8 tax saving mistakes to avoid in 2021

By Larissa Fernand |  19-01-21 | 
 

The less tax you pay, the more disposable income in your hands. That is good enough reason to take your tax saving exercise seriously. But all too often, it is a mad rush to meet our March 31 deadline. And in doing so, we make some grievous errors by padding our portfolio with investments that could be well avoided.

Here’s how to sidestep that landmine.

Mistake 1: Not exhausting all the tax saving avenues.  

The investments in Public Provident Fund (PPF), National Savings Certificate (NSC), 5-year fixed deposits with the bank or post office, Equity Linked Savings Schemes (ELSS), Senior Citizen Savings Scheme (SCSS), National Pension Scheme (NPS), and Sukanya Samriddhi (specifically for the girl child) all fall under Section 80C. Certain expenses also fall under this section. Do cover all in your checklist.

Do not forget that you get a benefit when you pay rent. Also, interest paid on home loans qualify.

Look at Section 80CCC (included under the Section 80C limit), which includes the money spent on the purchase of a new policy or payments made towards renewal or continuation of an existing policy. The primary condition for availing this exemption is that the policy for which the money has been spent must be providing a pension or a periodical annuity.

Section 80D allows a deduction up to Rs 25,000 for medical insurance premium instalments. The premium should be for you, your spouse, and dependent children.

Mistake 2: Section 80C is only about investing.

Section 80C allows you to claim a deduction of up to Rs 1.5 lakh of your total income under this section. In simple terms, you can reduce up to Rs 1,50,000 from your total taxable income.

All the investments mentioned above fall under this umbrella.

But Section 80C also includes tax-deductible expenses. Payment of life insurance premium and tuition fees for children are two expenses you must look at. The third expense is the repayment of the principal amount of a home loan. This deduction is also applicable on stamp duty, registration fees and transfer expenses. 

Mistake 3: Insurance premium up to Rs 1.50 lakh can be claimed as a deduction.

The annual premium paid for life insurance is available for a deduction ONLY if the policy is in the name of:

  • Taxpayer
  • Taxpayer’s spouse
  • Taxpayer’s children

The limit for the deduction is restricted to 20% of capital sum assured in respect of policies issued on or before March 31, 2012, and 10% in case of policies issued on or after April 1, 2012.

In case of policies taken on or after April 1, 2013, in the name of any person suffering from a disability or severe disability referred to in section 80U or suffering from disease or ailment as given in section 80DDB, the limit will be 15% of capital sum assured. Read more on this on the Income Tax website.

Mistake 4: All tuition fees are permitted.

When the word tuition is used, it is the fee paid for a full-time course to any school, college, university or educational institute situated in India. It is not private, out-of-school tuition. Neither is it for fees paid abroad. The caveat being that it is limited to two children only.

Mistake 5: Tax-saving investments are a must.

No.

  • First, look at the expenses permitted under Section 80C: principal home loans payments, life insurance premiums and children’s tuition fees.
  • If you have not maxed the Rs 1.50 lakh limit with the above payments, then move on to check your provident fund contribution under EPF.
  • Only if you still have not hit the Rs 1.50 lakh limit under Section 80C, should you consider any other investment (such as PPF, NSC, ELSS or 5-year bank deposits) to save tax.

Contributions to the Employee Provident Fund (EPF) are covered under the Section 80C limit. This is a retirement benefit scheme that is available to salaried employees; 12% of basic salary is deducted by an employer and deposited in the EPF. Your provident fund contribution accumulated over the current financial year itself might add up to a sizeable amount.

This is all the more relevant in the case of Voluntary Provident Fund (VPF). Here, the contributor decides on the amount of fixed contribution that is made towards the scheme on a monthly basis. Under the VPF, employees are allowed to make contributions towards their provident fund account on a voluntary basis. The scheme does not include the mandatory 12% that the employee makes towards the EPF.

Mistake 6: Tax saving is about fixed-return instruments.

The SCSS, 5-year bank deposits, NSC and PPF are all fixed-return investments. But under the tax-saving umbrella, there are also ULIPs, ELSS, and the NPS, all of which provide an equity exposure.

This is why you must always approach tax planning from the perspective of your overall portfolio. Your personal tax strategy will have a different meaning and emphasis depending upon your circumstances and risk capability. For instance, if your portfolio is heavily tilted towards fixed income instruments, it would not be wise to opt for an investment in NSC. Instead, consider an ELSS.

Mistake 7: Viewing tax planning in isolation.

Good tax management (saving and investing) can go a long way toward enhancing your return. But the decision needs to be made in conjunction with your overall portfolio and not in an ad-hoc fashion.

Most individuals rarely think about tax planning from an investment point of view. Hence one finds that they do not approach an investment with a perspective of whether or not it fits in with their overall portfolio. The approach is often just grabbing up investments that will give them the tax break, irrespective of whether or not it will help them reach their determined financial goals or fit into an overall investment strategy.

As a result, it is not surprising to see portfolios heavily skewed towards ULIPs or endowment plans. Or probably packed with NSC, in addition to their EPF and PPF. Tax planning investments are no different from conventional investments. Hence, it is imperative to obtain an in-depth understanding of all investment avenues available which offer tax benefits and choose suitable ones that will help save tax and achieve goals.

  • When selling an investment, ask: What are the tax consequences?
  • When buying an investment, ask: What are the portfolio consequences/impact of this current addition?

Mistake 8: Tax saving is a last minute exercise.

If you are doing your tax planning now, this is a mistake you have already made. Do rectify this going ahead.

You should invest in PPF at the very start of the financial year to avail of the benefit of compounding. If investing in an ELSS, it is wise to do so via a systematic investment plan (SIP) from April onwards. Do remember that SIPs are implemented for a minimum of 6 months or 12 months (though you can terminate it anytime).

You are most prone to making the wrong investment when it is done in a tearing hurry, with the March 31 deadline looming menacingly. Plan. If you want your money to work towards one goal, which is creating wealth, ensure that you approach it in an orderly fashion.

Your investment plan must be proactive, not reactive. By this I mean that tax saving should be in sync with the overall strategy and not a hurried exercise at the fag end of the financial year, where you pick up anything simply because you don’t know what else to do. Tax optimisation of individual financial products has to be the last step in the overall financial plan and not the basis for selection.

Investment Involves Risk of Loss.
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Susant Kumar Dhal
Jan 23 2021 11:19 PM
 A part from 1.5k under 80C, can I put 50k in the NPS for Tax benefit.
Susant Kumar Dhal
Jan 23 2021 11:18 PM
 Is the tuition fee of 56k I have paid towards fee of my ward (BE Final year ) can be shown in the Income Tax return apart from 1.5k under 80C. Please guide me .
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