Not only retirement friendly, tax friendly too!

In my series on National Pension System in the columns of DNA, it seems readers can’t get enough of it (courtesy number of reader’s mail received).

Taking it a step forward, I will take up tax treatment under NPS in this piece.
As readers are already aware that there are two types of NPS accounts – Tier I & II.  Tier I account  is mandatory whereas Tier II account  is optional. Thus only Tier I account is eligible for tax benefits and is in true sense the core of the National Pension System.

However normal tax provisions of taxation of profits on sale of investments apply when you redeem the units credited in your Tier II account. But all deposits and withdrawals to and from the Tier II account are tax neutral.  There are no limits as to number and amount of withdrawals from Tier II account.

Till now for the better understanding of readers, I have refrained from quoting complex Sections of Income Tax act, I had to do it here for better clarity on taxation of NPS. Please bear with me for the same…

Taxation  for your contribution to Tier I account:

The Section 80 CCD  allows you deduction for contributions made by you or your employer towards NPS account. There are some restrictions on the contribution which you can make towards your NPS Tier I account under this Section. Like if you are employed, you can claim deduction up to 10% of your salary which comprises basic + DA.  In case you are self-employed, the restriction up to which you can claim tax benefit under Section 80CCD is capped @ 10% of your Gross Total Income.

Gross Total Income includes sum of all your incomes computed as per provisions of the Income Tax laws, before any deduction is allowed to you in respect of various items broadly covered under Section 80C, 80CCC and 80D etc. However deductions in respect of interest paid for your housing loan is deducted before arriving at the figure of gross total income  for calculating the limit of 10%.

It is important to note that there is an absolute limit of Rs. One lac upto which you can claim the deduction under Section 80CCD (1) ( for your own contribution towards NPS account). This limit of One lac covers not only your contribution to NPS  but also covers  items eligible for deduction under Section 80C, like life insurance premium, EPF, PPF, NSC, school Fee, investments in Equity Linked Saving Schemes, repayment of housing loan etc.

Even payments made by you to life insurance companies for purchase of pension U/S 80 CCC are also covered within the limit of Rs. One Lac. However going forward with only contribution to EPF, PPF and NPS  qualifying for deduction of Rs. One lac under proposed Direct Tax Code, NPS will acquire more importance and prominence once the DTC comes into effect.

Tax treatment for contribution made by your employer:

As explained in one of my earlier articles, the contributions made by your employer towards your NPS account qualifies for deduction under Section 80CCD(2)  without attracting the limit of Rs. One lac laid down in Section 80 CCE from the current financial year. However there is only one restriction that only up to 10% of your salary only qualifies for deduction without any monetary limit.

It works wonders for those who are in highest tax bracket, as there is no absolute limit up to which your employer can contribute towards your NPS account for claiming the deduction as long as this is within the limit of 10% of your salary. Thus I would advise them to get their salary restructured so as to include 10% component of your salary as contribution to NPS. This will provide a separate window for tax saving and investment.

The point to note here is that  the amount of 10% contributed by your employer will be treated as salary under Section 17 and will form part of Form No. 16 issued to you. However the employer will grant you deduction for his contribution under Section 80CCD (2)  before deducting any income tax from your salary.

So for all practical purposes  employer’s contribution to your NPS account up to 10% of your salary  becomes tax free in your hand and gets invested in NPS. Even the provision under proposed DTC are also on the similar lines with regard to tax treatment of  employer’s contribution.

Tax treatment when you reach the retirement age:

The contributions made by you and your employer get accumulated in your Tier I account and the value of such corpus depends on factors like quantum of money deposited, the asset classes opted by you for investment  and the returns generated by your pension fund manager. Once you complete the 60 years of age, you have to compulsorily purchase an annuity for an amount equal to minimum of 40% of the accumulated balance in your NPS account. The annuity needs to be bought from a life insurance company which is registered with IRDA (Insurance Regulation and Development Authority).

In case you wish to withdraw the money before you complete 60 years of age, you can do so but in that case you will have to purchase an annuity utilizing minimum of 80% of the accumulated corpus at the time of withdrawal.

The money which is left after purchase of  mandatory annuity, up to the extent of 40% of the accumulated wealth, is exempt from tax and you are free to use it the way you want. Please note that  it is not mandatory  for you to withdraw the  whole corpus left after purchase of mandatory annuity. You can opt to withdraw the balance amount in a phased manner.

However you need to withdraw a minimum of  10% of your accumulated corpus every year. This account has to be closed once you reach the age of 70 years. This money received by you, either lump sum or in a phased manner is fully exempt as per  the provisions proposed in DTC.

In case of untimely death of the NPS account holder before completion of 60 years of age, the nominee can withdraw the corpus accumulated at the time of death of the account holder. The money received by the nominee or legal heirs is fully exempt.

The annuity which you receive is taxable on yearly basis.
From the above discussion you will realize that NPS offers you an excellent tool to save your tax and plan for your future as well. It is very tax efficient because you get the tax benefits for the whole amount of your contribution and need to use only 40% of the accumulated wealth for purchase of annuity.

It is pertinent to note that though the annuity is taxable in your hand at the time or receipt, the applicable rate of tax would in all  probability be very low as compared to the rate of tax which you are paying now.

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