PPF Scheme is quite popular among the investors or financial advisors for its flexible nature. Also, the tax benefits one can avail from a Public Provident Fund scheme make the plan lucrative.
To motivate small investments among the people, the Ministry of Finance, Govt. of India initiated Public Provident Fund in the year 1968. It is clearly mentioned in the Section 80C of Income Tax Act, 1961 that the interest earned during the PPF tenure is exempted from one’s tax liability. The PPF deposit up to 1.5 lakh is liable to the exemption and the amount to be received on maturity is also tax-free. Hence, PPF scheme undoubtedly is one of the most tax efficient and popular money-saving schemes in India.
The PPF (Public Provident Fund) is a popular savings-cum-tax efficient avenue, which is backed by the Government of India. The scheme was introduced by the National Savings Institute in 1968. The PPF scheme was launched with an aim to rationalize small investments by offering reasonable returns on it. The scheme offers multiple tax-benefits and has guarantee of Central Government associated with it.
You can open a PPF account online at the nationalized public sector banks in India, at the post offices, and at other financial centres like the private banks. You will have to submit the relevant and desired documents, the initial amount, and will also have to fill and submit the relevant form, for the purpose.
The new budget announced by the Finance Minister substantially impacts the financial market. Various financial plans are affected and witness changes in terms of the rate of interest, service tax, return etc. PPF Scheme is also no exception. PPF interest rate is also dropped by 0.20% from 7.8% to 7.6%.
The PPF interest rate 2016-17 towards a new deposit was 8.1%. It was 8.7 % in the financial year 2015-16. The interest rates for the PPF deposits are not like those of FDs or Fixed Deposits. While the fixed deposit interest rates do not vary, the interest rate for the PPF deposits varies for each consecutive year. All PPF deposits get the same interest rate benefits as per the new budget announcement.
The financial year is the term that denotes the time period between the 1st of April of a given year and 31st March of the successive year. The interest rate for the PPF scheme is announced in the budget session, every year, which will hold true for the next session that happens next year.
The interest rate provided by the Government of India, towards the PPF accounts, is Compound Interest, and not simple interest. Compound interest (interest on interest!) is more fruitful for the investor, as each year the principal increases, and the interest is again calculated on the increased principal (in simple interest, the principle remains the same for each successive year).
The sole aim of the PPF scheme is to make Indians save more money, and hence all steps have been taken by the Government to ensure that the scheme is appealing to the general people. One can deposit a very low amount of money in the scheme.
The individual can deposit a minimum amount of Rs. 500 in the PPF scheme. The maximum limit of the deposit is now 1, 50,000. The upper or the maximum deposition limit has been increased very recently, from 1 lakh to 1.5 lakhs. An individual cannot deposit more than Rs. 1.5 lacs to a given PPF account, in a year. The increase is provided in order to make the scheme more lucrative to people.
The PPF account of any given individual has a 15-year time span. The account is active for this duration. Its validity can also be extended, if the individual so desires, after successful completion of the time frame. The extension is for five years, at each renewal. Investors can also add more money to the account, if they wish, after extension.
Under the Section 80C of the Income Tax Act, an individual can get an exemption of up to Rs 1.5 Lakhs, for the PPF deposit.
Note: The individual can deposit the money in the name of self, child, or spouse.
The PPF account opening charges are just Rs. 100. This one-time amount has to be paid by the investor, over and above the minimum amount of Rs 500, which would be the first deposit into the scheme.
Each year, the investor has to submit the minimum amount of Rs. 500 in the PPF account, in order to keep it active. The frequency has to be maintained for 15 years so that no year passes without a deposit.
There can be multiple deposits as well so that the total amount deposited during a given financial year does not cross the Rs. 1.5 Lakhs limit. An individual can deposit money into a PPF account, a maximum of 12 times, during a given financial/fiscal year. Also, No more than two deposits can be made to PPF scheme, during any given month.
