ATM :: Invest in NPS but only up to the exclusive tax deduction limit available


HARSH ROONGTA | Tue, 13 Sep 2016-06:35am | dna
Despite all this, the detractors of NPS are many and the reasons are fairly significant.

ATM

On paper, National Pension System(NPS) has everything going for it. It is an extremely low-cost retirement mutual fund with fund management fees at very low levels. It also allows equity participation up to a maximum of 50% and requires the balance money to be invested in government and debt securities. This provides a healthy mix of high return equity with safe debt instruments. NPS also effectively locks in the investors’ money till they reach the age of retirement. This ensures that the investor does not take any short decision for this investment. It also allows the fund manager to invest with a longer-term horizon in mind, thus allowing better returns. The star advantage, of course, is the exclusive tax deduction of Rs 50,000 for investing in NPS which is over and above the Rs 1.50 lakh limit available under section 80C for other investments and expenses. For salaried employees, the employer can contribute up to 10% of the basic pay into the NPS without payment of tax. What should clinch the argument is the fact that the average return over the past 5 years is a creditable 12% per annum even if you had chosen in the worst-performing equity and debt funds available in the NPS.

Despite all this, the detractors of NPS are many and the reasons are fairly significant. First is the requirement for compulsory investment in buying an immediate pension plan from a life insurance company with at least 40% of the accumulated fund. The immediate pension plans available from life insurance companies are very limited and offer very poor returns around 7% p.a., which is also taxable. Second is the fact that out of the balance 60% (left after investing in compulsory pension plan) only 40% of the accumulated fund can be withdrawn tax free. The balance 20%, if withdrawn, will be taxable, thus reducing the return. Questions have also been raised about the very low fees that fund managers get which may affect the performance of the fund in the long run.

The argument for or against NPS thus rallies around whether the exclusive tax benefit provided initially outweighs the disadvantages of NPS at maturity. Proponents of NPS (and I am one of them) argue that the fears of taxation on the pension income are overstated as the income is spread over many years and you are likely to have low income in your retirement years leading to low or nil taxation rates. Also, the immediate annuity market cannot remain underdeveloped forever and should start offering competitive returns by the time you retire in a decade or more. Also, given the government’s commitment to promoting the NPS, the tax disadvantages of NPS are likely to reduce or disappear over time. The biggest advantage for unsophisticated investors is that the initial tax benefit will ensure that they diligently invest year after year which they may not otherwise do in a regular investment product.

Of course, I think both sides agree that investing in NPS over and above the exclusive tax benefit available for it makes no sense whatsoever currently. So invest in NPS, but only to the extent of the exclusive tax benefit available.

The writer is a chartered accountant and Sebi-registered investment adviser

Source : https://goo.gl/hd8xbA

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