National Pension Scheme is not as popular as the government would like it to be. In order to make it on par with other investment options, changes have been made constantly and the latest was announced last week. The biggest and most talked about change is that now NPS enjoys fully EEE status where it was earlier partly EEE and partly EET.
EEE (exempt, exempt, exempt) essentially means there are tax exemptions (up to specified limits) available while you invest, the capital appreciation when you stay invested is exempt from tax and there is not tax exemption when you withdraw.
At this point, a quick recap on how withdrawals from NPS are treated currently will help. It is compulsory to invest 40% of your accumulated corpus in an annuity scheme which gives you pension. The remaining 60% can be withdrawn after you attain 60 years of age. Currently out of the 60%, 40% can be withdrawn tax-free while the remaining 20% is taxable.
Going forward, once the changes announced are implemented, the entire lumpsum withdrawal of 60% will be exempt from tax. The pertinent point to note is that it is still compulsory to buy an annuity with 40% of the corpus and the pension received will be taxable. Therefore, EEE is only for the lumpsum withdrawals. While this is a welcome improvement, it is too minor to change one’s decision on whether to use NPS as a significant investment vehicle.
Taxation is evolving in recent years, as is evident with the long-term capital gains measure introduced for equity investments. I strongly believe that while it is an important factor, it cannot be the only factor in deciding on the vehicle of investment.
If you recall in my previous article I had said that I would not invest in NPS for several reasons, many of which are still applicable, hence my stand in principle remains the same. Let me recap the reasons why I would not invest in NPS, even in its improved avatar.
- The corpus is locked in until one turns 60. I have come across numerous clients who want to retire as early as their late 40s. With NPS, your funds will not be at your disposal if you choose to retire early, the only option being to withdraw 20% of your corpus and investing 80% in annuity.
- The annuity from NPS currently does not give good returns. It is possible to have an annuity with better returns through investments in mutual funds and if lack of knowledge is a constraint, one can engage a financial planner to help with the same. Compulsorily locking funds with the pension provider alongwith poor returns is a stiff price to pay for investing in NPS.
- However, there is a possibility that one could still consider investing to the extent required for extra tax savings of upto Rs 50000 per year, given this change.
Lastly, if you are a central government employee, you can cheer some of the other changes like increased contribution by employer (Govt.), etc. While you stay invested, choose your asset allocation wisely and keep track of it regularly to make the best of the situation.