Category Archives: Investment

Widget, widget on the wall, Which is the Best Investment of all?

Finally the tool to compare investment options is here.

Its configured for Indian Tax Rates for FY 2017 -2018 and works pretty accurately – I tried to test as much as I could but feel free to point issues if you find some.

To use the tool simply input your Investment amount and the Total income before this investment. That will calculate your tax bracket.

Then choose the category of investment and input your expected rate of return and the tool will give you the comparative pre and post tax earnings.

Its that simple!

For applicable tax rates refer to – Capital Gains tax for NRIs- It’s not that simple

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Another Demonetization Coming?

The money changers in Arcade, Raffles place are again offering a rate better than the spot rate. The current spot is 47.20 and you could get 47.75 with the money changers.

Again the notes are all legit and there is nothing wrong that I could find.

Last time this happened, it was in October 2016 and the 1000 and 500 Rupee Notes were Demonetised in on 8th November 2017 (https://adityaladia.com/2016/10/11/cash-rate-of-inr-better-than-spot-in-arcade/)

I could not help but wonder if 2000 Rupee notes will soon be withdrawn and prove the rumours correct. If that happens where will Indian GDP go is anybody’s guess but till then if you are visiting to India then exchanging money in Singapore and carrying back is a profitable bet.

Capital Gains tax for NRIs- It’s not that simple

As an NRI, you would have wondered many times, what parts of your Indian Income are taxable and what are not and trust me you are not alone.

Under the Indian Income tax act, the tax rates, deductions from income, exemptions from taxation all change depending on the nature of income and residential status of the individual. With the ever changing tax provisions, even if you searched online the chances of finding the information you are looking for would not be easy and filtering out the tax provisions that are applicable to an NRI is even more difficult.

Not being able to find consolidated tax provisions on common investments used by NRI’s I decided to compile the information myself and hope that fellow NRI’s will find it useful.

NRI’s mostly invest in Fixed Deposits, Bonds, Mutual Funds, Stock and Property which would generally give rise to income under Capital Gains or Other Income (Bank Interest or Dividends) under the Indian Tax laws.

I have tabulated the provisions that an NRI should be aware of for FY 2017-2018 (click on table to open in new window)

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One of the most interesting things to note is that the basic tax free exemption is not available to an NRI on Equity Investments.  What that means is that if an NRI gained 2,50,000 Rupee by investing in stock market the whole 2,50,000 Rupee is taxable. If these gains are long term (asset held for more than 1 year) then there is no tax liability but for short term gains the tax rate is @ 15%. So an NRI would pay Rs.37,500 in taxes, the income would not attract any tax in hands of a resident Indian.

Another interesting fact to note is that the gains on redemption of Sovereign Gold Bonds are not chargeable to tax if held till maturity.

With difference in tax rules being different in different countries an investor should consider the tax domicile of the investment to maximise returns. In Singapore and Hong Kong the Capital gains, Bank Interest and Dividends are not taxable, however in USA and UK these income are taxable.

For example if an NRI bought a mutual fund in India that returned 20% over a period of 6 months then his gains would be taxed at a flat rate of 15% resulting in a post tax return of 17%. Buying this same fund in Singapore would have been as the gains are tax free and the investor pays no tax.

Similarly for bonds the interest is taxable in India and taxed at the marginal rate based on your income bracket but tax free in Singapore and Hong Kong.

E.g . An NRI whose total income is over Rs. 10 lac (30% tax bracket) buys a bond that pays 9% interest p.a. The post tax yield of this investment would be 6.3% . Add to it the cost of transferring funds to India of around 0.8%, the yield drops to 5.5%. If the plan is to remit the money back to Singapore on maturity, which will cost another 1%, the investment would yield 4.5% only.

These are just 2 examples to get you thinking. There innumerable scenarios that I can come up with based on different countries of residence and each individuals tax profile. All I would like to highlight is that an investor should not underestimate the impact of taxation and ancillary costs while making investment decisions and look at all aspects before making an investment decision.

Watch out for an investment comparison tool that I am working and will post it here very soon. Till then keep reading and sharing.

To Pay-off or Not to Pay-off?

For the past few days we have been debating whether it makes sense to pay off a housing loan in India by taking a cheaper interest bearing loan in Singapore and following the suggestion of one of the readers I decided to make a post dedicated to housing loans.
Before answering the question of paying off a more expensive loan with a cheaper one in Singapore, let me list down some of the aspects that can influence the decision.

