The synthesis and characterization of seven new Ir-III complexes containing o-phenoxide or o-naphthoxide chelated N-heterocyclic carbene ligands is reported herein. The crystal structures of six of the complexes have been determined. These complexes efficiently catalyze the transfer hydrogenative reductive amination (RA) of carbonyls and amines in water. Amongst the complexes tested, the introduction of o-naphthoxide on a nitrogen atom of imidazole based NHC ligand greatly increased the catalytic activity. The catalytic system has a broad substrate scope, which allows the synthesis of a variety of amines in excellent yields and with high turnover numbers up to 490 (for ketones) and 14800 (for aldehydes). The mechanism of aqueous RA reaction with an o-aryloxide chelated NHC-Ir-III catalyst has been investigated by NMR spectroscopy and kinetic measurements. These studies suggest that the transfer hydrogenation (TH) is turnover-limited by the hydride formation step. As a result of the H-1 NMR studies, the higher catalytic activity of o-naphthoxide chelated catalyst (3g) over o-phenoxide chelated one (3b) can be attributed partly due to the faster formation of an iridium hydride, the key intermediate in the RA reactions.