In the intricate landscape of international finance, tax treaties stand as the bedrock of cross-border investment relations. These agreements delineate the treatment of incomes arising in one country but accruing to residents of another. However, behind their seemingly technical design lies a reflection of power dynamics, often shaping and reshaping global financial flows. For developing nations like India, negotiating tax treaties holds strategic importance. In the quest for higher investments, they may concede greater taxing rights, hoping to attract more capital.

What are DTAAs?

DTAA stands for Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements. These agreements are signed between countries to mitigate the issue of double taxation, where the same income is taxed in two different jurisdictions. In essence, DTAA ensures that individuals or entities earning income in one country while being residents of another country are not subjected to taxation on the same income twice. Every country has its own tax rules regarding foreign income and taxation of non-residents. DTAA operates based on two principles: the source rule – Income is taxed in the country where it originates, regardless of the taxpayer’s residency status, and the resident rule – Income is taxed in the country where the taxpayer resides, regardless of where the income originates. In India, the residence rule is followed. This means that if you’re a resident of India, your international income is taxed in India. However, if you’re a non-resident Indian (NRI), Indian income may be taxed both in India and your country of residence. DTAA provisions allow NRIs to claim benefits to avoid double taxation. DTAA provisions often exempt certain types of income from double taxation. In the Indian context, NRIs may not have to pay double tax on income earned in India in various categories such as salary, payment for services, interest on fixed deposits, income from house property, interest earned on savings bank accounts, and capital gains from assets in India. These agreements facilitate international trade, investment, and movement of labour by providing clarity on tax obligations, thereby promoting economic cooperation between countries.

India-Mauritius Trade Relations

India and Mauritius boast a vibrant commercial relationship, with India emerging as Mauritius’s primary trading partner. This partnership is underscored by a healthy exchange of goods. In the 2022-2023 fiscal year, India exported a substantial USD 462.69 million worth of goods to Mauritius, exceeding Mauritian exports to India, which stood at USD 91.50 million. Key Indian exports fueling this trade corridor include essential products like pharmaceuticals, cereals, and machinery, while Mauritius contributes medical devices, scrap metal, and the prized spice, vanilla, to the Indian market. This dynamic highlights India’s role as a supplier of crucial commodities and Mauritius’s niche contribution to specific Indian sectors. This robust commercial relationship offers significant advantages to both India and Mauritius. India gains access to a reliable export market and a substantial source of foreign investment, fueling its economic growth. Mauritius benefits from a steady supply of essential goods and a lucrative market for its specialized exports. The potential for even stronger economic ties between India and Mauritius remains immense. Exploring avenues for deeper integration, such as potential free trade agreements or enhanced collaboration in specific sectors like pharmaceuticals or renewable energy, could further solidify this partnership.

What is the India-Mauritius Tax Treaty?

The India-Mauritius Tax Treaty is a long-standing fixture in bilateral relations to prevent double taxation of income and also evasion of taxes between the two countries. Originally crafted in 1982, the treaty aimed to prevent double taxation and foster bilateral trade and investment by offering tax certainty to investors. Yet, over time, loopholes emerged, raising concerns about tax evasion and the misuse of the treaty for round-tripping funds. This prompted a series of amendments, notably in 2016, when India and Mauritius revised the agreement to allow India to tax capital gains on shares sold through Mauritius. However, despite these revisions, the treaty lacked a robust anti-abuse clause. Enter the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) programme, an initiative spearheaded by the OECD to combat tax avoidance. Under BEPS, a set of best practices, including the Multilateral Instrument (MLI), was developed to reform international tax laws swiftly. Significantly, India, along with numerous other nations, signed onto the MLI, signalling a commitment to plug tax loopholes. The recent amendments to the India-Mauritius Tax Treaty underscore India’s evolving stance on tax treaty abuse. The inclusion of the Principal Purpose Test (PPT) is a pivotal move, denying treaty benefits where tax avoidance is the primary intent. Moreover, amendments to the treaty’s preamble emphasize the intent to eliminate double taxation and prevent tax evasion, shifting the focus from mutual trade promotion to tax compliance. These changes align with global efforts against treaty abuse, particularly under the BEPS framework. They also reflect India’s readiness to adopt minimum tax regimes for multinational enterprises, as proposed under Pillar Two of the OECD’s BEPS initiative. By integrating PPT into the treaty and aligning with global tax norms, India aims to curb tax avoidance and bolster tax revenues.

