The budget, 2016 has brought a ray of hope for a better India tomorrow. This years budget has focused on major factors like agriculture, rural development, infrastructure and social security. Agriculture is the backbone of our country and its needs have to be looked after. One of the many good initiatives taken by the Govt. towards rural development is 100% village electrification. Roads and railways are also given much importance to allow the rural areas to have easy access to the urban areas.
There is one issue though that hit the salaried people, the ‘taxation of EPFEPF i.e. Employee Provident Fund, it is a compulsory contribution made by the employee and employer towards this fund. The amount withdrawn is completely tax free, that is before the budget came out. The budget, 2016 proposed that from 1st April, the amount in the EPF account will be taxed in excess of 40%. Due to this, the Govt. was swamped with appeals on social media to withdraw this proposal. So the Government has decided to withdraw this proposal.
EPF is one of the biggest social security schemes in India. This is why the public went heads on to withdraw this proposal. Some of the major reasons why the public wanted the Govt. to withdraw this proposal was because, firstly. the tax free income was taxable, which is very obvious, why the public would be against it. Secondly, you could withdraw the amount only on the completion of 58 years of age, what if someone had saved up funds in an EPF account, to fund a goal other than retirement. Thirdly, People felt it was unfair to charge tax on the principal amount as well, as they might not be able to claim it under section 80C, if they exhausted their options elsewhere. The Govt. had also put a monetary barrier of Rs. 1.5 lakh on the employer’s contribution to the PF account.
Now if you look at it from the Government’s point of view, they wanted to encourage people to buy life long annuities, and to also encourage the employees working in the private sector to go in for pension security instead of withdrawing a lump sum amount. It was said that, the Govt. estimated that only about 70 lakh high earners will be impacted, by this proposal. Most workers would not be covered by the tax as it would apply to those earning over Rs. 15000/- a month. (Sources The Economic Times.)
The Govt. also put in a condition that if the 60% withdrawn was invested in a lifelong annuity, it would be exempted from tax, however the income received from the annuity will be taxed. It was also hinted that from the 60% withdrawal, only the interest would be taxed and that the rules were open to be modified.
Now, the Govt. has withdrawn the proposal, but they still have to do a comprehensive review on this matter. Even if this proposal was put into action, there were many other ways to invest and obtain tax free income. Some of the other options are as follows:
- Public Provident Fund: This is another alternative option to invest in, where everything is exempt from tax. Right from your investment to your interest received to your maturity amount, all tax free.
- Assured income plans: Here you invest for certain number of years and then receive double the amount after the completion of investing it. For example, you take a plan for 30 years, so you invest Rs. 1 lakh for the first 15 years and you will receive 2 lakhs for the remaining 15 years. This amount received is also tax free.
- Equity Funds: These funds provide a higher rate of interest and after one year, they are tax free. They are a better option to invest in.
- Debt funds: These provide a similar rate of interest as an EPF account does. After 3 years, they are taxed at 20%, after taking the indexation benefit into account. Which comes up to a lot less than being taxed at your slab rate.
Don’t be surprised if they tax the EPF account in the future. They might have withdrawn it this time, but it won’t be the case always. As the phrase say’ If one door shuts, another one opens.’ So if in future EPF is taxed, there will be another way to save tax. However, it’s always better to know what your options are and then choose the best one for you. This Government seems to be looking after it’s people well. Change doesn’t happen overnight, it will take time. So there is still hope for India’s future. We’ll just have to wait and watch.
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