Public provident fund is a popular investment scheme among investors courtesy its multiple investor-friendly features and associated benefits. It is a long-term investment scheme popular among individuals who want to earn high but stable returns. Proper safekeeping of the principal amount is the prime target of individuals opening a PPF account.
A Public provident fund scheme is ideal for individuals with a low risk appetite. Since this plan is mandated by the government, it is backed up with guaranteed returns to protect the financial needs of the masses in India. Further, invested funds in the PPF account are not market-linked either.
Investors can also undertake the public provident fund regime to diversify their financial and investment portfolio. At times of downswing of the business cycle, PPF accounts can provide stable returns on investment annually.
The key characteristics of a public provident fund scheme can be listed as follows –
A PPF account has a lock-in period of 15 years on investment, before which funds cannot be withdrawn completely. An investor can choose to extend this tenure by 5 years after lock-in period is over if required.
A minimum of Rs. 500 and a maximum of Rs. 1.5 Lakh can be invested in a provident fund scheme annually. This investment can be undertaken in a lumpsum or installment basis. However, an individual is eligible for only 12 yearly instalment payments into a PPF account. Investment in a PPF account has to be made every year to ensure that the account remains active.
Public provident funds provide the benefit of availing loans against the investment amount. However, the loan will only be granted if it is taken at any time from the beginning of 3rd year till the end of the 6th year from the date of activation of account.
The maximum tenure of such loans against PPF is 36 months. Only 25% or less of the total amount available in the account can be claimed for this purpose.
Indian citizens residing in the country are eligible to open a PPF account in his/her name. Minors are also allowed to have a Public provident fund account in their name, provided it is operated by their parent.
Non-residential Indians are not permitted to open a new PPF account. However, any existing account in their name remains active till the completion of tenure. These accounts cannot be extended for 5 years – a benefit available to Indian residents.
The interest payable on public provident fund scheme is determined by the Central Government of India. It aims to provide higher interest than regular accounts maintained by various commercial banks in the country.
Interest rates currently payable on such accounts stands at 7.9%, and is subject to quarterly updates at the discretion of the government.
Both offline and online procedures are available for an individual provided he/she meets requisite parameters mentioned in the eligibility criteria. Activating PPF online can be done by visiting the portal of a chosen bank or post office.
The following documents have to be produced at the time of activation of a public provident fund account –
Income tax exemptions are applicable on the principal amount invested in a PPF as account. The entire value of investment can be claimed for tax waiver under section 80C of the Income Tax Act of 1961. However, it should be kept in mind that the total principal that can be invested in one financial year cannot exceed Rs. 1.5 Lakh.
The total interest accrued on PPF investment is also exempt from any tax calculations.
Therefore, entire amount redeemed from a PPF account upon completion of maturity is not subject to taxation. This policy makes the public provident fund schemeattractive to many investors in India.
There are multiple clauses that an individual must adhere to in case he/she wants to withdraw funds from the PPF account.
Mandatory lock-in of 15 years is imposed on the principal amount invested in such plans. In case of emergencies related to specific end-uses, partial withdrawal can be made. However, this amount can only be extracted after the completion of 5 years of activation of the account. Up to 50% of the total balance can be withdrawn in one transaction each financial year succeeding in the 4th year.
Investors should note that funds invested in a PPF account cannot be liquidated before the completion of the maturity period. Individuals looking for long-term risk-free investment options providing stable yields can easily opt for this government-backed instrument.