NPS – Should we invest in NPS when we have mutual funds as an option?

Investors often have to face the problem of plenty. The availability of so many options brings an investor in the state of perplexity. The same is the case when it comes to making investments and choosing the right product for you.The only way to make an informed decision is by knowing the products better and its suitability for you. So in this blog, we are going to discuss two such investment products – NPS and mutual funds.

NPS (National Pension Scheme) is a government-sponsored scheme that was primarily launched in 2004 for providing security to the government employees after retirement but was opened for subscription for the general public in the year 2009.

There are two types of account that can be opened under NPS – Tier I and Tier II. Tier I account is a mandatory account while Tier II account is optional.

Mutual funds, on the other hand, are basically an investment vehicle which allows an investor to invest their savings. And help an investor in earning returns. A pool of fund is created from the investors’ money which is managed by a fund manager who takes a call on where and in what proportion these funds are to be allocated across various asset classes.

So should you opt for NPS over mutual funds? Let’s find it out. Have a look at the following points which might help you in deciding a better product: –

1.) TAX DEDUCTIONS 

Investment in Tier I account of NPS qualifies for deduction up to 1.5 lacs under section 80CCD (1) of the Income Tax Act, 1961. This deduction is within the overall limit of section 80 CCE. Contribution towards Tier I account is also eligible for extra deduction up to 50,000 u/s 80CCD (1B), this deduction is over and above the ceiling of 1.5 lac.

However, in case of mutual funds, there is only one category namely ELSS (Equity Linked Savings Scheme) in which the investment qualifies for deduction under section 80 C up to a limit of 1.5 lacs.

2.) CONTRIBUTION

An investor has to contribute at least ₹1,000 every year towards his/her NPS account in order to keep the account active. While on the other hand there is as such no requirement of minimum investment in case of mutual funds, it all depends on the investor how much amount he/she wants to invest every year. Though in case of mutual funds one has to invest a minimum amount of at least ₹5,00 when investing through SIP (Systematic Investment Plan) and ₹1,000 when investing in lump sum amount. There is no upward limit on the amount of investment that can be made in any of these instruments.

3.) FLEXIBILITY 

Investments made in Tier I account of NPS are not withdrawable till retirement age. However, there are exceptions which allow the investor to withdraw 25% of the invested amount after 3 years of continuity. Investors have an option of premature exit but in this case, 80% of the corpus must be utilized to buy a pension plan.

On the other hand, mutual funds are not as inflexible as NPS. In case of mutual funds, only ELSS category restricts an investor from withdrawing funds before 3 years while there are as such no restrictions in case of rest of the schemes.

You can withdraw your investments anytime; however, withdrawals might be subject to exit loads before a certain time period usually 1 year in most of the schemes.

4.) ELIGIBILITY 

Only individuals between 18-65 years can open an NPS account. So an individual who is above 65 years cannot open an NPS account. He/she has to look for other options. While in case of mutual funds there is no restriction on the maximum entry age. One can invest as long as he/she wants to invest.

5.) TAXABILITY 

At superannuation, the 60% of the accumulated corpus from Tier I account can be withdrawn in lump sum and is tax exempted while the rest 40% corpus must be utilized to purchase an annuity to receive pension thereafter which is taxable when it is received.

On the other hand capital gains from mutual funds are also taxable but at different rates. Short term capital gains from equity mutual funds are taxable at a flat rate of 15%. While on the other hand gains from debt schemes are taxable as per tax slab rate.

Long term capital gains of above ₹ 1 lac earned from equity mutual funds are taxable @10%. While on the other hand gains from debt schemes is taxable @20% after indexation.

6.) CHOICES AND OPTIONS OFFERED by NPS

The options offered by NPS that are broadly categorized into two – auto choice and active choice. An investor who wants to decide asset allocation on his own may choose an active choice, however, allocation inequities under this choice are capped at 75%. Under auto choice, asset allocation changes with the change in the age of the investor automatically.

In the case of mutual funds, investors have numerous options. One can choose to invest in any of the suitable schemes based on their risk appetite, time horizon, and income needs or goals. There are schemes in which investors can even invest for a day or for as long as they want.

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