There is an ample number of ways, through which an individual can deposit money to his account, or to the PPF account of somebody else, (including a child, spouse and member of the family).
These include PO (postal order), check, cash, and the online fund transfers. You can deposit money in a given PPF account for a maximum of 12 times during a given financial year, via any of these means. These days, PPF online transfer is a more convenient option.
You can make partial withdrawals from your PPF account, after a given number of years. Complete withdrawal can only be made from the account, after the completion of 15 years, or after maturity.
A number of forms are associated with PPF scheme. This includes:
For interest purposes, the bank considers the deposits made from 1st to 5th of any given month. Hence, to gain maximum interest, you should make a deposit before 5th of any given month.
PPF, as you know, is backed by the government of India, and is amongst the safest investment options in the country today. Offering 7.6% rate of interest as on January 1, 2018, over a period of 15 years, both principle and interest earned on PPF investment are completely tax-free.
Despite this lock-in period, PPF allows partial withdrawal starting from the 7th year. And, if you need to check PPF balance online or offline, you have the following ways, based on if you have your PPF account online at a bank or offline at the post office:
It can be pretty easy for you to check your PPF balance if your account is at a bank. You can easily log into the e-portal of the bank through your internet banking credentials. You can also have a look at your PPF passbook, in case you have to see each PPF online contribution you made over the year and interest earned annually. In order to do that, you must have a savings account with the same bank as your PPF account. However, some banks may allow you to link your PPF account details with your existing savings account with the other bank for the ease of PPF online contribution. Once your PPF account online is linked to your savings account, you can easily transfer funds to your PPF online account whenever you need to.
In case you don’t have access to your Internet banking portal, make sure to get it asap. Once you got your bank e-portal activated, you can easily check and transfer funds, view monthly statement(s), pay bills online, submit and check the status of your loan application, and make the online purchase(s) when required to your PPF online account.
If you have your PPF account at a post office, then you cannot view your account balance when you need to, unless you visit the same post office branch where you opened your PPF account. You can view your PPF account details and balance only after getting your PPF passbook updated.
Also, in order to deposit money in your PPF account opened at a post office, you need personally to visit that post office branch.
A PPF account has a lock-in period of 15 years. It only attains its maturity once it completes this lock-in period of 15 years. However, the scheme also allows premature withdrawals in certain emergencies. Following is the list of rules associated with premature withdrawals in PPF accounts:
The PPF scheme allows partial withdrawal once your PPF account has completed 5 fiscal years
This facility of PPF premature withdrawal comes handy in cases such as higher education of your kids and medical treatments.
As per the PPF premature withdrawal rules, you can withdraw only 50% of the amount you have accumulated in your account.
However, once your PPF account has completed 7-12 years, the withdrawal limit goes higher.
You can use Form C of the particular bank through which you have got your PPF account for premature partial withdrawals.
A PPF account can now be opened online. However, this service is only available with the banks and this service is yet to be introduced for post offices.
Some of the conditions you need to keep in mind while opening for a PPF account online through a bank are:
You can log on to the net-banking portal of the bank and click on ‘PPF Account Opening’ option. You should choose the specific bank account from where you want your contributions to be deducted. Your personal details registered with the bank will be automatically shared to your PPF account opening form.
Once your personal details are updated, the process of Aadhaar e-verification will start. After entering your Aadhaar number, you will receive an OTP on your registered mobile number. You will need to enter this OTP in the given box and your PPF account will be opened.
In case your bank doesn’t offer complete PPF account opening process:
You need to fill the online application form and submit it. Once submitted, you can get its print-out, sign it and submit it along with your KYC documents at your bank branch where you want your PPF account to be opened.
The PPF account, once opened, cannot be closed before the maturity date or tenure of 15 years. In other words, you can withdraw your money after a waiting period of15 years. However, the scheme allows partial withdrawals right from the 7th year. You can also avail of the loan facility from the 3rd year.
