Income TaxTaxation

Dearness Allowance: Meaning, Purpose, Types, and Calculation

calendar14 May, 2024
timeReading Time: 6 Minutes
Dearness Allowance

Dearness Allowance is the money that is received by the employees apart from their basic payroll. There are fixed and variable dearness allowances given to the employees so that they can cater to their needs and combat inflation. It is mainly calculated based on the employees’ salary structure and may vary depending on the circumstances.    

What is Dearness Allowance? 

Dearness Allowance (DA) is an essential feature of many companies’ pay plans, especially in the public sector and fields where inflation heavily impacts living expenses. It acts as a financial buffer against the negative effects of price increases on workers’ living standards by adjusting pay and pensions. Ensuring that employees retain their purchasing power in the face of inflationary pressures is the major goal of DA. 

Variable and fixed are the two main categories of DA. Whereas fixed DA doesn’t alter over time, variable DA varies in response to shifts in the cost-of-living index. Complex procedures are used to calculate DA, which is frequently based on preset formulas or indices representing increases in the price of necessities like goods and services. It is very important for both the employees and the employers to understand the concept of Dearness Allowance so that fair compensation is made during these times of economic imbalance.     

Purpose of Dearness Allowance

The main purpose of the Dearness Allowance is to help employees maintain their purchasing power without being impacted by inflation. With a constant increase in inflation, it is very hard for employees to keep up the pace of their expenses; hence, the Dearness Allowance is paid to them to lessen the impact. It is periodically revised to keep a check on the country’s growing living standards. 

Dearness allowance is paid to employees based on a percentage of their basic salary. It is revised regularly based on the current inflation rate. This ensures that the employees do not look for another job opportunity paying more, thereby maintaining the balance of the organization.   

Types of Dearness Allowance             

There are two types of dearness allowances, namely – 

1-    Industrial Dearness Allowance

This type of allowance is mainly provided to the public employees of the Central Government. These allowances are revised periodically, mainly quarterly to come in line with the Consumer Price Index. 

2-   Variable Dearness Allowance 

Variable Dearness Allowance is granted to the employees of the Central government. It is revised every six months depending on the Consumer Price Index to tackle the rising inflation rates in the country. It is mainly dependent on three things –

  • The base index (which is mainly fixed for a certain period)
  • Consumer Price Index (changes every month)
  • The variable dearness allowance is already fixed by the government until they revise it. 

Calculation of Dearness Allowance

Since 2006, the dearness allowance has been calculated based on the percentage of the basic salary of the employee. Apart from this, house rent allowance, conveyance allowance, etc, are added to the basic salary, which makes up the total salary of the employee. Here is the simple method of calculating Dearness Allowance – 

Employees of the Central Government

DA = [(Average of AICPI (Base Year 2001 = 100) last 12 months – 115.76)/115.76] x 100

Employees of Public Sector

DA% = [(Average of AICPI (Base Year 2001 = 100) last 3 months – 126.33)/126.33] x 100

Note: AICPI stands for All India Consumer Price Index          

Role of Pay Commissions in the Calculation of DA

The role of pay commissions in calculating the dearness allowance is huge. The Pay Commission was set up by the government of India to examine the allowances of employees working in the public and central sectors. It looks after allowances such as House rent, dearness, travel, etc. to keep a check on the salary and revise it from time to time to meet the inflation rate. 

They look into various factors that can determine the change in dearness allowance that has to be made. The price of every commodity is increasing daily, and the government is not able to keep a check on that. Hence, it is a necessity that the employees get remuneration in some other form to cater to their needs.   

Latest Changes in Dearness Allowance

The latest changes made in the dearness allowance are as follows – 

  • Since January 1, 2024, the government of India has changed the rate of dearness allowance for employees. Earlier, it was 46%, but now it has been increased by 4%, which now becomes 50% for the central employees and the public sector employees. 
  • In a similar manner, the dearness relief for the pensioners of the central government has been increased by 4% which now becomes 50%. 

For Example – 

Let’s consider a Central government employee’s salary to be Rs 1,00,000 in a hypothetical situation. Per the previous 46% DA, his DA would amount to Rs 46,000. But now, after the 4% increase, the DA amount will become Rs 50,000, with a total increase of Rs 4,000. It has been a very progressive and beneficial step for the employees. 

  • As per the standards established by the 7th Pay Commission, when the Dearness Allowance (DA) crosses the 50% threshold, a person’s salary and other allowances will be increased. It includes the following improvements: Children’s Education Allowance, Special Allowance for Childcare, Transfer Allowance (TA), Mileage Allowance for Own Transport, House Rent Allowance (HRA), daily allowance, gratuity cap, and hostel subsidy.
  • With the increasing cost of living due to inflation, this step is pivotal in managing the quality of life of employees working under the central government. With this increase, the employees get a higher salary, which might help them meet societal standards.      

How is DA Treated under Income Tax? 

The most recent changes state that salaried employees’ dearness allowance (DA) is now fully taxable. If all other requirements are met, an employee’s unfurnished, rent-free housing will be counted as part of their pay and will go toward their retirement benefits. According to Indian Income Tax laws, the dearness allowance component must be mentioned separately in the filed returns. 

