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Start tax planning at the beginning of year
January, 25th 2010

"Invest in a tax-saving mutual fund scheme that has given 100%-plus returns in the last year and save taxes up to Rs 1 lakh or put your money in a bank deposit or government-backed scheme like public provident fund (PPF) or National Savings Certificate (NSC) and preserve your capital'' these are samples of sales pitch offered to investors looking for taxsaving avenues at the fag end of the financial year.

However, investment experts warn that acting on such half-baked' information hurts investors and robs them of the chance to earn optimum returns on their investments. They also ask the last-minute investors'' to start their tax planning at the beginning of the financial year. This, they feel, adds the necessary discipline to their financial life.

"Most people start the process of tax planning only when their employer asks for proof of investment. The process should ideally start at the beginning of the year,'' says Amar Pandit, certified financial planner, My Financial Advisor, a wealth management firm. "The investment choice under section 80C should be made according to their financial goals and their asset allocation plan, not on the basis of advice given on prevailing trends," he adds.

Wealth managers stress on the point that if a person starts the tax-planning process at the beginning of the year, chances are that he or she would stick to the plan and is also most likely to pick the right investment vehicle for the purpose. In the lastminute rush, most people write a cheque without giving much thought to the fact that the recommendation may not suit his/her investment plans.

According to investment experts, salaried people don't have much choice under Section 80C as a host of options like employee's provident fund, housing loan, children's education fee, among others, consume most of the maximum Rs 1 lakh deduction available.

"The first step is to find out how much money has already been contributed under the various heads like insurance , EPF, housing loan, etc. The next step is to decide where one would like to invest the rest of the money. This should be on the basis of a person's financial goals and overall asset allocation plan,'' says Pandit.

Investment experts also warn investors against picking an option based only on the lock-in period or risks associated with the option.

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