The Ultimate Mutual Fund Taxation Guide – FY 20-21

Mutual funds are a great tool to build long term wealth. One can benefit from the experience of an expert team to invest their money and grow wealth. Investors understand the benefits of investing in financial assets and are actively allocating more money to such assets when compared to physical assets like real assets and commodities. No wonder the mutual fund industry has been growing at a massive pace. Let us now look at how these instruments are taxed and the changes in taxation after the union budget of 2020.

Mutual fund taxation is determined on the basis on three important parameters which are;

Types of Mutual Fund – Equity or Non-Equity Mutual Funds

All mutual funds that hold 65% or more in equity instruments are known as equity mutual funds. They include equity oriented hybrid funds which hold 65% or more in equity. The funds that don’t quality under these criteria are taxed as non-equity mutual funds.

Your Residential Status – Resident or Non-Resident Individual (NRI)

Resident individuals are taxed differently when compared to NRIs. The income tax department has a residency calculator to arrive at your residential status.

Holding Period – Short Term or Long Term

Equity Investments are considered as short term if held for less than 365 days i.e., 1 year and non-equity investments held for less than 3 years are taxed as short term holdings. The below table illustrates how mutual funds are taxed on the basis of the invested duration;

Type of FundShort TermLong Term
Equity FundsHeld for <12 monthsHeld for >12 months
Equity Oriented Hybrid Funds (>65% in Equity)Held for <12 monthsHeld for >12 months
All Other FundsHeld for <36 monthsHeld for >36 months

The below table summarizes the taxation of resident and NRI for different types of mutual funds held across different time horizons;

Mutual Fund Taxation Based on Residency, Type and Holding Period

Equity & Equity Oriented FundsResident IndividualNRI
Short Term Capital Gains (STCG)15%15%
Long Term Capital Gains (LTCG)10% above 1 Lakh10% above 1 Lakh
Non-Equity Mutual Funds  
Short Term Capital Gains (STCG)Individual Tax SlabIndividual Tax Slab
Long Term Capital Gains (LTCG)20% with IndexationListed 20% With Indexation & unlisted 10% without indexation

Tax on Mutual Fund Dividends

The union budget of 2020-21 abolished dividend distribution tax. Dividends are now taxed at the investor’s applicable tax rate. The budget also mandates Tax Deducted at Source (TDS) @ 10% for resident individuals if the dividend income is more than ₹ 5,000 in a financial year. For NRIs, the TDS is as follows;

Equity & Equity Oriented Funds15%10%
Non-Equity Mutual Funds30% (Assuming Investor is in the highest tax bracket)Listed 20% With Indexation & unlisted 10% without indexation

The biggest change in taxation is with respect to taxation of dividends. Prior to this year, dividends were tax free in the hands of the recipients, but now, they are taxed at the receiver’s end and at his applicable tax rate. For someone in the highest tax bracket, one could end up paying more than 42% taxes on the dividends declared.

Investors with a longer time horizon stand to gain if they move to growth option as it ensures that your wealth grows at a faster rate. The below illustration shows the additional returns generated under the growth option for an investor in the 30% tax bracket;

DetailsDividend OptionGrowth Option
Amount Invested @ Year 1 ₹         10,00,000 ₹      10,00,000
Growth @ 10% ₹           1,00,000 ₹        1,00,000
Dividend @ 25% ₹              25,000 ₹                  –  
Tax on Dividend @ 30% ₹                7,500 ₹                  –  
Gain @ end of Year 1 ₹              92,500 ₹        1,00,000
Amount Invested @ Year 2 ₹         10,92,500 ₹      11,00,000
Growth @ 10% ₹           1,09,250 ₹        1,10,000
Dividend @ 25% ₹              27,313 ₹                  –  
Tax on Dividend @ 30% ₹                8,194 ₹                  –  
Gain @ end of Year 2 ₹           1,01,056 ₹        1,10,000
Amount Invested @ Year 3 ₹         11,93,556 ₹      12,10,000
Growth @ 10% ₹           1,19,356 ₹        1,21,000
Dividend @ 25% ₹              29,839 ₹                  –  
Tax on Dividend @ 30% ₹                8,952 ₹                  –  
Gain @ end of Year 3 ₹           1,10,404 ₹        1,21,000
Amount Invested @ Year 4 ₹         13,03,960 ₹      13,31,000
Growth @ 10% ₹           1,30,396 ₹        1,33,100
Dividend @ 25% ₹              32,599 ₹                  –  
Tax on Dividend @ 30% ₹                9,780 ₹                  –  
Gain @ end of Year 4 ₹           1,20,616 ₹        1,33,100
Amount Invested @ Year 4 ₹         14,24,577 ₹      14,64,100
Growth @ 10% ₹           1,42,458 ₹        1,46,410
Dividend @ 25% ₹              35,614 ₹                  –  
Tax on Dividend @ 30% ₹              10,684 ₹                  –  
Gain @ end of Year 4 ₹           1,31,773 ₹        1,46,410
Market Value @ end of Year 5 ₹         15,56,350 ₹      16,10,510
Additional Return  ₹           54,160

The above illustration makes it very clear that the growth option is best suited to grow wealth in the long run because of its tax efficiency.

The income tax department rewards you with preferential tax treatment if you stay invested for longer time horizons with lower tax rate for equity investments above one year and indexation benefits for debt investments held for more than 3 years. It should also be noted that long term gains up to ₹ 1,00,000 are exempt from taxes each financial year. Connect with a Fee Only Financial Planner to help you with your taxes.


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