How much disclosure is good? The answer to this question will decide if the 18 March circular issued by the Securities and Exchange Board of India, or Sebi, (you can read it here:http://bit.ly/1pwzzTf ) is a good idea or not. The background first: Sebi has been trying to get mutual fund sellers to decide if they are chemists or doctors. If, as chemists, they simply vend the product, then they earn the commission from the product. If they choose to be doctors, they do not earn a product-linked commission, but take a fee directly from the investor. This neat view of the world was rolled out with the adviser regulation that encouraged sellers to choose between being a distributor and an adviser in January 2013. (You can read the regulation here:http://bit.ly/1RwpKBN . And three years later, with less than 381 people registered as investment advisers, Sebi has changed regulations one more time to force the industry into the two-bucket market structure.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley announced in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that he will roll back the tax on salaried Middle India’s one true friend—the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF). The Budget had proposed to tax 60% of the EPF corpus on retirement, leaving 40% tax-free. But if the 60% was invested in an annuity, it would remain tax-free; the tax will be paid on the income the annuity generates. The National Pension System (NPS) has retained tax-free status for 40% of its corpus. You can take 60% of your NPS corpus as a lump sum at age 60 and 40% must go to buy an annuity. Of the total NPS corpus, 40% will now be tax-free and you will pay slab rate tax on 20% of the corpus. If your NPS corpus is Rs.100, then your tax is on Rs.20. The annuity income is taxed at slab rate.
The controversy around Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) began two weeks back, and not on Monday, when it was announced that the withdrawal rules will change. With effect from 10 February, a labour ministry amendment has capped what you can withdraw from your EPF corpus before you retire. Before 10 February, you could have withdrawn your entire EPF corpus if unemployed for more than two months. Before EPF portability, each time you moved jobs and got a new EPF number, you could clean out your PF money from the previous employer. The new rules allow you to withdraw your contribution and the interest on it before retirement, but the employer’s contribution is locked in till age 58. On Saturday last week, I accidently stepped into an ongoing conversation about the change in EPF rules on Twitter. Read the debate on my twitter handle @monikahalan on 28 February 2016 around this. People were angry at getting locked into the product and wanted greater flexibility.