Saturday, December 28, 2013

Are you paying more tax then you are supposed to.....

For getting a bargain of some 100 Rupees we would travel 10 Km. But when it comes to check whether we are paying appropriate amount of tax we are supposed to we becomes lazy.

I have noticed while filing our tax returns we do not cross check the final calculation considering that our Accountant/Chartered Accountant or accounts deptt. must have done it correctly.

There is no doubt that above professional do their work efficiently, but we need to understand that they might not be aware of lot of expenses or investment which we made and are tax efficient. So it is our job to remain updated about the deductible/allowances and incentives allowed for tax . Also its our duty to provide the details to them in time.

I remember the year I bought my house, I was not having much of surplus section 80C investment, But I got the entire rebate because I was knowing that stamp duty paid for registry qualify for section 80C rebates,

Some of the deductibles/allowance/incentives I briefed in my last year's blog,, please check for validity of certain clauses from your chartered accountant.

Appending below the slab rates applicable for Assessment year 2014-15 for ready reference.

Income Tax Rates applicable for Individuals, Hindu Undivided Family (HUF), Association of Persons (AOP) and Body of Individuals (BOI) in India is as under:

Assessment Year 2014-15, Relevant to Financial Year 2013-14 

For Individuals below 60 years age (including Woman Assessees): 

Tax Rate
Upto 200,000
200,000 to 500,000
10% of the amount exceeding 200,000
500,000 to 1,000,000
Rs.30,000 + 20% of the amount exceeding 500,000
1,000,000 & above
Rs.130,000 + 30% of the amount exceeding 1,000,000

For Individuals aged 60 years and above but below 80 years (Senior Citizen):
Tax Rate
Upto 250,000
250,000 to 500,000
10% of the amount exceeding 250,000
500,000 to 1,000,000
Rs.25,000 + 20% of the amount exceeding 500,000
1,000,000 & above
Rs.125,000 + 30% of the amount exceeding 1,000,000

For Individuals aged 80 years and above (Very Senior Citizen):
Tax Rate
Upto 500,000
500,000 to 1,000,000
20% of the amount exceeding 500,000
1,000,000 & above
Rs.100,000 + 30% of the amount exceeding 1,000,000

Tax Credit: Rs. 2,000 for every person whose income doesn’t exceed Rs. 500,000

Surcharge on Income Tax: 10% of the Income Tax payable, in case the total taxable income exceeds Rs.10,000,000. Surcharge shall not exceed the amount of income that exceeds Rs.10,000,000.

Education Cess: 3% of Income Tax plus Surcharge

Professionals always work on the information provided by us. So it's our job to provide them with all the relevant information.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Great Investment opportunity for lower tax bracket or no tax individuals

Great news specially for senior citizens who are facing really hard time with their retirement funds because of high CPI inflation of almost 10%/Yr. for last 3 years and low interest rates.

RBI has atlast launched the much awaited Inflation Indexed National Savings Securities - Cumulative (IINSS-C) as promised. It is in continuation of Inflation indexed bonds (IIB) launched earlier. 

IIB's were targeted at large investors, so the markup- the additional payment over and above the inflation rate or the real coupon (interest) was arrived at via competitive bidding. RBI plans to pay this real Coupon on regular basis, then inflation component will be added to the principal and paid only at the time of redemption.

In a way it offers twin benefit first it protects the principal from inflation and you get the real value at maturity and second is an increase in cash inflow every year even when the real coupon rate remain constant.e.g. If Rs.1 Lakh invested in IIB and real coupon raet is 1.5% and the Whole sale price Inflation for 1st year is 5% then real payour for first year would be Rs.1500(1.5% of Rs.1 Lakh) and that for the 2nd year will be Rs.1575(1.5% of 1.05 Lakh).

But as the IIB were linked with WPI (Wholesale Price Index) it could not interest retail investors. As historically investors are more affected by CPI (Consumer Price Index) which is much above WPI. Like WPI for November was 7.52% whereas CPI was 11.24% i.e. a difference of 3.72%.

Now RBI has realised the same in the benefit of retail investors and has come up with IINSS-C (Inflation Indexed National Savings Securities - Cumulative) which is linked with combined CPI .Rbi has also avoided competitive bidding and markup fixed of 1.5% over CPI.

