A rush to save taxes can cost you dear

Last Updated: Mon, Jan 14, 2013 05:38 hrs

Come January and all we think of is tax saving for the year almost gone by. To an extent, we are pushed by financial institutions which offer tax-saving and tax-free products. Most fall for these and invest to save as much tax as possible.

However, financial advisors always say money should be deployed in accordance with your goals. Financial planning anyway takes tax planning into consideration, says Aurangabad-based chartered accountant and financial planner Anirudha Hatwalne. In fact, say financial planners, saving in line with future need will help you save more than if you do for just tax purposes.

Assume Person 1 plans to invest only to save taxes and Person 2 plans to invest in line with a clear financial plan. Both are 30 years old, earn Rs 1 lakh a month, spend Rs 40,000 every month, will retire at age 60 and will start investing from this year. Person 1 plans to buy a house in five years, spend for his marriage two years later and save for retirement. Person 2 plans an international vacation two years later, to buy a car and house in three and five years, respectively, and save for retirement. To avoid taxes, Person 1 plans to invest Rs 1 lakh to be able to cover the Section 80C mandate. He will invest Rs 25,000 each in the Public Provident Fund (PPF) and five-year fixed deposits, and Rs 50,000 in an endowment plan of an insurance company. If he continues to invest in these instruments every year, he will earn an annual interest income of Rs 8,388 every year. And, 10 years from now, he will have accumulated a total of Rs 14.3 lakh at a total of 8.39 per cent earned across all the three instruments every year (see Table 1).

By investing Rs 25,000 in PPF every year for next 10 years (total investment is Rs 2.5 lakh), Person 1 will earn Rs 1.59 lakh as returns at 8.8 per cent, taking his total tax-free income to Rs 4.09 lakh. Similarly, on making a Rs 25,000 fixed deposit every year till next 10 years, Person 1 will earn Rs 3.6 lakh. Remember, the interest income on tax-saving deposits is taxable. Last, he earns Rs 6.6 lakh from endowment plan where he invests Rs 50,000 every year and earns eight per cent annually.

Keeping in mind Person 2's goals, Hatwalne advises he invests Rs 1 lakh across PPF, equity-linked savings schemes (ELSS) and unit-linked insurance plans (Ulips). Or, Person 2 can divide his money between a term plan and equity diversified schemes. "I advised Ulips because this product has more charges in the first year only. Like, the product I have taken here is Life Stage Wealth 2 from ICICI Prudential Life Insurance, which levies only Rs 2,000 in the first year. In comparison, mutual funds levy a flat 2.25 per cent fund management fee each year, lowering the annual earning. Then, for a long-term investor, Ulips will give a loyalty bonus towards the end of the policy term, which will take the maturity amount above that earned from mutual fund schemes," he says.

With investments in PPF, ELSS and Ulips, Person 2 will earn 9.95 per cent each year. This means, he will have accumulated a total of Rs 16.2 lakh at the end of 10 years. And, if he sticks to a term plan and equity diversified plans, he will invest Rs 2,600 a year for a Rs 10 lakh cover and the rest in equity diversified scheme(s). As term plans are not an investment scheme, Person 2 will earn only from mutual fund investment. After an annual return of 10 per cent minus a yearly charge of 2.25 per cent each year, Person 2 will make close to Rs 15 lakh, explains Hatwalne.

Similar to Person 1, Person 2 will also save Rs 4.09 lakh through PPF. For a return of 11 per cent, Person 2 will earn Rs 4.64 lakh from ELSS after investing a total of Rs 2.5 lakh. And, an investment of Rs 50,000 every year in Ulip will help him save Rs 7.5 lakh at 10 per cent return every year.

If both Person 1 and Person 2 invest Rs 1 lakh every year in the same instruments as mentioned above, they will save Rs 1.07 crore and Rs 1.63 crore, respectively, for retirement. Given they each want to buy a house, assume they get one costing Rs 60 lakh with a loan of Rs 48 lakh each, for 20 years. And, if they start saving for retirement after 20 years, that is, in last 10 years of their service, they will save around Rs 67 lakh each, says Hatwalne.

Investing only to save tax leads to making very bad investments as well. "There is duplication of instruments chosen or unwanted investments are made in pursuit to save taxes. So, while saving taxes is an important aspect, overdoing it can actually do more damage to your finances," certified financial planner Suresh Sadagopan had earlier told Business Standard.

Take example of investments in insurance-cum-investment products, made blindly year after year by many to save taxes. Investment in medical insurance and PPF are yet another example. Salaried individuals, especially youngsters, could be better off investing in other instruments that give a return on their money than deploy in health insurance and PPF, as most of them have a group insurance to fall back on and the Employee Provident Fund kitty for retirement needs.

More from Sify: