ATM :: Choose the right tax-saving option


By Neha Pandey Deoras | Jan 12, 2015, 06.40AM IST |Times of India
ET Wealth graded the eight most common tax-saving investments on the basis of returns, safety, liquidity, flexibility, taxability of income and cost of investment. Here’s a look at these eight instruments.
ATM
The hike in the deduction limit under Section 80C means that a taxpayer can reduce his tax by up to Rs 15,000. But the higher limit may not be of much use if you don’t know which tax-saving option suits you best. ET Wealth graded the eight most common tax-saving investments on the basis of returns, safety, liquidity, flexibility, taxability of income and cost of investment. Here’s a look at these eight instruments.

ELSS FUNDS

Rating: 5

There are compelling reasons why ELSS funds should be part of the equity allocation in a taxpayer’s investment portfolio in 2015. Returns in past three years  27.34%. They may be low on safety but they score full points on all other parameters. The returns are high, the income is tax free, the investor is free to alter the time and amount of investment, the lock-in of 3 years is the shortest among all tax saving investments and the cost is only 2-2.5% a year. The liquidity is even higher if you opt for the dividend option and the cost is even lower if you go for the direct plans of these funds.

Smart tip: Invest in the dividend option which acts as a profit-booking mechanism and also gives you liquidity. Dividends are tax-free.

ULIPS

Rating: 4

For a lot of people, Ulip is still a four letter word. However, investors need to wake up to the new reality.

An ordinary Ulip is still a costly proposition for the buyer. But the online avatar of these marketlinked insurance plans is a low-cost option far removed from what was missold to investors a few years ago. The Click2Invest plan from HDFC Life, for instance, charges only 1.35% a year for fund management. Ulips can be used as a rebalancing tool by the savvy investor. He can switch from equity to debt and vice versa, without any tax implication. Buy a Ulip only if you can pay the premiums for the full term. Also, take a plan for at least 15 years. A short-term plan may not be able to recover the high charges levied in the initial years.

Smart tip: Don’t invest in the equity fund at one go.

Invest in a liquid fund and then shift small amounts to equity fund.

PPF

Rating: 4

Budget 2014 also hiked the annual investment limit in the PPF. Returns 8.7%. Risk averse investors can now sock away more in the ultra-safe for 2014-15 scheme. The PPF scores high on safety, taxability and costs, but returns are not so attractive and liquidity is not very high. The scheme will give 8.7% this year but don’t count on this in the following years. The interest rate on small savings schemes such as the PPF is linked to the government bond yield and is likely to come down in the coming years.

Smart tip: Open a PPF account in a bank that allows online access. It will reduce the effort.

SR CITIZENS’ SAVING SCHEME

Rating: 3

The Senior Citizens’ Saving Scheme (SCSS) is an ideal tax saving option for senior citizens above 60. Returns 9.2%. The money is safe and for 2014-15 returns and liquidity are reasonably good. However, the interest income received from the scheme is fully taxable.The interest rate is linked to the government bond yield. It is 1 percentage point higher than the 5-year government bond yield. Unlike in case of the PPF, the interest rate will remain unchanged till the investment matures.

Smart tip: Stagger your investments in the Senior Citizens’ Saving Scheme across 2-3 financial years to avail of the tax benefits.

NPS

Rating: 3

The New Pension Scheme (NPS) is yet to become a popular choice because of the complex procedures involved in opening an account. Returns 8-11% in past five years. But investors who managed to cross that chasm have found it rewarding. NPS funds have not done badly in the past five years. The returns from the E class funds are in line with those of the Nifty, while corporate bond funds and gilt funds have given close to double-digit returns. But financial planners believe that the 50% cap on equity investments is too conservative. The other sore points is the lack of liquidity and taxability of the income. The annuity income will also be fully taxable.

Smart tip: Start a Tier II account to benefit from the low-cost structure of the NPS.

BANK FDS, NSCS

Rating: 2

Bank FDs and NSCs score high on safety, flexibility and costs but the tax treatment of income drags down the overall score. Returns 8.5-9.1% for 2015. The interest rates are a tad higher than what the PPF offers but the income is fully taxable at the slab rate applicable to the individual. They suit taxpayers in the 10% bracket (taxable income of less than `5 lakh a year). The big advantage is that these are widely available. Just walk into any bank branch and invest in its tax saving fixed deposit.

Smart tip: Build a ladder by investing every year.After the fourth year, just reinvest the maturity amounts in fresh deposits.

PENSION PLANS

Rating: 1

Pension plans from insurance companies remain costly investments that are best avoided. Returns in past three years 8-18%. Instead, it may be a better idea to go for retirement funds from mutual funds. They give the same tax benefits but don’t force the investor to annuitise the corpus on maturity. He is also free to remain invested beyond the age of 60. Till now, all the pension plans were debt-oriented balanced schemes.Last week, Reliance Mutual Fund launched its Reliance Retirement Fund, an equity-oriented fund.However, ELSS schemes and Ulips can be used for the same purpose.

Smart tip: Wait for the launch of retirement funds and assess their performance before investing.

INSURANCE PLANS

Rating: 1

Traditional insurance plans are the worst way to save tax. Returns 5.5-6%. They require a multi-year commitment and give very poor returns. The insurance for 20 year regulator has introduced some plans customer-friendly changes but these plans still don’t qualify as good investments. The only good thing is that the income is tax free. But then, so is the income from the PPF and tax free bonds. Another positive feature is that you can easily get a loan against such policies, which gives some liquidity to the policyholder.

Smart tip: If you have a high-cost insurance plan, turn it into a paid-up policy to ease the premium burden.

Source : http://goo.gl/lAQFGL

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