Obviously it is going to be a great instrument for the people who are in lower tax bracket or with non taxable income. I think they are the one who needs real protection from falling interest rates and rising inflation.

Appending below the scenario and benefits to investors :

IINSS-C Returns for difference tax Bracket
Considering markup of 1.5% on base rate
Tax SlabNIL
Inflation Rate8.00%9%10%
Interest Rate9.50%10.50%11.50%
Effective Rate8.00%9.00%10.00%
Effective Rate due to half
yly compounding9.73%10.78%11.83%
Tax Slab10.30%
Inflation Rate8.00%9%10%
Interest Rate9.50%10.50%11.50%
Effective Rate due to half
yly compounding8.73%9.67%10.61%
Tax Slab20.60%
Inflation Rate8.00%9%10%
Interest Rate9.50%10.50%11.50%
Effective Rate7.73%8.56%9.39%
Tax Slab30.90%
Inflation Rate8.00%9%10%
Interest Rate9.50%10.50%11.50%
Effective Rate6.72%7.45%8.17%

Now lets look at negative side - Interest is accrued and compounded every six months. Hence even though you do not receive interest tax has to be paid in each financial year.Looking at above calculation the IINSS will still not be that attractive for retail investors in higher tax bracket and also for senior citizen who requires regular income should avoid IINSS-C.

Instead of that it is better to invest in Tax free bonds, although it doesn't carry guarantee of Central bank.But with good credit rated bonds you have much better returns net of tax annually with much lower risk.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Save your wealth from going into wrong hands...

Recently I came across a study that shows 80% of the pending cases in High Court are related to property. Todays' newspaper shows banks are sitting on a pile of FD's amount to Rs.3600.00 Crore which are unclaimed for more then 10 years after maturity.
In most of the cases reason might be that the FD holder might have died and his successor doesn't know about it or proper nominations were not done.

Why is it so that the same brother and sister who used to live as family suddenly becomes enemy after their parents death, it doesn't end there but is followed by unending process of court cases/litigation and high expenses.

We can stop this from happening in our family or friends by just preparing a small one or two page statement called as will or Estate Plan. 

Contrary to perception, it is not necessary to write will on stamp paper or even get it registered. You can write a will on plain paper and it will be as legally valid as one prepared by a lawyer.

It's a myth that only super rich need to write wills. The fact is that everyone who owns a asset in any form should write a will so that his heirs do not face problems in accessing what is rightfully theirs and avoid disputes among them.The assets can be anything - Property, Jewellery, Painting, Cash, Bank FD's, Shares, Mutual Funds ,Insurance Policies, etc...

For most people, will making is do it yourself exercise. the only requirement is that the will should be legible. However, if your assets and ownership are a little complicated , you may seek help of a legal professional to draft the will.

Essential clauses of Will

  1. Name - The name and description like age, religion etc...of person making the will.
  2. Revocation of earlier wills : A declaration that the present will is his last will and he revokes all other earlier wills.
  3. Appointment of executors : A executor is a person who has been confided with the job of execution of will.
  4. Mention that you are not under any influence or duress while making the will. The witness must also attest the same at bottom.
  5. Give clear details of Assets and how it should be distributed.
  6. Residue Clause - It helps to include any other asset you may have left out inadvertently while enumeration your net wealth.
  7. Mention full name of beneficiaries clearly with address.

Points you should know :
  •  Preparation of will does not require any specific language
  • Will need not be stamped
  • Registration of will is not mandatory
  • Will can be revoked by testator (Person making will) anytime during his lifetime.
  • It is important to note that the attesting witnesses need not know the content of the will
  • Review your will at regular intervals for the changes in your assets  or due to change in circumstances (Like beneficiary or executor mentioned in will dies).]
Consult your financial planner as Estate planning is an integral part of Financial planning.

By sparing five minutes in a year you can avoid lot of litigation within your family member and also save them from lot of expenses and mental agony.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Shop - SMART way this Festive season

Festival time is the most delightful period of the year.It recharges you as a person, every individual  in any corner of the world try to be with his family and spend quality time with them. It is time of having  fun, shopping, socializing, Gifting and lot more....

