By Madhu T | ECONOMICTIMES.COM | Updated: Dec 26, 2016, 02.34 PM IST
The prime minister has spoken and the finance minister has clarified. It seems, long-term capital gains on your equity mutual funds are not likely to be taxed in the budget. Still, there are so many theories floating around: short-term capital gains tax may be hiked; holding period to qualify for long-term capital gains tax may be raised, and so on. Now, the big question: should equity mutual fund investors be worried?
The answer is a big no. Sure, taxes would take away a part of your returns. However, taxes are never the sole reason for making an investment, including equity mutual funds. If there is a change in taxation of your gains from your equity mutual funds, you will have to alter your investment plan to ensure that you meet your various financial goals without any difficulty.
Let us see why equity mutual fund investors should not unduly worry about a likely (or real) change in taxation. First, consider what will happen if the short-term capital gains tax rate is increased? Or the holding period is increased?
Well, it would hardly have an impact on your investments. Surprised? It seems, you have forgotten that you don’t invest in equity mutual funds for a short period.
Short-term capital gains tax of 15 per cent comes into the picture when an investor sells his equity mutual funds before a year. Since individual investors are expected to invest with an investment horizon of at least five years in equity mutual fund schemes, this change will not have any impact on them. Sure, they will take hit if they are forced to sell their investments due to an unforeseen event.
Now, what about the likely reintroduction of long-term capital gains tax? Or likely increase in holding period to qualify for long-term capital gains tax?
If equity mutual funds are sold after a year, the gains are treated as long-term capital gain. At the moment, the long-term capital gains on equity mutual funds are not taxed in India. As said before, if the holding period is raised to two or three years, it will not have an impact on your investment life, as you anyway invest in equity with a minimum holding period of five years.
What if long-term capital gains are taxed? Sure, that would hurt. You will have to part with a large chunk of your returns at the time of selling your investments. This would call for you to revisit your calculations done at the time of fixing various financial goals. Since the tax is likely to take away a part of your corpus, you will have to increase your investments to make up for it.
For example, if you have to part with 10 per cent of your gains as tax at the time of withdrawal, you will have to invest more to create the target you had in mind. Or pray you earn more than your return projections. Kidding, it is always better to err on the side of caution. So, check whether you can make extra allocations.
Similarly, if the holding period is changed, you will have to take that into account while deciding on the investment to meet your financial goal.
Now, should you fret about long-term capital gain taxes and pull out money from equity mutual funds? Well, that is not even an option for you. Remember, you have decided to put money in equity to build a corpus for your various long-term goals because equity has the potential to offer superior returns than other investments over a long period. That hasn’t changed even now. That means you will have to bet on it irrespective of the taxation.
Remember, long-term capital gains on equities were taxed earlier. It was abolished in 2004 and Securities Transaction Tax (STT) was introduced by the government because STT was easier to enforce and boost tax collections.