The employees need to comply with the filing of ITR rules while calculating their annual salary. All these expenses that are paid by the government, like Special Allowance for Childcare, Transfer Allowance (TA), Mileage Allowance for Own Transport, House Rent Allowance (HRA), daily allowance, gratuity cap, etc, need to be included while filing the ITR

Challenges Faced in Dearness Allowance       

The challenges faced in dearness allowances are as follows – 

  • The inclusion of dearness allowance in the salaries of the employees is made as per the standard procedure of inflation in the country. The financial needs of the employees are overlooked, and it doesn’t even depend on the quality of work that the employee is doing. 
  • Organizations paying dearness allowances can face a severe hit at times of high inflation. The rate now has been further increased which will cause problems to these public sector organizations. 
  • At the time of inflation, some employees might need things apart from remuneration. These might have been their necessity at that time, so we had no provisions. 
  • The dearness allowance is mainly based on the inflation rate but should also focus on other economic dynamics. For example, the standard of societal living. 

Difference between DA and HRA

The Dearness Allowance is provided to public sector employees to compensate for the inflation rate in the country so that the life standards of the employees are not decreased. House Rent Allowance (HRA) is given to the employees to cater to their needs for accommodation, be it rented or permanent. The other differences between the two are as follows – 

  1. Applicability—Dearness allowance applies only to central and public sector employees and pensioners, whereas house rent allowance applies to both public and private sector employees.  
  2. Tax Exemption – The dearness allowance is not exempted from taxation, but there are certain exemptions, as per the Income Tax Act, in the house rent allowance. 
  3. Calculating Method – Dearness allowance is calculated based on the percentage of the total base salary, whereas house rent is just given to the employees to cater to their needs for accommodation. 
  4. Purpose – Dearness allowance is given to negate the impact of inflation on the employees, whereas house rent allowance is given to employees for accommodation. 

Both the allowances are different from each other but equally important parts of the employee’s salary. 

To Sum Up

In summary, Dearness Allowance is essential for preserving employees’ financial security in the face of economic uncertainty. It is important because it protects purchasing power from the depleting effects of inflation, guaranteeing fair remuneration. Effective compensation structuring requires a grasp of the complexities of DA as firms come across changing economic conditions. 

Employers can protect their employees’ standard of living while responding to shifting economic situations by combining both fixed and variable components. In the end, a clear and properly calibrated DA system promotes worker happiness, output, and organizational stability in general, all of which contribute to a win-win working environment. 

Read also about Income Tax Returns: Which Is The Correct ITR Form For You?

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is Dearness Allowance?

    Dearness Allowance is the money that is received by the employees apart from their basic payroll. There are fixed and variable dearness allowances given to the employees so that they can cater to their needs and combat inflation.

  2. What is the House Rent Allowance?

    The House Rent Allowance is given to the employees of every sector, unlike DA, to meet their expenses of accommodation while on the job. 

  3. When were the changes brought to the DA?

    The recent changes in the DA were made effective from January 1, 2024. 

  4. What is the major change brought in the DA?

    The major change in the DA is that the rate was 46% earlier, but it has been increased by 4%, and it now becomes 50% for the central and public sector employees.

  5. To whom is the dearness allowance applicable?

    The dearness allowance applies to the employees of the central government and the public sector.

  6. Is DA provided to pensioners staying abroad?

    DA to the pensioners staying abroad is not provided if they are re-employed, but if they do not have any employment staying abroad, they are eligible to receive a dearness allowance. 

  7. What is the percentage increase in DA for pensioners as per the latest changes?

    The latest changes, effective January 1, 2024, result in a 4% increase in DA for pensioners. 

  8. What is the period of receiving DA?

    The employees receive a dearness allowance once every 6 months depending on the rate of inflation (cost of living).  

  9. What is the impact of work location on dearness allowance?

    The dearness allowance differs based on the work location. Since the cost of living in rural, urban, semi-rural, and semi-urban areas are different, the dearness allowance for the employees is also different in that case. 

  10. Is Income Tax Charged on Dearness Allowance?

    Yes, Dearness Allowance is subject to Income tax as per the Income Tax Act of 1961. 

  11. Are there any exemptions in Tax on House Rent Allowance?

    Yes, there are certain exemptions in the house rent allowance as per the Income Tax Act of 1961. 

  12. On which amount is the dearness allowance paid?

    Dearness allowance is paid on the basic salary of the employees. 

  13. What is the formula for calculating DA for central government employees?

    DA = [(Average of AICPI (Base Year 2001 = 100) last 12 months – 115.76)/115.76] x 100

  14. What is the formula for calculating DA for public sector employees?

    DA% = [(Average of AICPI (Base Year 2001 = 100) last 3 months – 126.33)/126.33] x 100

  15. What is the role of the Pay Commission in DA?

    The Pay Commission was set up by the government of India to look at the allowances of the employees working in the public and central sectors. It looks after the allowances such as House rent, dearness, travel, etc, to keep a check on the salary and revise it from time to time to meet the inflation rate. 

  16. Can DA be negotiated by the employees?

    The employee can negotiate the DA before joining and at the time of the salary negotiation process. DA amount is determined as per the policies of the organization based on the cost of living in the area. 

  17. What is the difference in the calculation of DA & HRA?

    Dearness allowance is calculated based on the percentage of the total base salary whereas house rent is just given to the employees to cater to their needs for accommodation. 

  18. What is the benefit of revising DA regularly?

    With the increasing living cost due to inflation, this step is pivotal in managing the quality of life of the employees working under the central government. With this increase, the employees manage to get more salary that might help them in meeting societal standards.    

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