Public Provident Fund or as it is popularly called PPF is one of the best debt investment instrument available in India. It suits every kind of investor for one’s debt portfolio. The Tax free return backed by government guarantee makes it more attractive for investors. And above all the investment in PPF is eligible for tax saving u/s 80C. All these features have made PPF a darling investment option. Through this article I will discuss with you the basic features of this product, latest changes announced and why or why not one should consider investing in this.
Basic Features of PPF (Public Provident fund)
1. Tenure: It is a 15 years product with 16 years lock in. The first year of investment is not counted for 15 years maturity. If you have opened the PPF a/c on 15 July’2000, then 15 years tenure will start from the end of FY 2000-2001 i.e. 31st march 2001. The maturity date in this case would be 31st march 2016.
2. Deposit Limits : Minimum investment per financial year in PPF is Rs 500/- and w.e.f 1.12.2011 the maximum limit has been raised to Rs 1 lakh which was earlier Rs 70,000/- The deposit can be in one go or in number of flexible instalments not exceeding 12 per financial year.
Please note that PPF (Public provident fund) a/c can be opened with initial deposit of Rs 100/- only.
3. Interest rates: The interest earned in PPF remains fixed for one year and is no longer guaranteed forever. It is actually benchmarked to the 10-year government bond yield and will be 0.25% higher than the average government bond yield. This rate will be declared every year in March-April. The rate announced for FY 2012-2013 is 8.8%.
The Interest is computed for a calendar month on the basis of the lowest balance in an account between the close of the 5th day and the end of the month and the Interest is credited to the account of the account holder at the end of the year. Thus it is advisable to deposit money in this before 5th of any month.
4. Account Holders :
a) Account can be opened in the name of Individual (salaried or self-employed). NO HUF or association of person is allowed to open PPF a/c.
b) Account can also be opened in the name of minor through guardian who can be father or mother or a person appointed by court (if guardian is not there). Thus Grandfather or grandmother are not allowed to open a/c in the name of Grand children
Only one account is permissible to one individual. Thus if father has opened an account in the name of child, mother cannot open the PPF a/c in the name of same child.
c) No Joint account can be opened.
d) Non Resident Indian (NRI) cannot open a new Public provident fund account in India. Prior to 2003, NRIs were not even allowed to make contributions into existing PPF accounts, that is, accounts opened before they became NRIs. However, in 2003, a notification (MOF (DEA) No GSR 585 (E) dated 25.7.2003) was issued permitting NRIs to continue investing in existing PPF accounts till maturity
5. Premature withdrawal: Many people avoid this investment just because of the lock in period of 15 years. They are not aware of the premature withdrawal facility available in this. IN PPF accounts you are allowed to make partial withdrawals in times of financial crises. You are allowed to withdraw seventh year onwards and that too once a year. Such withdrawal figure must not exceed 50% of the balance at the end of the fourth year, or 50% of the balance at the end of the immediate preceding year, whichever is less.
Let’s suppose your account was opened on 8th August 1993 i.e. in FY 1993-94.
First withdrawal date: Add 6 to the financial year end => 1994 + 6 = 2000. It shows that seventh financial year would be 1999-2000.
Amount of first withdrawal: The 4th preceding year will be 2000 – 4 = 1996 (FY 95-96) and preceding year 2000 – 1 = 1999 (FY 98-99). Amount withdraw able in the 7th year, FY 1999-2000 is 50% of the balance to the credit as on March 31, 1996 or March 31, 1999, whichever is lower.
6. Loan on PPF :
Loans could be taken from the third year onwards till the sixth year. Let’s suppose you opened your PPF account in December 2011 (in the FY 2011-12), you can avail a loan only in FY 2013-2014 (2012+2 = 2014) till FY 2016-2017 (2012+5=2017).
You can avail a loan amount of up to a maximum of 25% of the balance in your account at the end of the second year immediately preceding the year in which the loan is applied for.
If you apply for a loan in November 2013 (FY 2013-2014), you would get 25% of the amount that existed at the end of March 2012 (2014-2 = 2012).
Rate of interest charged for this loan would be 2% higher than the PPF rate. Previously this was 1% only.
7. Discontinued accounts:
You need to deposit minimum of Rs 500/- per Financial Year, failing which the account will be termed as discontinued account. Interest would however continue to accrue. You could regularize the account again by paying the penalty fee of Rs 50/- for each year of default along with subscription arrears of Rs 500/- per Financial Year.
8. Continue after maturity: After 15 years of continuation i.e. on maturity, PPF accountholder has 2 options, either to take out the maturity amount and close the account or to further extend it for block of 5 years for any number of periods with or without further subscriptions.
If extended without contribution, any amount can be withdrawn subject to one withdrawal per year.
If extended with contribution, withdrawal up to 60 per cent of the balance at the beginning of each extended period (block of five years) is permitted
9. Tax benefits: PPF offers multiple tax benefit. It offers Tax saving on deposit u/s 80C up to maximum limit of Rs 1 lakh; also the interest earned in PPF enjoys tax free status.
Other Important Features of Public provident fund
- The PPF scheme is operated through Post Office and Nationalized banks. PPF account can be opened either in Post Office or in a Bank. These days even Pvt Banks like ICICI bank offers this account.
- Account is easily transferable between post offices or banks, even between post office and banks.
- Deposits are exempt from wealth tax.
- The balance amount in PPF account is not subject to attachment under any order or decree of court in respect of any debt or liability, but it can be attached by the Income Tax and Estate Duty authorities.
- Nomination facility available.
Should You Invest in PPF?
One thing is very clear that with the EEE (Exempt –Exempt – Exempt) nature of this product, this is a “Must have” investment account in one’s portfolio. Moreover the early you open this account, early you will get over with the lock in period.
One should consider the following points before investing into this product.
- Taxation: Don’t look at tax free interest only but also the income tax bracket you fall into. Last year when PPF rate was 8.6% and last to last year when it was 8% ,Fixed deposits offering rates @9.5% was more attractive to invest for someone who falls in the lowest tax bracket i.e. earns gross total income of less than Rs 5,00,000/-. After tax returns of bank fixed deposits were more than PPF. It is only this year with the rate of 8.8%; PPF looks good to invest for everyone. For other high income bracket people, this investment is undoubtedly all time very good option.
- Asset Allocation: You have to consider the overall asset allocation, which has been designed for the achieving of your long and short term goals. If you are already putting enough money in debt through compulsory EPF/GPF deductions, then you may not require PPF investment, but as I said earlier that this product should not be ignored also.
- Interest rates movement: If one is aware of how debt product actually performs with the interest rate cycle, then he/she can take advantage of high rate by investing the portion in debt mutual funds, to take the benefit of fall of interest rates in future.(Read : How to select debt funds)
With the linkage of PPF rates with G sec yields, this is very much clear that we may find these rates go down some year. One can recall those years when the G sec rates were in the range of 5.5%-6%. If that scenario has to repeat in the next few years (which is not sure) than Investment in Debt mutual funds would be a wiser choice at present. (Read : bank deposits vs debt mutual funds)
PPF or Public provident fund is a very long term and good instrument to invest in. One can map this with any of long term goals. Earlier you can easily calculate the future value of investment in this product, since the interest rates were fixed. But these days, when interest rates are linked to the Government securities rates, so investor has also to be vigilant enough for his investments so that this volatility should not affect his achievement of goals.
Do you have any question on ppf (Public provident fund)? you may ask in the comments section below.