The Mauritius Route

The Mauritius route refers to a strategy used by foreign investors to channel their investments into India via Mauritius. This route gained popularity due to the favourable tax environment established by a Double Taxation Avoidance Convention (DTAC) between India and Mauritius. Beyond trade, Mauritius has emerged as a powerhouse for foreign direct investment (FDI) into India. Notably, a staggering USD 161 billion in FDI has flowed from Mauritius to India over the past two decades, constituting a significant 26% of India’s total FDI inflows. This phenomenon can be attributed, in part, to the favourable Double Taxation Avoidance Convention (DTAC) signed by both countries. The DTAC eliminates double taxation for businesses operating in both nations, creating a more attractive investment environment for Mauritian companies looking to expand into the Indian market.

The DTAC offered significant tax benefits. Under its terms, capital gains earned from Indian investments by a Mauritian resident company were not taxed in either India or Mauritius (if the Mauritian company met certain criteria). This advantage attracted foreign investors to set up companies in Mauritius, essentially creating a legal intermediary. The Mauritius route facilitated significant foreign direct investment (FDI) into India, boosting its economic growth. However, it also raised concerns about potential tax avoidance. Regulatory changes in both countries aimed to address these concerns. In recent years, the Mauritius route has become less attractive. Amendments to the India-Mauritius DTAC introduced minimum substance requirements for Mauritian companies and limited the capital gains tax benefit. Additionally, India’s implementation of General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR) further tightened regulations. While the Mauritius route’s dominance has waned, it played a significant role in India’s economic development. As India seeks to attract foreign investment, it continues to focus on creating a more transparent and investor-friendly environment.

The New Amendments

India has introduced a new protocol amending its Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with Mauritius. This update aims to prevent tax evasion and avoidance practices that exploit loopholes in the treaty. A new provision, Article 27B, introduces the PPT. This allows Indian tax authorities to deny treaty benefits, such as lower withholding taxes, if the main reason for a transaction or business structure is to obtain these benefits. This discourages the use of the treaty for purely tax-motivated purposes and ensures benefits go to genuine investors with real economic activity in Mauritius.

The amendments also emphasize that Mauritian companies claiming treaty benefits must have a legitimate business presence and activities in Mauritius. This discourages the use of “shell companies” set up solely to take advantage of the treaty’s tax breaks. Further, the treaty’s preamble has been revised to reflect a focus on eliminating double taxation, not creating opportunities for reduced or no taxation through tax evasion or avoidance. This includes “treaty shopping” arrangements where benefits are channelled to residents of other countries through Mauritius. Indian authorities will now be able to look beyond just a residency certificate when evaluating a company’s entitlement to treaty benefits. They can assess the overall purpose of a transaction or business structure.

These amendments demonstrate India’s commitment to aligning with international efforts against tax abuse. This includes the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project by the OECD, which aims to prevent multinational companies from shifting profits to low-tax jurisdictions. The exact date the amendments take effect is still pending, dependent on internal notification processes in both countries. While India hasn’t announced changes related to the BEPS Pillar Two minimum tax yet, it’s expected to be addressed in the upcoming July 2024 budget.


The implications of these amendments are profound. They necessitate a reevaluation of cross-border investment structures, especially those routed through Mauritius. With the PPT applicable to all transactions post-notification of the treaty, investors face heightened scrutiny and potential tax liabilities. However, concerns linger regarding the impact on existing investments and the potential for increased litigation. Clarifications from tax authorities will be crucial to navigating these changes effectively. Nonetheless, the amended treaty represents a significant step towards ensuring that investment decisions are driven by economic fundamentals rather than tax considerations alone. The evolution of the India-Mauritius tax treaty exemplifies the shifting dynamics of cross-border investment and international tax law. As nations strive to align with global standards and combat tax evasion, such amendments serve as a testament to the changing tide of international finance, where transparency and compliance take precedence.


  1. Indian Express – What India-Mauritius treaty amendments mean for foreign investors
  2. Business Standard – Should FPIs be worried about latest change to the India-Mauritius tax treaty
  3. India Briefing – India-Mauritius DTAA Amendment Closes Tax Avoidance Loophole
  4. Image by storyset on Freepik