Given an option to choose between RFA and house rent allowance (HRA), an employee should do a back-of-the-envelope calculation to see which one is more beneficial, keeping in mind his requirements, salary level, perquisite value and the tax impact.
Valuation of rent-free accommodation (RFA) has been specified under Rule 3 of the Income Tax Rules. Given an option to choose between RFA and house rent allowance (HRA), an employee should do a back-of-the-envelope calculation to see which one is more beneficial, keeping in mind his requirements, salary level, perquisite value and the tax impact.
In case of central and state government employees, the perquisite value is to be determined as per the licence fee specified by the government. For government employees, on deputation with any undertaking, the perquisite value is to be determined by treating such a body or undertaking as the employer as below. In case of non-government employees, the perquisite valuation for unfurnished rent-free accommodation (RFA) is to be determined as lease rent paid by employer or specified per cent of salary, whichever is lower. As prescribed under the rules, the percentage of salary varies from 7.5-15%, depending on the population of the city as per the 2001 census.
The value of the perquisite determined in case of unfurnished accommodation as above, is to be increased by 10% per annum of the cost of furniture (including television, radio, refrigerator, other household appliances, air-conditioners, etc), if such furniture is owned by the employer or the actual hire charges paid by the employer, as the case may be.
If the accommodation is provided by the employer in a hotel, then perquisite value is determined as 24% of the salary paid or payable or actual hotel charges paid by the employer, whichever is lower, for the period during, which such accommodation is provided to the employee. It is pertinent to note that in case of transfer of employee from one place to another, if the hotel accommodation is provided for a period not exceeding 15 days, there would be no perquisite value.
Transfer — two accommodations
In case of transfer, where an employee moves from one place to another and is provided accommodation at the new place of posting while he retains his earlier accommodation, the value of perquisite is to be determined with reference to only one such accommodation, which is lower in value, up to a period not exceeding 90 days. Afterwards, the value of the perquisite is to be determined for both the accommodations and taxed accordingly.
In case of accommodation provided to the employee working at a mining or an on-shore oil exploration site, or execution site, or a dam site, or a power generation, or an off-shore site which is of temporary nature and having plinth not exceeding 800m and is located not less than 8 km away from the local limits of any municipality, etc; or is located in a remote area, then no perquisite value needs to be determined for taxation purposes.
Comparison with HRA
As far as HRA is concerned, the taxable benefit is to be determined as HRA received by the employee as reduced by the least of the following: the allowance actually received; or rent paid in excess of 10% of salary; or 50% of salary (40% of salary in case of cities other than Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi or Chennai).
Source: Tax Guru