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NPS has a tax edge, but watch out for annuities
July, 13th 2010

The New Pension Scheme (NPS) is likely to get a makeover if the revised Direct Tax Code is implemented. However, the government is doing its bit to lure investors to take a close look at the NPS. Recently, the government announced the Swavalamban scheme through which it would add Rs 1,000 co-contribution every year for the next three years for everyone who joins the New Pension Scheme in this financial year. Any NPS subscriber who invests Rs 1,000-12,000 per annum between April 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011, will get Rs 3,000 free from the government.

The likely DTC impact

The revised DTC, if implemented without any changes, will keep the NPS out of the tax net. This new change will make the NPS an attractive investment opportunity. The government has proposed EEE (exempt-exempt-exempt) method of taxation for NPS, which implies the NPS will be exempt from taxes at all the three stages of deposit, appreciation and withdrawal. Earlier, the NPS proceeds were taxable at maturity.

Advantages

One of the major advantages is also the lowest fund management charge, which is Rs 99 per lakh (0.0009%) compared to charges of a pension plan offered by an insurance company, which is around 0.75-1.75% per year. This low-cost structure makes it more attractive than most annuity/pension plans offered by insurance companies, financial advisors say. The custodian charges are in the range of 0.0075% to 0.05%. Despite all charges, the cost of investment is cheaper than charges of mutual find and ULIPs.

How does it work?

Investors have an option to choose their investment mix among three categories. The first one (E) refers to high investment exposure in equity, which targets investors with a high risk appetite. Equity investment, however, is capped at 50%, which mainly comprises index funds. The second option (C) is high exposure in fixed income instruments, which targets investors of a moderate risk profile. These instruments include liquid funds, corporate debt instruments, fixed deposits and infrastructure bonds. The last option is pure fixed investment products (G) which offer low returns. Ideally, you should start investing for your retirement in your early thirties. If you have the advantage of longer investment horizon (20 years plus), equity is the best option to start with. But in the case of the NPS, you have to buy a life annuity offered by life insurance companies. The NPS requires the investor to use the retirement corpus to buy annuities to avoid taxation. As per the existing stipulations, you have to invest 40% of the corpus in annuities.

Other alternatives

Annuity plans which dont return the purchase price offer 8-9% and the ones that return the purchase price offer 50% a year are other options. Any bank deposits over five years, which offered 10% a couple years ago, offer around 8-8.5% today because of a decline in interest rates. There are other assured monthly income options like the Senior Citizens Savings Scheme (SCSS) which offer 9%, PPF at 15% and the post office monthly income scheme at 8%.

 
 
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