Most of the Indian festival irrespective of religion fall in the period  August to December - Whether it is Eid, Raksha Bandhan, Parsi New Year, Diwali, Muharram, Gurunanak Jayanti, Christmas or New Year etc..

But while celebrating festivals and to enjoy its charm to the fullest we miss on the budgeting part resulting in the trap of overspending. By taking some simple steps we can save ourselves from impulsive buying and mouth watering offers.

1) Contribute for Festival expenses in advance - While planning for our expenses we break our expenses evenly for the whole year, whereas there are certain months when our expenses are lesser as compared to other months. Just make a list of such months and park surplus of this month in a liquid fund of MF or make an FD for equivalent period. We can also start an SIP in a liquid fund or open an Recurring deposit with Bank whose maturities matches with festival period.

2) Budget your Expenses - Budgeting can help you in avoiding impulsive buying. Hence prepare a list of all the shopping you wish to make during festivals. Also list out separately how much you would be spending in eating out, on Gifting, movies and shopping.

3) Delay Bigger Purchases - I remember during last diwali there was a combo offer available for purchase of Juice maker and Coffee maker at an attractive price. My wife couldn't resist and she bought it. I remember we hardly used it for a week. 

Festival is the time for big discounts, freebies and offers. Delay your purchase by 3-4 days before making any bigger purchase which is not planned and suddenly you find it available at very good bargain. It will help you to come out of frame of mind of offers and discounts and give you time to think logically that really you need it/what is the necessity of buying right now or don't need it immediately.

4) Avoid Credit Cards - Try to make payments in cash, as at the end of the day you know how much you spent. The more you spend you have lesser surplus available. Credit card is a very comfortable and safer way of making payments while shopping, but it never allow you to feel the pain of overspending. Actually pain comes when the payment is due. Have you ever realised that we always spend more while purchasing with credit card as compared to cash payment.

5) Say NO to personal Loans - Personal loans are the most expensive loans avoid it.

6) Realise nothing is Free - Realise and accept that in this world nothing comes for free.

7) Plan your investments - Always plan and link your investments to goals, which will help you in reminding during impulsive buying that you will be compromising on your child's education or her marriage or your retirement.

Just follow above simple steps and have a great Festival time.

The author of this article is Raj Talati a  CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERCM at ABM Investment.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Do IT Yourself (DIY)- Think Again

With RBI's recent measures to control Rupee depreciation and Mr.Bernanke's announcement on pulling the brakes on its stimulus programme has caught duration fund managers as well  investor on the wrong foot.

Untill last month every major financial daily propogated the wisdom of putting tons of money in "safe" debt funds. Banks were also happy to tie up with mutual funds to propogate the safety of debt funds. All they had to do is to convince investors that the RBI's move in the next monetary policy was a rate cut. When equity was facing redemption pressure, inflows to debt touched record highs.

Logically, RBI should have cut down interest rate to support growth when WPI has gone down substantially. But future has habit to defy logics in an economy.

As an investor we can't control Fiscal Deficit, Current account deficit, WPI, CPI , Interest rates, GDP,Real Estate prices, Gold prices, Forex movement, or for that matter Mr.Bernanke or Mr.Subbarao,but for sure we can have control over our investment and our needs.

It is said "In investment you can make more returns by knowing what not do instead of what to do" and you need someone qualified to advise you on what not to do.

Recently regulator allowed investor to invest in direct mode by bypassing the advisor, but situation like this justifies worth of professional advise. like they say "Professional advise comes at a price without it you pay a much higher price." 

There was a time when limited investment options were available but now it comes with lots of options and now also in lot of colors (With SEBI's latest regulation of color coding of the funds) and you never know the fund with color Blue which denotes low risk can give you negative returns to the extent of 6-8% in one month.Time has gone of taking decision on the basis of your friend or neighbors advise. 

Like Warren Buffet says "Investment is the only place that people ride to in a Rolls Royce to get advice from those who take the subway."

Need of professional is always proved in adverse situation. A Financial advisor can help you in assessing your needs and advises investment depending on your need and risk profile instead of running behind the performance chart shown by news paper or some research sights.

