a blog post of all the useful strategies we've helped clients with till date.


Budget 2021 update:

New update for 401K in Budget 2021

The Union Budget 2021 introduced a new Section 89A today. Text below: 89A. Where a specified person has income accrued in a specified account, such income shall be taxed in such manner and in such year as may be prescribed.

Explanation.––For the purposes of this section,––

(a) “specified person” means a person resident in India who opened a specified account in a notified country while being non-resident in India and resident in that country;

(b) “specified account” means an account maintained in a notified country by the specified person in respect of his retirement benefits and the income from such account is not taxable on accrual basis but is taxed by such country at the time of withdrawal or redemption;

(c) “notified country” means a country as may be notified by the Central Government in the Official Gazette for the purposes of this section.’ Non-legal terms? TLDR?

Expect new rules to be notified soon for dealing with Foreign retirement accounts (including 401K/ IRA/ HSA). We expect this to new budget amendment to cover 401K/ IRA/ HSAs and similar accounts. We'll be back with an update when the rules are notified.


In the meantime, you can download the file below to understand how your 401K/ IRA will be taxed in India and USA and see the current position.

Taxability of 401K and IRA
Download PDF • 681KB

We won't be getting into how the income is taxed in this article. But this file will help you understand that.

Let's get to the strategies:

Basic Principle:

  • Pick a strategy where Tax incidence in both India and USA is attracted at the same time. The same shall ensure that Foreign Tax credit shall be available in India for taxes paid in USA.

  • Alternatively, the strategy may ensure that tax is payable only in one country.

  • The choice of strategy mainly depends upon the client’s preferences in relation to use of funds, liquidity requirements, expected tax slabs, etc.

Our strategies split into 2 parts depending on whether your Residential Status in India is NRI (Non Resident Individual), RNOR (Resident but not Ordinarily Resident) or ROR (Resident and Ordinarily Resident).

Useful Strategies:

If you are a RNOR/ NRI:

Close 401(k)/ IRA while you are an NRI/ RNOR in India:

  • Pay tax and penalty in USA as may be applicable.

  • No tax in India

Sell all Dividend bearing securities and buy Growth based Securities:

  • No tax in India as there will be no dividend/ interest

  • Tax in USA on maturity as may be applicable

  • Capital Gains in India on sale as a Resident (Claim FTC for tax paid in USA on maturity)

Rollover from Traditional 401(k)/ IRA to Roth 401(k)/ Roth IRA:

  • Tax payable in USA on rolling over

  • No Tax in USA on maturity after 59.5 years

  • Tax payable only in India on sale of securities/ receipt of dividend.

If you are a ROR:

Substantially Equal Periodic Payments:

  • Taxable in India and USA

  • In USA (if US Citizen/ Green Card Holder) – may structure payments to ensure that the same falls below the Maximum amount not chargeable to tax

  • Claim FTC in India for taxes paid in USA

  • 10% penalty will not apply

Rollover from Traditional 401(k)/ IRA to Roth 401(k)/ Roth IRA:

  • Tax payable in USA on rollover

  • Tax payable in India due to sale of securities

  • Claim FTC in India for tax paid in USA

Hope this quick post about useful strategies is useful for all our US readers. We've tried to keep it as simple as possible without getting into the complications to give you an idea of all the possible strategies to plan your taxes.

If you need any help with your specific circumstances, don't hesitate to contact us on or write a query.


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