Much has been said and written about National Pension System (NPS) already. The intention of this article is to give a quick idea to my fellow HRs in the network as to why this is a great benefit you can offer to your employees. Non-HR folks reading this — check with your HR team to see if this is an option at your organisation if you don’t already have it.
What is NPS?
As the name suggests, it is National Pension System. The Govt. of India introduced it for the central and government employees but a few years ago it was extended for the Private Sector employees (and for any citizen of age 15–65, for that matter irrespective of whether they are employed) as well. It is a voluntary pension fund (+wealth creation fund, I might add). Employees can contribute amounts to the NPS fund which will be invested in equity stocks, government bonds, corporate debts, etc.
When does the pension start?
At the time of maturity, one can withdraw up to 60% of the lumpsum. The balance 40% should be invested in annuity (pension), which will be used to give you pension for the rest of your life. One has an option to put in any percentage above 60% up to 100% to the annuity, too. Here’s an NPS calculator.
Can you tell me a little bit more about NPS?
I will skip that part since numerous websites have already written about it — NPS Trust’s website or Wikipedia can be a starter. There are many youtube videos on the topic too. You should be able to read/watch pros and cons of the scheme.
How are the returns?
Better than EPF in terms of absolute profit from invested corpus, from the stats. Dig in here and here’s Scheme E’s returns. The minimum contribution in a financial year to keep the account active is Rs. 1000/-.
How can I join NPS?
Simple. Join here online. Keep digital copies of your PAN, Photograph, Aadhaar and cancelled cheque/bank account passbook with you. The cancelled cheque/bank account passbook should bear your name.
Is contribution to NPS tax-exempt?
Yes, it is exempt in your 80C (and 80CCC, 80CCD(1)). Plus, there is a special exemption of Rs. 50,000/- for NPS contributions under 80CCD(1B). Contributions to NPS is Exempt-Exempt-Exempt, i.e. tax-exempt at the tie of contribution, tax-exempt on the profit earned on an investment, and tax-exempt at the time of maturity (conditions apply).
Well, is it fully tax-exempt?
Your investment is fully tax-exempt at the time of investment. Your return every year that is being added back to NPS corpus is tax-exempt. Your corpus is, well, hmm… two things: exempt for the part that goes to annuity and the rest (that you withdraw) is not exempt. One cannot say that NPS is fully non-taxable at the time of maturity in that sense.
Now tell me, how’s NPS and Corporate NPS different?
Corporate NPS is NPS whose contributions are made through the employer. Instead of you making direct contribution to your NPS fund, you ask your employer to deduct a certain amount from your CTC and contribute to your NPS.
What’s the advantage of having Corporate NPS?
Contributions made through Corporates are tax-exempt under 80CCD(2) for up to 10% of Basic Pay of the employee. That is, if your annual basic pay is Rs. 10 Lakhs, then a contribution up to Rs. 1 Lakh per year is fully tax-free. This is over and above your 80C, 80CCC, 80CCD(1) and 80CCD(1B). Meaning, you still can invest into NPS on your own as per the above sections and claim those tax-exemptions as well, besides the corporate contributions made.
That’s exciting. How can corporates register for Corporate NPS?
Corporates will have to find a PFM and POP. Ask your HR or Finance team to reach out to them and the rest of the onboarding will be taken care of by them. It will need very minimal involvement by your HR/Finance team. Make sure that you choose the PFMs after due diligence (look at peer feedbacks, return rates, etc.).
How can we connect employees NPS ID to our corporate NPS?
You should ask employees to provide their NPS (the same NPS ID — known as PRAN — created for their direct investment shall be used for Corporate NPS contributions as well). Provide these PRANs to your PFM and they will link it to your corporate account.
How does this play with salary structuring?
Corporate NPS contributions usually form part of the employer contributions of the CTC. If your offer/appointment letter allows flexibility of revising the salary structure (perhaps at the request of the employee), this is a great benefit to add. You may even offer a choice for the employee to choose an amount up to 10% of their monthly basic pay to be contributed every month (going above 10% won’t be beneficial in terms of tax-exemption). You may also consider providing this as an additional benefit to the existing employer contributions, if the company financials are good, thereby not touching the gross pay.
If Corporate NPS cannot be offered to your current employees owing to a rigid offer/appointment letter, consider offering this as a choosable perk to future employees. They will love it when they see the returns plus the taxes being saved.
Hey, I see options like Aggressive (LC75), LC50 and such. What are they?
These options indicate how aggressive the investments are. LC75, for example, says 75% of the contributions will be invested in equity, while the balance will be in government bonds/corporate debt funds. LC50 would mean and 50% contribution to equity funds. Though corporates can set the nature of aggressiveness at the start of the Corporate NPS, employees will have an option to set their own aggressiveness (and can even change the PFMs for their own fund) after a stipulated time (~1 year).
If your workforce is generally young, say less than 35 years of age, LC75 would not hurt much. If your workforce is comparatively older, say above 40, it’s safe to stay with less-riskier options such as LC50.
What are the cons of NPS?
There could be multiple legs: NPS is a market-linked product and hence the market fluctuations can affect your returns. You will still need to manage your PMS once in a while to make sure that you have higher/steady returns — this needs manual intervention from the investor. Plus, the government still require the investor to keep at least 40% of the maturity corpus to be invested in annuity, whose returns are not at par with the inflation. More here.