So next time think twice before making investment on DIY basis.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Wealth-Forum e-zine

Clients will listen to us, provided we communicate differently
Raj Talati, ABM Investment, Baroda
Raj Talati runs a successful financial planning and advisory practice in Baroda, serving over 700 clients, many of whom are fee paying clients, and has accumulated a MF AuM of around Rs.28 crores. But what really sets him apart is the manner in which he explains financial concepts to his clients, in a way they can instantly relate to. How can the ongoing IPL help you explain the benefits of asset allocation to your clients? How can an annual vacation help you explain what financial planning is to your clients? How do you bring out the true power of compounding in a manner that clients get bowled over? How can a blockbuster movie help you explain the need for general insurance to your clients? Read on as Raj shares with us some of the novel ways in which he explains to his clients many terms that we frequently use as advisors and planners. We are grateful to Raj for readily agreeing to share his insights and ideas with Wealth Forum, for the benefit of the wider IFA fraternity across the country.

To Continue reading click link :Wealth-Forum e-zine

Friday, April 26, 2013

"SAFETY"- No such word in Financial Dictionary

As per meaning of safety defined as: the state of being safe; freedom from the occurrence or risk of injury, danger, or loss.

On Googling for meaning of SAFETY in financial terms, I could not find a single dictionary which explains - safety. I did found words like : safe harbour, safety net, safe heaven etc etc...and the meaning of any of them didn't matched with dictionary meaning. do define "safe assets" as 

"Assets which, in and of themselves, do not carry a high likelihood of lawsuit risk. Mere ownership of this type of asset does not expose the asset owner to a significant risk of litigation.
Assets such as stocks, mutual funds, bonds, bank accounts and your personal residence are examples of safe assets." Which is totally different from what Indian investor thinks.

The recent development of Cyprus prompted me to search for meaning of "SAFETY in financial world".

First let me take you through some facts about pattern of Investment of Indian investor - As per the RBI's 2011-12 annual report bank FD's or contractual savings(Small Savings Scheme, LIC) constitutes almost 85% of total financial savings where as currency is almost 10% leaving 4-5% for Equities. 

The obvious reason for such a high allocation to FD is SAFETY. We perceive word safety as "To get back the capital and Interest on maturity date without any volatility". That might be the reason we rely mostly on all the government institutions like : Post offices, LIC, PSU Banks.

But, fallout of some of the biggest bank and government institution in U.S and Europe are the best example that even Govt. institutions are riskier at times and we may end up losing part of our money. Why to go to U.S we have example of our own government sponsored UTI US'64 scheme wherein government did paid back money of investors but with a delay of 6 years and that too in the form of 6% tax free bonds.(Just think of condition of a father who had invested money for his son's education or daughter's marriage)

Regarding Guarantee for repayment of Bank FD, RBI portal says "The deposits kept in different branches of a bank are aggregated for the purpose of insurance cover and a maximum amount upto Rupees one lakh is paid."  subject to bank have paid premium to deposit insurance and credit guarantee corporation .

Now, Let's understand what has happened in Cyprus, just to bail out economy "Government has imposed tax on bank deposits in Cyprus, they are taxed @6.75% on their  deposits less then EURO 100000.00 and @9.75 for more then that ".In simple terms one fine day suddenly government reduced your bank balances as well as FD value by 6.75%- 9.75%. Just think how would you feel if you woke up in the morning and found that government has decided to take away 6.75% of your money".

Even in case of India it is happening that our FD are reduced by almost 4-5% every year. Let me explain you how : The current CPI inflation rate is about 10.50% and Tax free FD rates of SBI is 5.78% (8.50% less 32% Tax rate). So the cost of goods which I can purchase today for Rs.100 becomes Rs.110.50 (CPI@10.50%) at the end of year whereas my FD value net of tax comes to Rs.106.00. So to buy the same goods I need to add Rs.4.50 to my FD amount, don't you think even we are paying a tax of 4%-5% year on year on our bank FD.

The purpose of highlighting above facts is not that we should not invest in FD's but we need to understand that there is no such word as safe asset class. The fall of 15% in Gold in last 3 months has proved even the safest asset class can be volatile at times.

We are now a part of the global investor community. The purpose of an investor seating in other part of the world is to make profit from his investment. Wherever and whenever he finds an opportunity he will buy into it and sells out in case of uncertainty. He is not concerned with asset class i.e. Debt, Equity,Real Estate or Commodities like Gold,Silver,Oil,Copper etc...

