It’s tax season and you have seen billboards or posters on bus stops about ELSS funds and tax benefits. Not if you are not aware of what it is let us enlighten you with the same. ELSS or Equity Linked Savings Scheme is a one-of-a-kind equity mutual fund scheme that also comes with a tax benefit. Investors get exposure to the investment opportunities in stock markets as well tax exemption over a certain invested amount. As more and more people are becoming aware of its benefits, ELSS is gradually becoming a more favored tax saving tool for Indian taxpayers.
Here are a few important things that one should know about ELSS mutual funds –
Asset Allocation of ELSS funds
Unlike conservative tax-saving instruments that invest the majority of your investible corpus in debt and related money market instruments, ELSS is a pure equity mutual fund. When we say pure equity mutual fund, what we mean is that ELSS invests a minimum of 80% of its investible corpus in equity and equity-related instruments of publicly listed companies. This is as per the guidelines set forth by the stock Indian market and securities regulator SEBI. While the majority of the portfolio has exposure to stocks, the fund manager may invest the remaining of the portfolio in fixed income securities.
A Short Lock-in Period
If you take a look at all the other tax saving instruments under Section 80C of the Indian Income Tax Act 1961, ELSS has the shortest lock-in among all. While the lock-in duration of other tax-saving instruments like PPF, bank FDs, NPS, etc. may last anywhere between 5 years to 15 years, ELSS has a short lock-in of only 3 years. Investors can redeem their investments after the 3 year lock-in period. However, if you really want to build a commendable corpus, you may choose to remain invested for a longer duration.
Invest via Systematic Investment Plan
One of the easiest ways to create long term wealth with ELSS is by starting a monthly SIP. Also referred to as Systematic Investment Plan, SIP allows investors to benefit from the power of compounding and rupee cost averaging. Investing in ELSS funds via SIP is much better than investing through lump-sum. Since the Net Asset Value (NAV) of the ELSS scheme tends to fluctuate from time to time, investors may be able to buy more units in a longer duration through SIP than they will if they make a lump-sum investment and purchase units using their entire investment sum all at once. The best part about SIP is that you can start investing with an amount as low as Rs 500 per month.
Understand the risks associated with ELSS funds
Yes, it is true that ELSS comes with a tax benefit. Yes, it is also true that ELSS may offer decent risk adjusted returns in the long run. However, that does not mean that you will get guaranteed returns on your investments. ELSS is a market-linked scheme that is constantly exposed to market vagaries. Although it has the potential to generate yields in the long run, it can be extremely volatile in the short run. Hence, as investors, it is essential for individuals to remain patient with their investments and do not take emotionally driven decisions. Withdrawing your investments when the markets are low is not a good idea as it will only lead to losses. Instead, investors must look at the bigger picture and understand that they have a chance at long-term capital appreciation. Also, one should determine their risk appetite and only invest if they are willing to take higher risks with their hard-earned money.