Thursday, March 26, 2020

COVID-19 Lockdown: 4 tax-saving options easily available online

If you have internet banking access, things are easier even if you have never really invested online

In a relief to individual tax payers, the finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced yesterday that the deadline for investing in tax-saving instruments has been pushed back to June 30 2020. The usual deadline is March 31. But with the entire country in lockdown mode, it has been difficult to make last-minute tax investments. The extension of the deadline comes as a relief, especially to those still relying on physical modes of investments. But if you have internet banking access, things are easier even if you have never really invested online so far.
“This concession is being made for those who have not yet made the requisite tax savings investments. This change does not impact tax payers who have already made their tax savings investments,” says Sonu Iyer, tax partner and people advisory services leader, EY India. If you invest during, say, April, you can claim deduction for the financial year 2019-20. Of course, if you have already exhausted options and want make fresh investments in April, it can be used for the financial year 2020-21. You need to specify the relevant financial year while filing your returns.
Let’s look at the investments you can make by sitting at home, online. The basic requirement is to have internet banking.
Tax-saving mutual funds
Equity-linked saving schemes (ELSS) give you income-tax deduction benefits under section 80C, up to a maximum investment of Rs 1.5 lakh. A mutual fund is perhaps the best tax-saving investment if you wish to do it completely online. Remember though, that this is an equity investment and comes with a certain degree of risk. Equity markets have been volatile so far in 2020. But, Amol Joshi, founder, PlanRupee Investment Services sees the fall as an advantage, especially given the three-year lock-in that an ELSS comes with. “Equities are available at a huge 40 percent discount. If you invest now in an ELSS, you’ll be invested in it for atleast three years. Equities will rebound again someday when things improve and get back to normal,” he says. That is why, Amol adds, you should invest in it rightaway, if it fits your risk profile that is, and not wait till the end of March or even June.
“If you already have an ELSS in your portfolio and you are satisfied with the performance, then invest in the same scheme. Most of the ELSS schemes are multi-cap in nature; these invest in stocks across market capitalisation. There can be portfolio duplication if you hold multiple tax saving mutual funds,” says Valmiki Khatri, partner, Krushna Finserv, LLP, a distribution firm.
Ask your financial advisor for help if you wish to go online. If you don’t have one, most mutual funds help you to buy units online; all you have to do is state your folio number, typically, your mobile number with a few other basic details such as your date of birth and you can buy units. If you have do not have internet banking, your only hope here is to use a Unified Payment Interface (UPI) app such as Google Pay or your own banks’ platform (if your bank allows UPI transaction). But only a few mutual funds allow you to use UPI.
Life and health insurance
If you wish to buy a pure insurance cover, go for a term plan that qualifies for a tax deduction under Section 80C. The premium you pay is allowed as deduction, subject to the overall limit of Rs 1.5 lakh.
Your annual premium for life insurance policies should not exceed 10 per cent of the sum assured. If it does, then the tax benefit will be restricted to 10 per cent of the sum assured – premium amount that exceeds this limit will not be eligible for the deduction. More importantly, if the annual premium exceeds 10 per cent of the sum assured, the maturity proceeds will not be tax-free under section 10(10D).
You should also look to buy an independent health cover – for yourself and your family, including parents - even if you are covered under your employer’s group policy. This premium can be claimed as a deduction under section 80D.
You can buy as well as renew policies online. The application process and acceptance are quicker if you do not have a pre-existing illness. But if you do have a pre-existing disorder such as hypertension, many insurance companies as well online distribution portals such as Policybazaar offer tele-underwriting service. Once you make an online application, a doctor calls you within 24 hours to know more details about your condition, medication and so on. “At present, there could be some delay because of lack of staff and the on-going curfew, but we don’t expect too many delays,” says Vaidyanathan Ramani, Head of Product & Innovation, Policybazaar. Make sure your Know-Your-Customer (KYC) process is complete if you wish to buy a term policy. You do not need KYC to buy health insurance though. Insurance companies offer e-KYC as well. That is, you can do your KYC online, if you haven’t done it already.
National Pension System (NPS)
You have a choice of eight pension fund managers and three asset classes (equities, corporate bonds and government securities). Also, there are two investment options – an active choice (you get to select your asset allocation on your own) and auto choice.
You can open an NPS account online, via the eNPS portal of the National Securities Depositories Ltd (NSDL; one of the two depositories in India). You can also consider various online distributors such as Computer Age Management Services (CAMS), Fundsindia and other such portals and even banks.
To be able to invest online in NPS – even if it’s for the first time – you need to have enabled your internet banking. NPS can also be opened at several Point-of-Presence outlets (such as banks and post offices) by filling and submitting the Permanent Retirement Account form. During this lockdown though, stick to the online mode as banks may not be able to help you at the moment.
You need the Permanent Retirement Account (PRAN) that is allotted to you, every time you invest. You get a tax deduction of Rs 1.5 lakh for investments in the NPS under section 80C and a further Rs 50,000 under Section 80CCD(1B).
Five-year bank FDs
Bank fixed deposits come with a high degree of safety, but low interest rates. Typically, a bulk of your Section 80C investment limit (Rs 1.5 lakh) could get consumed by employee provident fund contribution and the remaining by the principal component of your home loan, if any. But if you still have some space left in the Section 80C basket and don’t have the stomach for equity risk, then the five-year tax saving bank fixed deposit is a pretty good option. Another option is the public provident fund that allows online investments through internet banking. But the PPF comes with a 15-year tenure and has partial liquidity only after the seventh year, but with conditions.
How do go fully online?
If you haven’t yet gone online, it’s time you switch to online buying and selling, sooner or later. Most of us already have a mobile phone and an email account; so half of our job is already done. Internet banking is a good weapon to have as a back-up. Even mutual fund distributors and financial advisors have shifted to online buying and selling of units. They register you on a mutual fund portal on which they transact. When you wish to buy a mutual fund, they initiate a transaction online and you get a link in your email. Click on this link and transfer money from your bank account using your internet banking and the transaction is complete. It’s simple and convenient, more so in times such as these.

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