So it is mere foolishness to think that price of your investment in any asset class can grow perpetually or safe from all risks.

The only way to save yourself from getting in trap of any asset class is to follow a proper asset allocation strategy (Also read ;key-to-wealth-creation-asset-allocation.)

looking at above facts we can either act like an Ostrich who hides his face in the sand when attacked by a predator (assuming that if you can't see it , then anyone else also don't see you) or can take informed decision of how much amount to be allocated to FD,Gold, Real Estate or Equity so that we or our family do not need to compromise on future Dreams or Goals.

Consult your financial planner to advise you on proper asset allocation.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

God to India's rescue - Strong case to overweight Equity

Mannu Singh, who was in financial difficulty, walked into a temple and started to pray. ''Listen God -I know I haven't been perfect but I really need to win the lottery. I don't have a lot of money. Please help me out.'' He left the temple, a week went by, and he hadn't won the lottery, so he walked to a church ''Come on, God,'' he said. ''I really need this money. My mom needs surgery and I have bills to pay. Please let me win the lottery.'' a week went by, and he didn't win the lottery. So, he went to a mosque and started to pray again. ''You're starting to disappoint me, God,'' he said. ''I've prayed and prayed. If you just let me win the lottery, I'll be a better person. I don't have to win the jackpot, just enough to get me out of debt. I'll give some to charity, even. Just let me win the lottery.'' Many thought this did it, so he got up and walked outside.

The clouds opened up and a booming voice said, ''Mannu, my son please please please.....atleast buy a lottery ticket.''

Similar is the situation of India. Right now we want our growth to be in place, inflation to be under control, rupee to get stronger, get rid of corruption, reduce current account deficit, reduce fiscal deficit. 

By looking at India's Pathetic situation it seems god has felt pity on us and have bought a lottery ticket and served it to us on a platter.

The biggest worry for India as of now is twin deficits i.e. Current account deficit (CAD) and Fiscal deficit. Although our finance minister is making sincere efforts to control it, by increasing import duty on gold , reducing subsidies, cutting expenses etc. etc  but all efforts are in vain. 

It seems suddenly god has listened to prayers of all the Indians.

As mentioned in my earlier Blog  "Gold : Is it really safe anymore????" ( I did pointed out that gold can't keep on increasing and would see drastic fall when positions unwinds)  In its report RBI points out, as a ratio to the CAD, gold imports were a whopping 71.9 in FY12. As a proportion of the balance of trade, gold imports were 21% in the first half of FY13. So gold import is biggest negative for our balance of payment. With recent fall of almost 15% in gold prices will breathe a big sigh of relief and will improve our CAD.

Apart from gold another big worry for India is OIL. India imports over 70 per cent of its oil demand. So a 10% rise in oil prices result in a 0.6 percent fall in growth while in the full pass-through situation, it can reduce the growth by 0.9 percent and vice versa. The Best news is that even oil has corrected to sub $100 level for 1st time in 9 months is big positive for us.

Fall in prices of Gold as well as Oil will help us to bring down current account deficit, which will inturn strengthen our currency.

Subsidy on Diesel and Kerosene adds up to our Fiscal deficit and increases inflation. So fall in oil prices also narrows down the fiscal deficit as well as inflation.

Icing on the cake is that WPI inflation has fallen to 40 month low of 5.96%.

From the above facts I strongly feel that RBI has to completely change its focus from fighting inflation to growth, which will help in generating jobs and help corporates to grow. We can expect rate cuts from RBI in policy review due on May 3rd.

All the biggest concern as far equity market is already addressed by falling Gold Prices,Oil Prices and Inflation which lays down a strong foundation for start of a new bull run. I don't say that market will start performing immediately. But, from asset allocation point of view it is time tor rebalance your portfolio and if your are into tactical asset allocation its time to be overweight on equities.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Key to WEALTH CREATION - Asset Allocation

Asset allocation plays a key role in every investors financial planning.