  1. An interest payment on a housing loan tends to be around 2 to 3 % higher than the interest that one would earn on a NRE FD.
  2. The principal payment on a Housing loan is deductible from taxable income upto a amount of Rs. 150,000 per annum.
  3. The deduction on housing loan under section 80 C is subject to the overall limit of 150,000 which includes payments made life insurance payments, PPF, ELSS, Tax saving fixed deposits etc.
  4. The deduction under 80C for housing loan is only for the principal paid in a given financial year and not the interest portion of the EMI paid. Which means that tax benefit on account of housing principal payment will increase gradually over the term of the loan.
  5. The interest paid on the home loan is deductible under section 24 of the income tax act and if you look at the table below it would gradually decrease over the period of the loan. This interest is deductible upto Rs. 200,000 per annum.

Adding benefits under section 24 and 80C one could theoretically deduct Rs. 350,000 per annum of EMI paid subject to limits imposed by individual sections . Benefit under both sections is available to NRI’s.

The tax benefit can change over the period of the loan as the benefits under SECTION 24 and 80C can be revised as a part of the yearly budget exercise.

These tax deductions are beneficial only if one has taxable income for the year.

Another important factor to consider would be any penalty that your bank might impose for early repayment of the loan.

To help with further discussion, I have created the below widget where you can enter the amount of the loan, the interest rate, term of the loan and the year in which loan was taken to get the EMI and payment schedule (rounded to first integer).

If you observe then during the first few years one’s EMI mostly covers the interest payment and less of principal amount and the situation  reverses as the time passes by.

However the interest rate that one is paying remains constant throughout the tenure of the loan irrespective of whether it’s the first year or the last. By virtue of decreasing outstanding loan amount (principal amount) the EMI covers more of principal over time and helps pay off the loan.

Therefore it would be wise to take a cheaper loan in Singapore to pay off a expensive loan in India subject to:

  1. The total differential in interest rate is in favor of the cheaper loan.

E.g. If the current loan is at 9.6%, the loan prepayment penalty is 1%, the tax bracket in which the individual is 30% and total emi is less than 29k per month then the break even point for the new loan in Singapore would be a effective interest rate of 5.72%

2. If the person is in a lower tax bracket or has no benefit by way of deductions from housing loan then the break even point above would be 8.6%

3. The individual taking a personal loan in Singapore or any other country has relative certainty of continued cash flow or employment for the tenure of the loan.

Also one should remember that the loan repayment (interest and principal) of the loan taken in Singapore or any other country does not qualify for any tax rebates in India.

Other factors like expected future exchange rates, anticipated changes to tax laws, whether one has a fixed rate loan or floating rate facility and outlook of interest rates can also be considered but the more variable one adds the more complicated the decision making process will become.

In Singapore you can avail a personal loan upto 4 times your monthly salary. So if both husband and wife work you can get a bigger loan.

Citibank, in my experience tends to offer best rates for 6 months personal loan (if you have been a regular customer). Dbs and HSBC tend to offer the worst rates from what I have heard from acquaintances. Loans longer than 6 months tend to cost more from banks and tapping into into family, friends or Bullion backed facilities are other good alternatives.

The bottom line is that an expensive loan should always be paid off or replaced by a cheaper loan. The same applies if your investment yields less than the cost of home loan then sell off your investment  and reduce your debt first- remember every penny saved is every penny earned.

IRFC Tax Free Bonds Open Today!!

IRFC (Indian Railway Finance Corporation) Tax Free Bonds have opened today and are probably the last TAX FREE bond issue for the year. There is no provision in the budget for 2016-17 for any tax free bonds and any new issue in the next year is extremely unlikely.

Additionally, this is the only issue in 2016 to date for which NRI’s are eligible.

Salient features:

Issue Date – 10th Mar to 14th Mar

Issue Size – Rs. 2450 Crore, of which 60% is reserved for retail investors ~ 1470 crore rupee

Eligibility – both NRI’s and residents

Coupon Rate – yearly interest rate of 7.29% for its 10-year option and 7.64% for the 15-year option to the retail investors investing less than or equal to Rs. 10 lakh

Rating – AAA from CRISIL, ICRA and CARE

There is a very high likely hood that the issue will get oversubscribed in the Retail segment on day one, anyone looking to invest should make an application today.

