Understanding the Difference Between Gross Total Income and Total Income

2-August-2021 |

Whether you like it or not, income tax filing is an annual exercise that you have to spare time for. Some people may find the activity tedious, while most others find it overwhelming because of jargons such as gross total income, total income, deductions, exemptions, rebate, etc., which can be perplexing.

However, if your annual earnings fall under taxable income slabs, then the tax have to be paid when they are due to avoid penalties. While some individuals take the assistance of tax consultants and chartered accountants to pay the tax and file tax returns, others prefer to do it themselves. Regardless of what category you belong in, it is important to know about the difference between gross total income and total income.

Before delving into the details, however, it is important to know that although you cannot avoid taxes, you can reduce your taxable income by investing in financial tools such as savings insurance and a long-term savings plan. These investments can not only save on tax* but also help build a corpus for the future. However, because investments cannot be rushed, it is important to invest at the beginning of the financial year instead of at its conclusion.

Defining Gross Total Income

While gross total income and total income mean the same things literally, they have different meanings in legal terms. The gross total income is an aggregate of the amount that an individual has earned in a financial year. As incomes can be earned from varied sources, the Indian Income Tax Act (ITA) expects individuals to segregate their earnings under different income heads. Your gross total income is, therefore, an accumulation of incomes from:

  • Salary - Job Remuneration
  • House Property
  • Business or Profession Business endeavours as well as earnings from being self-employed
  • Capital gains or losses made by selling a movable or immovable property which include land, house, shares, mutual funds, jewellery, etc.
  • Miscellaneous sources including money from having won a lottery, interest gained from diversified investments, etc.

In addition to the aforementioned, Section 80B (5) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 states that the gross total income includes the set-offs and profits garnered or losses endured in the preceding financial years. The total that you get by adding income from all these sources is termed as the gross total income.

Defining Total Income

Before understanding the computation of total income, it is important to know what is the definition of total income. Tax are not levied on the gross total income but the total income of an individual. Total income is the amount that is left from your gross total income after the deductions permitted under Chapter VI A of the Income tax Act. Your taxable income or your tax liability depends on this deducted figure. The deductions permitted include:


  • Section 80C: Under this section, the premiums paid towards specific investments are eligible for a deduction of up to ₹1.5 lakhs. The investments acknowledged for exemptions is an exhaustive list that includes investments that aim to build a corpus for the future, such as savings insurance, public and employee’s provident fund, long-term savings plan, life insurance premiums, tax-saver fixed deposits, ELSS, NPS, etc.

  • Section 80CCD: Additional contribution up to ₹50,000 over and above the Section 80C slab is allowed as a deduction for NPS (National Pension System).

  • Section 80D: Premiums paid towards health insurance up to ₹25,000 (₹50,000 for senior citizens), paid for self and parents qualify under this section.

  • Section 80TTA: Interest accrued through savings account up to ₹10,000 is tax-free

  • Section 80E: Interest paid on education loans is deductible.

  • Section 80GG: For salaried individuals who do not have a housing rent allowance inclusive in their salary, an exemption under this section is permitted.

  • Section 80DDB: Upon diagnosis of specific illnesses, expenses can be deducted up to ₹40,000 or ₹60,000, based on the patient’s age.

  • Section 80U: For physical disabilities, a deduction of ₹75,000 or ₹1.25 lakh is permitted depending on the severity of the disability

  • Section 80G: This section exempts donations made to recognised charitable organisations

For the computation of total income, deduct the investments made under the aforementioned headers from the gross total income. The amount that you get after the deduction is the amount that will be subject to tax.

The Indian Income Tax Act, 1961 defines clauses for total income as follows:

  • If an individual has been an Indian resident in the preceding financial year, any income received, accrued, or expected to be received is taxable.
  • In the preceding financial year, if an individual is not ordinarily a resident of India but has an income through a business based in India, or any other source as mentioned above then the income is subject to tax.
  • For NRIs, income generated in India is taxable.
  • Total income (taxable) is the income that is remaining after making the relevant deductions from gross total income.

Tips to Save Your Taxable Income

We all like to exercise a conservative approach with tax payment, and the Government of India presents several opportunities to reduce your taxable income. These financial tools and savings insurance options not only help you save on your tax* but help you build a corpus for your future.

Tata AIA Life Insurance has a host of plans that stands true on both these financial aspirations of savings and protection. Some of the most popular tax-saving* instruments under Section 80C are:

  • Unit Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs): This offers the dual benefit of insurance and investment while being sensitive towards a policyholder’s risk appetite
  • Endowment Plans: These plans focus on wealth creation for the future with guaranteed# returns
  • Pension plans: As the name suggests, these plans ensure your financial freedom in the second innings of your life
  • Term Life Insurance: Every individual with financial dependants must invest in a life insurance plan to secure the well-being of their loved ones

There are several other financial tools aside from the aforementioned to help you build a robust financial portfolio. The maturity value, as well as the withdrawals made from investment in the aforementioned plans, are free from taxes.

In conclusion, while gross total income and total income are often used interchangeably, they mean different things when it comes to taxation. With efficient and preliminary tax planning, one can lower the taxable income.


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  • *Income Tax benefits would be available as per the prevailing income tax laws, subject to fulfilment of conditions stipulated therein. Income Tax laws are subject to change from time to time. Tata AIA Life Insurance Company Ltd. does not assume responsibility on tax implications mentioned anywhere in this document. Please consult your own tax consultant to know the tax benefits available to you.

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