If, I get a chance to own a IPL Team "Dream Achievers'. How should I go for buying players,during auction.Should I buy all 15 team members as Fast Bowlers or All Rounders or Spinners or Hard Hitters. No, I need to make strategy looking at different options available, their pricing and my budget. According to that I will buy 7-8 good Batsman, 2-3 Spinners, Obviously a Wicket Keeper and 4-5 Fast bowlers, Possibly 2-3 of them being all rounders.

Depending on the ground conditions and opponent I decide the final team on the Jumping Japak Jumpak Jumpak. I might have 3 spinners and 2 pacers or 4 pacer and 1 spinner might send opener as Mr.Pinch hitter or Mr.Reliable. So I  need to put in place some strategy in buying the players as well as before start of the match.

Similarly in investments, all asset classes doesn't work at all the time, But perform in cycles. Hence if one were to invest all his savings in a single asset class then certainly he is inviting a big trouble for his future.As we all know world of finance is very uncertain and sticking to your asset allocation hold the key to success. 

Financial Planners uses asset allocation strategies not only to create wealth, but also to protect it during volatile times. It is not the maximisation of returns, but optimisation of returns that becomes the goal. This process plays a key role in determining the risk and return from your portfolio. Broadly speaking, the portfolio’s asset mix should reflect your risk taking capacities and goals. Financial Planners use different strategies of building asset allocations, some of them as follows :

Strategic Asset Allocation
Strategic allocation is typically the first stage in the investment process. Based on the investor’s long-term objectives, an initial portfolio is build. It is the backbone of any investment strategy. This often forms the basic framework of an investor’s portfolio. This is a proportional combination of assets based on expected rates of return for each asset class. For example, if stocks have historically given a return of 14% per year and bonds have returned 8% per year, a mix of 50% stocks and 50% bonds would be expected to return 11% per year. Strategic asset allocation generally implies a buy-and-hold strategy. Strategic asset allocation defines the boundary of risk, and it is these boundaries that help control portfolio risk.

Constant-Weighting Asset Allocation
Strategic asset allocation has its drawbacks as it entails a buy-and-hold strategy even if a change in the value of assets causes a drift from the initially established policy mix.The constant weighing strategy helps you to continuously rebalance your portfolio. For example, if gold was declining in value, you would purchase more of it to maintain its weightage and if its value increased you should sell it. There are no hard-and-fast rules for the timing of portfolio rebalancing under strategic or constant-weighting asset allocation. Most Planners advises rebalancing to its original mix when any asset class moves more than 5-7% from its original value or alternatively on semi annual basis.

Tactical Asset Allocation
Most of the Indian investor I have follows this allocation strategy without knowing risk associated with it. There are investors who constantly want to seek returns out of market opportunities that arise. Hence, they go in for short term tactical calls. Such tactical calls create room for capitalising on unusual or exceptional investment opportunities. This is like timing the market to participate in the fluctuations and volatility that arise due to market conditions. For example, shifting a part of the portfolio from large cap stocks to mid cap stocks to take advantage of the environment is a tactical call. Tactical allocations being opportunistic in nature, Investor are advised to always prefer to maintain clear time-based and value-based entry and exit points to ensure better management. Personally, I feel it is impossible to time the market on long term basis, it is something like predicting future and one wrong call can affect your financial plan drastically.

Dynamic Asset Allocation
It is for aggressive investors who want to ride momentum at times. So, if the stock market is showing weakness, investor sell anticipating a further fall. If it is going up, he buys anticipating a further rise. Here you constantly adjust the mix of assets as markets rise and fall. This is the opposite of constant-weighting strategy. As the entire portfolio is available for action, amateur investors may turn hyper active. Especially in the high volatile times, acting on all types of information can lead to high transaction costs. Also, the tax treatment of the returns turns to disadvantages if you churn your portfolio too much. 

Finally, victory of match depends on the strategy applied by captain in selecting the players as well as ground (market) conditions.

Similarly, to achieve financial goals as well as creating wealth every investor need to follow the asset allocation strategy and stick to it in different market conditions.Financial planners plays a big role in helping them to select a strategy which suits their risk profile and tries to bring in required discipline.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

U.S.NRI's - Investments from INDIA are no more TAX FREE

Lots of U.S.NRI investors invests in India (non-US) mutual funds, bonds and various types of “life insurance” products (the latter are often a fancy version of a foreign mutual fund investment).  Sadly, these investors are often taken in by the sales pitch of investment advisors unfamiliar with latest US tax laws.  The sales pitch focuses on the fact that the investment can grow tax- free for many years. While it is true that no tax may be payable in the fund’s jurisdiction (Nil Long term capital gain for Equity for instance), significant US taxes are payable by the US NRI's owner under the so-called “passive foreign investment company” or  “PFIC” rules.

