What is National Pension System (NPS)?
Government of India established Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA)- External website that opens in a new window on 10th October, 2003 to develop and regulate pension sector in the country. The National Pension System (NPS) was launched on 1st January, 2004 with the objective of providing retirement income to all the citizens. NPS aims to institute pension reforms and to inculcate the habit of saving for retirement amongst the citizens.
Initially, NPS was introduced for the new government recruits (except armed forces). With effect from 1st May, 2009, NPS has been provided for all citizens of the country including the unorganised sector workers on voluntary basis.
Types of National Pension Schemes (NPS):
There are two types of accounts that NPS offers:
- Tier-I Account
It is a basic pension account with limitations on withdrawal
*Before attaining 60 years of age, only 20% of the contribution can be withdrawn while the rest 80% has to be necessarily used for buying annuity from a life insurer. Annuity is a series of payments made at fixed intervals of time. Annuity plans necessitate the insurer to pay the insured income at regular intervals until his death or till maturity of the plan.
*After attaining the age of retirement also (60 years), close to 60% contribution can be withdrawn and the rest 40% again has to be used to purchase annuity from approved life insurers.
- Tier-II Account
It is a voluntary savings option from which a person can withdraw money limitless.
Who can join NPS?
- Central Government Employees
NPS is applicable to all new employees of Central Government service (except Armed Forces) and Central Autonomous Bodies joining Government service on or after 1st January 2004. Any other government employee who is not mandatorily covered under NPS can also subscribe to NPS under “All Citizen Model” through a Point of Presence – Service Provider (POP-SP).
- State Government Employees
NPS is applicable to all the employees of State Governments, State Autonomous Bodies joining services after the date of notification by the respective State Governments. Any other government employee who is not mandatorily covered under NPS can also subscribe to NPS under “All Citizen Model” through a Point of Presence – Service Provider (POP-SP).
A Corporate would have the flexibility to decide investment choice either at subscriber level or at the corporate level centrally for all its underlying subscribers. The corporate or the subscriber can choose any one of Pension Fund Managers (PFMs)- External website that opens in a new window available under “All Citizen Model” and also the percentage in which the funds are allocated in various asset classes.
All citizens of India between the age of 18 and 60 years as on the date of submission of his / her application to Point of Presence (POP) / Point of Presence-Service Provider (POP-SP) can join NPS.
- Unorganised Sector Workers – Swavalamban Yojana
A citizen of India between the age of 18 and 60 years as on the date of submission of his / her application, who belongs to the unorganized sector or is not in a regular employment of the Central or a state government, or an autonomous body/ public sector undertaking of the Central or state government, can open NPS -Swavalamban account.
The subscriber of NPS -Swavalamban- External website that opens in a new window account should not be covered under social security scheme like Employees’ Provident Fund and miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952, The Coal Mines Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1948, The Seamen’s Provident Fund Act, 1966, The Assam Tea Plantations Provident Fund and Pension Fund Scheme Act, 1955 and The Jammu and Kashmir Employees’ Provident Fund Act, 1961.
BENEFITS OF NPS
Some of the benefits of the National Pension System (NPS) are:
- It is transparent – NPS is transparent and cost effective system wherein the pension contributions are invested in the pension fund schemes and the employee will be able to know the value of the investment on day to day basis.
- It is simple – All the subscriber has to do, is to open an account with his/her nodal office and get a Permanent Retirement Account Number (PRAN).
- It is portable – Each employee is identified by a unique number and has a separate PRAN which is portable i.e., will remain same even if an employee gets transferred to any other office.
- It is regulated – NPS is regulated by Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority- External website that opens in a new window, with transparent investment norms & regular monitoring and performance review of fund managers by NPS Trust- External website that opens in a new window.
Pros and Cons of NPS
Additional Tax Benefit:
The Finance Bill 2011-12 permits tax deduction on contribution up to 10 per cent of basic salary and dearness allowance (DA) made by an employer towards the national pension scheme (NPS) account of an employee under Section 80CCE. This is over and above the Rs 1 lakh limit and is applicable if the contribution is done by the employer. This is the reason why corporate houses are accepting NPS happily.
There has been a hike in inquiries about NPS mainly because of the tax benefit under Section 80CCE.
Higher Fee to Intermediaries:
The fund management fee for non-government funds has been raised from 0.0009 per cent of assets under management to 0.25 per cent. The fee for government funds has been changed to 0.0102 per cent from April this year
PoPs are allowed to charge Rs 100 plus 0.25 per cent of the investment, as against a negligible fee of Rs 20 previously.
The change is promoting New Pension Scheme by offering incentives to distributors and fund managers. The fund management fee of 0.25 per cent is nothing when compared to other products.
Tax on Maturity Proceeds:
There is confusion about taxation at withdrawal. According to the present laws the funds would be taxed at withdrawal.
Under the current laws, around 60 per cent corpus on maturity can be withdrawn while at least 40 per cent has to be used to buy annuity. Presently, returns from annuity insurance plans are not tax-free.
The proposed Direct Taxes Code (DTC) plans to exempt NPS funds from tax at withdrawal. However, it is uncertain if the DTC would allow tax exemption on returns from annuity plans as well.
The tax at withdrawal stands in the way of making NPS the best pension scheme.
Another lag is limitation on withdrawal from Tier-I account, the primary account for pension savings. On maturity also, one can withdraw only around 60 per cent funds; the rest has to be used to buy annuity, the returns from which are not tax exempted.
Even the annuity also has to be bought from one of the six PFRDA-approved insurers. Options to choose from in case of the number of annuity providers are anyway less with LIC commanding a 70 per cent market share.
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