It may sound surprising, but self-employed people outnumber salaried individuals in the country. In 2013, over half of the 473 million workers in the country were self-employed. A large number of self-employed people has made India the country with one of the largest gig economies in the world. However, self-employment is a broad term and encompasses a wide variety of workers ranging from casual labours to freelance writers and graphic designer. There is a significant difference in the functioning and payment schedules of self-employed and salaried individuals. Most self-employed workers have irregular payment schedules and need tax saving investment options in sync with their payment timetable.
While opting for an investment, a self-employed individual should not just look at the initial tax saving but also seek tax-free returns. There are three phases to an investment - investment phase, accumulation phase and withdrawal phase. Many instruments help in tax saving in the investment and the accumulation phase but are taxed in the withdrawal phase. Self-employed people should invest in a mix of instruments with different tax saving capabilities. Here are a few tax-saving tips for self-employed people.
- Bank fixed deposits: Bank fixed deposits are not fully tax-free but are a good short-term investment option. One has to remain invested in a bank fixed deposit for a certain number of years. Investment in five-year bank fixed deposits qualify for tax deduction under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act, 1961. Fixed deposits are also suitable for self-employed people as they require a lump-sum payment. The returns of fixed deposits vary but hover around 7-8%. Fixed deposits help in tax saving in the investment phase but the interest earned is taxable, which may diminish the returns in the long run.
- Unit-linked insurance plans: ULIPs are a mix of insurance and investment and can be an ideal tax-saving instrument for self-employed workers. While investing, one should also consider the rate of return and liquidity, along with saving taxes. The contributions made to a unit-linked plan are eligible for tax deduction under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act, 1961. With an array of investment funds ranging from debt to equity offered by ULIPs, one can invest according to his/her risk profile. Many ULIPs allow partial withdrawals to take care of urgent liquidity needs. ULIPs being long term instruments can help build a considerable corpus to fulfil life goals. ULIPs are essentially insurance products, which allows them to escape the purview of long-term capital gains even though a part of the contribution is invested in market-linked instruments
- Equity-linked savings scheme: Self-employed people can consider ELSS as an ideal option for tax saving as well as capital appreciation. ELSS are diversified equity mutual funds that have a minimum lock-in period of three years for investment. Investment in ELSS is eligible for a tax deduction of up to Rs 1.5 lakhs under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act. The accumulation and withdrawal were earlier completely tax-free, but after 2018, gains made over Rs 1 lakh per year attract long term capital gains tax at the rate of 10%. Beyond tax saving, ELSS can deliver decent returns as the entire corpus is invested in equity instruments.
- National Pension Scheme: The NPS is a government-backed scheme open to all, introduced to promote retirement planning among people. The defining feature of NPS is that it allows exposure to equities to an extent at a very low cost when compared to mutual funds. Contributions to NPS qualify for a deduction of up to Rs 1.5 lakhs per year under Section 80C of the income tax laws. Individuals can claim an additional deduction of Rs 50,000 under Section 80CCD (1B) for investing in NPS. You are allowed to withdraw 60% of the accumulated corpus, but the balance 40% has to be used to buy an annuity plan. The lump-sum amount allowed to be withdrawn is tax-free, but the regular annuity payments will be taxed as per the income slab
Self-employed individuals can use a mix of tax-free investment options for tax savings along with optimizing returns. Fixed deposits and ELSS can be used for short-term goals, while NPS and ULIP can be used to fulfil long-term goals such as retirement planning and child's education. The Invest 4G unit-linked insurance plan from Canara HSBC Oriental Bank of Commerce can be an ideal choice for self - employed people. Wealth boosters and loyalty additions boost Invest 4G plan's returns, while a host of portfolio management strategies helps you manage risks efficiently