The latest IRS announcement regarding the annual reporting of PFICs as mandated by tax laws enacted in President Obama’s first term.  The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) enacted in 2010 had numerous provisions. One of them mandated that US owners of PFICs (whether such ownership is direct or indirect) must annually report significant information to the IRS(Internal Revenue Service U.S). This annual report was to be made on Form 8621. 

What is a PFIC and What Does it Mean If you Have One?

More often than not, the foreign mutual fund or similar investment will be characterized as a PFIC. A PFIC includes any non-US corporation if 75% or more of its gross income for the year consists of “passive income”.  Passive income generally includes dividends, interest, rents, royalties, most foreign currency and commodity gains, and capital gains from assets that produce such income. Just about all of the income of a fund will usually qualify as passive and so, nearly all foreign funds will qualify as PFICs!

Don’t Mind Losing Your Investment? PFIC Means Very Harsh Tax Consequences

Form 8621-This is the form you would need to fill up if you have mutual fund holdings in an Indian mutual fund company. The form gives you several options to declare the notional appreciation. Let's take a look at the options relevant for a retail mutual fund investor:

Option 1: Election to mark-to-market PFIC

This is the most common option for Indian mutual fund investments. "Broadly speaking, according to this option, you must declare as income the notional gains in the market value of your fund holdings during the year."

Here is what typically happens:

- In the year of purchase, the gains are the difference between market value at the end of the year and cost of purchase.

- In the subsequent years, the gains are the difference between market value at the end of the year and 'adjusted basis'. Adjusted basis is usually the market value in the beginning of the year. In case there is a loss, the loss can be set off against foreign PFIC notional gains of only the previous years. Any loss that is not set off is added back to the adjusted basis of the next year. So for instance, if in year 1 you incurred a notional gain of $100 on your PFIC, $100 would be taxed as ordinary income in year

Suppose your loss in year 2 was $150. In year 2, you would be allowed to deduct a loss of $100 from your total income (loss to the extent of gains taxed earlier).

- When the units are actually sold, you will be taxed long term capital gains only on the portion of gains that has not been taxed in previous years as ordinary income

Option 2: Election to treat as QEF - Qualified Electing Fund

"This option is commonly used in case of investments by US residents and citizens in offshore private equity funds,"

A QEF is taxed like a partnership wherein each investor is considered to have a share in the total profits of the fund. You can exercise this option only if the foreign fund agrees to share information with you about your share of profits.

Option 3: Excessive distribution method

"This is a default election. If you opt out of all other options, you will be taxed as per this option, which is also the most taxing,"

He adds, "According to this option, the distributions in the current year should be
at least 125% of the average distributions of last 3 years. The logic being that you are receiving incremental income every year from the fund and therefore not trying to defer taxes. If you do not meet this condition, then the total distributions are allocated over the entire holding period and taxed in each year at the highest tax rate of that year. Not only that, you will also be charged interest on each year's tax liability."

What this means: Suppose you did not make any election on your PFICs and throughout the holding period, did not fill up Form 8621 for your PFIC holdings.

You held the PFIC units for say 10 years and did not receive any distributions during these 10 years. In the year of sale, you made a gain of $100. In the year of sale, your gains will be distributed over the past 10 years, that is, $10 per year. It will be treated as though you did not pay tax on $10 per year and hence in year 10, you must pay tax for each of these years plus interest on the delay. You will have to fill up part IV of Form 8621.

Just in case you are thinking of ‘ignoring’ the rules regarding self-reporting on PFICs, please note that under other provisions of FATCA, ”foreign financial institutions” will be required to report directly to the IRS about assets held by US persons with that institution. The FATCA rules will make it very easy for the IRS to cross-reference the information provided by the foreign financial institution with the taxpayer’s Form 8621 to determine whether taxes and reporting on the foreign fund have been properly undertaken.