Demystifying the Taxation of Online Gaming in India


The rise of online gaming in India has been meteoric, offering not just entertainment but also opportunities to win real money. Online gaming has become a popular and booming industry in India. Whether playing games on a PC, gaming console, or mobile phone, online gaming offers a chance to have fun and win real money. However, many online gamers may not be aware of the tax implications of their winnings. According to the Income Tax Act, any game winnings are considered income and are subject to tax at 30% under Section 115BB. This includes the actual winnings and any bonuses, referral incentives, or other inducements offered by online gaming platforms.

Moreover, the tax has to be deducted at source (TDS) u/s 194BA by the payer before paying the net winnings to the recipient. The payer could be the operator of the online game or any other person responsible for paying the winnings. Online gamers must declare their winnings from online gaming in their income tax returns (ITR) under the head ‘Income from Other Sources’ u/s 115BBJ and pay the tax accordingly. The tax rules apply to all kinds of online games involving skill or chance. Even if the winnings are in the form of coins, coupons, vouchers, or merchandise, they are taxable as per their market value. I.e., online gamers should be aware of the tax implications of their winnings and comply with the law to avoid any penalties or disputes.

However, amidst the thrill of gaming, the tax implications often go unnoticed. This blog aims to shed light on the complex world of taxation in the online gaming industry, providing clarity on regulations, taxes, and recent updates.

I. Understanding Online Gaming:

  1. Definition and Legal Framework: Online gaming in India operates within a legal framework that distinguishes between games of skill and games of chance. The landmark K.R. Lakshmanan verdict of 1996 laid down the guiding principle that games primarily dependent on skill are permissible, while chance-based games are prohibited. Courts have recognized fantasy sports, such as those offered by Dream 11, as skill-based games, providing clarity on their legality.
  2. Types of Online Games: Online games encompass a wide range of genres, including fantasy sports, card games, and e-sports. While some platforms offer games purely based on luck, others require strategic thinking and skill. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for navigating the taxation landscape.

II. Tax Implications of Online Gaming:

  1. Tax on Winnings: Under Section 115BB of the Income Tax Act, winnings from online gaming are considered income and are subject to a flat tax rate of 30%. This includes not just the actual winnings but also bonuses, referral incentives, and other inducements offered by gaming platforms.
  2. TDS Deduction: As per Section 194BA, online gaming platforms are required to deduct tax at source (TDS) at a rate of 30% before distributing winnings exceeding the threshold of ₹100. The recent circular issued by the CBDT clarifies this requirement and its implications for both players and gaming companies.

III. Budget 2023 Update: The Budget 2023 proposed a 28% GST on the Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) of online gaming, presenting a significant challenge to the industry. Currently, platforms pay 18% GST on the Contest Entry Amount (CEA) paid by users. The proposed GST rate has raised concerns about its potential impact on the growth of the online gaming sector.

The online gaming industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors in India, with a projected market size of $3.8 billion by 2024.

Online games that offer bonuses, referral bonuses, and other incentives to their players are not considered prize winnings, and hence, they are not subject to tax under section 115BB of the Act. However, these amounts are treated as taxable deposits and are included in the net winnings of the user account. The net winnings are calculated as the total withdrawal minus the total fresh deposits and the opening balance. The net winnings are taxed at 30% under section 115BBJ of the Act. The person responsible for paying the net winnings has to deduct TDS under section 194BA of the Act at the end of the financial year or at the time of withdrawal, whichever is earlier.

Distribution throughout the Gaming tournaments:

Online gaming tournaments offer various merchandise to the participants, and the winner gets either cash or a gift prize. The income tax law treats the winnings from gaming tournaments as winnings from online gaming and taxes them at 30% under section 115BB of the Act. The merchandises received by a professional are taxable under “Income from business & profession,” regardless of the market value of the merchandise. For others, the income is taxable under section 56(2) of the Act only if the total market value of the merchandise is more than ₹50,000.


  1. Set-off of Losses: While the Income Tax Act does not explicitly prohibit the set-off of losses within and across online games, some restrictions exist for carrying forward losses to subsequent years. However, set-off of current-year losses should be permissible in computing income from online games.
  2. Claiming Deductions: Section 58(4) of the IT Act disallows deductions for expenditure related to income arising from online gaming. This includes expenses incurred while playing games such as lotteries, card games, and gambling.
  3. Applicability of TDS: Section 194BA mandates TDS deduction by online gaming platforms at a rate of 30% on the net winnings of players. The circular further clarifies that bonuses, incentives, and referral bonuses are also subject to TDS.

Conclusion: Understanding the tax implications of online gaming is crucial for both players and gaming companies to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. As the industry continues to evolve, staying informed about tax laws and seeking professional advice is essential for navigating the complex landscape of online gaming taxation in India.

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