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Mandatory PAN may hurt micro SIPs most
June, 29th 2007
The Securities and Exchange Board of Indias (Sebi) decision to make PAN mandatory for mutual fund investments is likely to hurt micro systematic investment plans (SIP) of mutual funds the most.

Fund houses were recently issued a circular by Sebi, stating that by December 31, new MF investors would either have to produce a PAN card or show evidence indicating they have applied for one. Earlier the PAN deadline for mutual fund investments was July 2, which has now been extended to December 31.

Reliance Mutual and ICICI Prudential recently launched their micro SIP plans aimed at attracting people from lower socio-economic strata where investors can put money in equity schemes in denominations of Rs 100 and Rs 50.
A host of fund houses are believed to be in the process of launching such schemes, where investors can invest small sums in mutual fund schemes at regular intervals.

Mutual fund officials say micro SIP investors are mostly those who fall below the poverty line and usually do not possess PAN cards or any other financial documentation.

Take for instance, ICICI Prudentials micro systematic investment plan which provides an opportunity to the rural poor to periodically invest small amounts and build a corpus of savings over the long-term.

There will be a definite slowdown as most of the potential investors investing in these schemes are not tax payers as their incomes are below taxable limit, a Reliance AMC spokesperson said. And since their incomes are non-taxable, they may not have PAN cards. Going through the new process will be a deterrent in their minds, he added. Industry sources said the fund house may get investors to fill PAN application forms along with the other routine forms.

But question remains as to whether people in villages would have access to offices issuing PAN cards. Government offices issuing PAN cards are not yet present in all parts of the country. Besides PAN card application procedures are largely electronic, which could limit the access of village folk to PAN cards, considering the low internet penetration.

The circular issued on Monday, stated that micro pension schemes will be exempt from producing PAN cards. UTI MF had launched one such scheme, where rural investors could invest in its retirement benefit pension fund. What this meant is that micro SIP schemes launched by ICICI Prudential and Reliance Mutual would still have to face the PAN card rule.
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