Long Term Capital Gain (LTCG) Tax – Simplified

If you’ve made a mutual fund investment recently, you may be confused about the recent Union Budget announcement that brought back long-term capital gains taxes on equity oriented mutual funds. Until the budget, any profits booked in equity oriented mutual funds after a year of holding the units, were deemed tax free. If you’re confused about how the new rules will impact the future post-tax profits from your mutual fund investments – read on.

First and foremost, you should know that there’s no change in the rules related to STCG (Short Term Capital Gains) on your equity mutual fund investments. So, if you sell your units before a year, you’ll have to pay 15% on the profits irrespective of when you do so.

If you’ve held your units of your mutual fund investment for more than a year, different rules will apply. Since the budget announcements only come into effect from the new fiscal, the old rules continue to apply until March 31st. However, this should not prompt you to book profits in your equity mutual fund investments. Stay invested for the long run, because the government has exempted any profits earned until 31st January 2018 from taxes, by using a mechanism called ‘grandfathering’.

Here’s how it works. When you sell your equity mutual fund investment units (post March 31st) after holding them for a year or more, you’ll have to compare your purchase price, with the fund’s NAV on 31st January 2018. While computing LTCG, you’ll need to take the higher of the two – in effect, minimizing your LTCG and tax outgo to the maximum possible extent. However, bear in mind that if you’re using the NAV as on 31st January 2018 to compute your capital gains, you cannot use it to show a capital loss. If you’re selling at a price that’s lower than the NAV as on 31st January 2018, you’ll need to compute the capital gains as zero.

Long Term Capital Gains on your equity mutual fund investments up to Rs. 1 Lakh per fiscal, per PAN have been exempted from taxes – so you only need to pay 10% on any profit amount that exceeds Rs. 1 Lakh.

The budget has also proposed a 10% dividend distribution tax on equity mutual fund dividends, irrespective of the quantum of such dividends received in a year. Therefore, there’s a case in point for switching from the dividend option of your mutual fund investments to growth options, and redeeming moneys through SWP’s to create synthetic dividends from your investments.

Did you know that there are only five countries in the world that exempt long term capital gains from equities from taxes altogether? So, this was an inevitability at some point. Even after the introduction of the new tax structure, equity mutual fund investments remain the most tax efficient investment by far.