If you need to check PPF withdrawal status online, you can log into your bank account and have a look at your PPF online passbook. However, if you need to check your PPF account details and your account is at a post office, you are not provided with the very facility. You need to visit the post office to have access to your PPF withdrawal status.
Public Provident Fund or PPF scheme is an investment instrument backed by the government of India. The interest rate offered by PPF is subject to change quarterly, and as per the recent revision in PPF rules, the updated interest rate is 7.6%.
Table1. PPF Interest Rate History of last 15 Years
PPF is one of the most appealing saving schemes, which has been gaining importance over the time. When PPF influences every walk of lives, it is recommended for all taxpayers. A few of the appealing advantages of PPF are listed below:
PPF is initiated by the government, so there is no possibility of someone running away with your money. It is confirmed that you will get your assured amount at the time of maturity. So, investing in PPF is the safest decision.
By investing in PPF, you can earn 7.6% interest per annum. But, because of the tax rebate facility, your actual return of 7.6% works out to be higher.
Scope for earning compounded returns. That means you earn interest not only on the deposit you make but also on the interest earned over the year(s).
The interest that you earn from a PPF account is exempted from the tax u/s 80C of the Income Tax Act, 1961.
You can invest up to a maximum of 1.5 lakh per annum towards your PPF account. The best part is that you can deposit the money in 12 instalments. The minimum amount that you can invest in their PPF account is as low as Rs. 500.
The amount you get during the maturity of your PPF scheme is also exempted from your tax liability.
You can maintain a PPF online account as well. With internet banking booming, the use of online banking services has become convenient these days. You can maintain your PPF account online by making deposits, calculate your interest using PPF calculator online or keep yourself updated with every new announcement.
In PPF, your investment wouldn't be affected by stock market performance, as the investment is not exposed to equities. This is just opposite in case of mutual funds or SIPs.
Despite all the pros of PPF, it is not completely free of criticism. Public Provident Fund also has some cons that we can’t deny. To name a few:
The tend-to-change interest rate might affect the maturity amount. If we notice, the interest rate of PPF scheme has not been fixed. It kept changing over the time and is declining.
15 years is a long period, but the last contribution is made in the 16th financial year. You will not earn interest on the investment you have made on the last day of your account.
The PPF rate of interest is calculated on the lowest balance between the 5th and last day of the month. For instance, you have 20,000 in your PPF account and you deposit an additional amount 2000 after 5th of a month, your interest will be calculated on Rs. 20,000 (not on Rs. 22,000).
It is not same as mutual funds and is hereby lacking liquidity. Your money is stuck for years on end and not as easy as selling shares or units of mutual funds.
So, PPF online and offline options have their shares of pros and cons equally, when compared to some other plans like FDs, ELSS mutual funds. However, it is one of the preferable schemes until now due to its tax benefits. But it is always advisable to take experts’ advice whenever you are open to investing in a savings plan.
The PPF account online or offline may get inactive when you fail to deposit a minimum of Rs. 500, in a given financial year, during the 15-year time frame of the account. In order to reactivate the account, you will have to pay a fine of Rs. 50, for each year when the minimum deposit has not been made, into the account. Note that no loan, or interest, can be availed for the period during which the account has been inactive.
The account cannot be closed during the period of 15 years. Even if the account gets inactive, the amount (including the investment and the interest) is released to the account holder, or the nominee, only after 15 years i.e. on account maturity.
The online PPF Calculator is a versatile, widely-accessible financial tool, which helps you to:
These and other benefits make the calculator an effective and popular online tool.
You will require an identity proof, signature proof, and an address proof for opening a PPF online or offline account. Any documents used should not be expired, and should be valid, as per the time references.
PAN Card, Passport, Aadhar Card, Voter’s ID, Driving License, and Ration Card
Other documents that provide for the opening of a PPF account
Bank account statement, signed checks, employer’s letter, utility bills
Other than the identity and address proof, you would also require
The bank may also require any other/additional document.