One of the best ways to invest your money is investing in mutual funds. However, many of us do not know its tax implications. If we can plan well, we can save tax on mutual fund returns. In this article, I would explain you as to how mutual fund returns are taxed and possible ways to save tax on such returns.
Some quick definitions to know before we move to taxation part
Growth option and Dividend option in mutual funds
Before I move into the actual taxation part, you might be aware that mutual funds come with two options, growth option and Dividend option. Growth mutual funds are those where the returns would automatically get reinvested and you would get such returns or gains when you sell your mutual fund units. Dividend option in mutual funds on the other hand is where the returns are paid to mutual fund unit holders in the form of dividend at regular intervals. This comes like regular income.
Equity mutual funds and Debt mutual funds:
For taxation purposes, mutual funds are categorized into two buckets i.e. Equity mutual funds and debt mutual funds. Equity mutual funds are those which invests 65% in equity related instruments and remaining 35% in debt related securities. It includes, index funds, large cap mutual funds, mid-cap/small cap mutual funds, diversified mutual funds, global mutual funds and balanced mutual funds.
Debt mutual funds on the other hand, are those which invests majorly in debt related instruments. It includes ultra short term debt funds, debt mutual funds, liquid funds, fund of funds etc.
How mutual fund returns are taxed?
We would categorize the mutual fund returns/gains taxation into 3 parts.
1) Dividend option: Any dividend received from mutual funds are tax free. Means if you are investing in mutual funds with dividend option the returns from such dividend income is not taxable.
2) Equity funds with Growth option
– Redemption < 1 year – Short term capital gain: If you have invested in equity funds with growth option and sold / redeemed before one year period, you are liable to pay short term capital gains tax. Currently short term capital gain are 15% on the returns (3% cess additionally to be payable which would come to 15.45%). E.g. Mahesh purchased HDFC Top 200 equity Fund and chosen growth option in Jul-2010 for Rs 1,00,000 and sold in Jun-2011 for Rs 1,10,000. Since the time frame is < 365 days, the returns of Rs 10,000 are taxed @ 15.45% = Rs 1,545
– Redemption > 1 year – Long term capital gains: If you sell or redeem your mutual funds after a 1 year period, it would fall under the long term capital gain and the returns are tax free. E.g. Mahesh purchased HDFC Top 200 mutual funds in Jul-2010 for Rs 1,00,000 and sold in Aug-2011 for Rs 1,10,000 and made a profit of Rs 10,000. Since the time frame is > 1 year, which is a long term capital gain, the returns are tax free.
3) Debt mutual funds with growth option
– Redemption within 1 year – Short term capital gains: If you are selling or redeeming your debt mutual fund before 1 year, it is short term in nature and the profits are fully taxable. Means you need to add such profits / gains to your taxable income and pay income tax based on your income tax slab. E.g. Mahesh purchased SBI Dynamic Bond fund, which is a debt mutual fund with growth option in Jul-2010 for Rs 1,00,000 and sold in Jun-2011 for Rs 1,10,000. Since the time frame is < 1 year, the returns / gains of Rs 10,000 are added to an income tax slab of Sreenivas and necessary income tax has to be paid.
– Redemption > 1 year – Long term capital gains: If you sell your debt mutual funds after 1 year, it is termed as long term capital gain. In such case, the tax would be paid on lowest of the below two computations
E.g. Indian government provides the Inflation indexation data every year. For year 2010-11: 711 and 2011-12: 782 and 2012-13: 852. E.g. Mahesh purchased SBI Dynbamic Bond debt mutual fund with growth option on Jul-2010 for Rs 1,00,000 and sold in Sep-2011 for Rs 120,000.
i) Computation based on 10% tax without indexation benefit
ii) Computation based on 20% tax after indexation benefit:
iii) Lowest of i) and ii) above two computations is Rs 2,000, hence your tax liability would be only Rs 2,000.
How to save income tax on mutual fund returns?
There are several ways where you can plan and save income tax on returns or gains from mutual funds.
1) Invest in Equity mutual funds if you are risk taker: Though equity mutual funds are risky, invest in top rated equity mutual funds for the long term. One side you would get capital appreciation and other side you would get tax free benefit.
2) Invest in debt funds if you have a low risk appetite: If you are a low risk taker, invest in debt mutual funds and take the advantage of indexation. Avoid investing for < 1 year in debt mutual funds with growth option.
3) Take the advantage of double indexation benefit in debt fund returns: Double indexation is where you invest in a financial year, but sell them in 3rd financial year and taking the benefit of double indexation. Continuing in the above example, if Mahesh would have sold his debt funds in Apr-2012 for Rs 130,000, the computation would be as follows:
4) Invest in dividend options for regular income: If you are a senior citizen or looking for regular income, opting for dividend option in mutual fund would help you to get a regular income. However, you should note that such income is not fixed. You may even get lower returns than bank fixed deposit rates in some cases.
Understanding how mutual fund returns are taxed would help you to plan well and reduce your taxes on mutual fund returns or gains.
Suresh KP, founder of Myinvestmentideas.com has posted this guest article. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for any clarifications