The current SGD to INR exchange rate is 48.20 offered by DBS Remit. I just made my application and would be looking for capital gains of appx. 15-20% on these bonds over the next 2 years.

 

Tax Free Bonds: Better than NRE FD’s

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Yes, you read it right! Tax free bonds are better than NRE Fixed deposits.

After all these years of recommending NRE FD’s as the safest bet for investing in India, I am changing my recommendation to Tax free bonds (in no particular order) by IREDA, NHAI, NABARD, REC and HUDCO.

Lets compare the bonds to the NRE deposit

1. NRE Fixed usually give the highest rate for a lock in of 2 or 3 years and are averaging between 7.8% to 8.2%, which means that the reinvestment on maturity would be at the prevailing interests rates.
2. NRE deposits have a penalty in case of pre mature withdrawal
3. Interest on NRE deposits is tax free

A Tax free bond on the other hand is giving a 7.64% for a period of 15 years (NABARD which opens tomorrow – 9th Mar 2016) in retail category (less than 10 lacs) or half a percent lesser for amounts exceeding 10 lacs.

You must be wondering why am I recommending the bonds when they give lesser interest and are tax free like the NRE FD? The Central Bank interest rates across the world are going down and India has already had a few rate cuts which makes these Bonds attractive. As the interest rates will be reduced the value of these bonds will increase (capital appreciation) . These bonds are more liquid than a FD as they are traded on the stock exchanges which means that one can sell the bond without incurring pre mature withdrawal penalty in case of FD. Further for a slightly lesser interest rate these bonds let you lock in a higher interest rate for next 15 years.

If this has not convinced you then let me tell you the most important reason why I am recommending these bonds – interest on NRE FD’s becomes taxable if a NRI returns to India. Depending on the individual residency criteria in section  6 of the Income Tax of India on return a NRI becomes a Tax Resident in 6 months to 2 years, upon which the NRE accounts are converted to a Resident Rupee Account, which means that any interest that accrues on your NRE account after you become tax resident becomes taxable.

These bonds on the other hand assure tax free income for next 15 years from the date of allotment.

Now the fine print – not all bonds are open to NRI’s for investment, however if you have a resident bank / brokerage account you could use that to apply for these bonds and / or purchase them from open market and benefit from capital gains and long term tax free interest income.

You would be “Out of Money” 80% of days if you transferred money to India in 2015

The last few days of Chinese New year holidays allowed me to spend some time on SGD INR analysis. I always had a feeling that transferring money to Indian specially with a view to play on the interest rate differential would not have been beneficial in the last year and I had to test my feeling against some actual numbers.

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I took the average investable Tax Free NRE FD rate as 8% and cost of transferring money as 1%. The interest that someone could earn in Singapore was taken as average of 2% (DBS Multiplier, OCBC 360, UOB One or some money market funds) which brought the effective interest rate differential as 6% (8% – 2%).

There might be a few of you who could have got slightly better NRE FD rates and also managed a better transfer rate, however in my observation banks or transfer services usually charge anywhere between 0.8% to 1.5% as remittance fee. This fee could be charged as a out right fee or built into the exchange rate that they offer you. Similarly I took the cost of transferring money back from India as 1% as well though people tell me it can be close to 2%. I have personally never transferred money from India so just went in with the 1% charge.

The result of number crunching vindicated my gut feel  – there were only  39 days in 2015 (around 11%) which provided a better return if someone transferred money to India, invested in NRE FD and transferred it back to Singapore as compared to keeping money in Singapore and starting to transfer to India once SGD INR crossed 47.50.

Interestingly of those 39 days 12 were in Jan 2015 and remaining between 24th April to 22 May and few in mid June.

The number of days went up to 62 (around 20%) if the person decided to leave money in India instead of bringing it back but the period of transfer remained in first half of the year.

Anyone who panicked and transferred money since July would be “out of money” based on today’s DBS remittance rate of 48.50 (Market rate around 48.90).

Of-course the rates can and will change in the coming days and a few more days of 2015 might become “In the money” but I would rather transfer around 48 than at 46 – it translates to gains of around 5%.

SGD INR 2015

 

 

RBI Cuts Benchmark Rates – Now What?

The much talked about interest rate cut finally happened today. RBI Governor keeping true to his character surprised the markets with an earlier than expected cut taking India on a path different from Russia and Brazil where central banks have increased the benchmark rates in the past few weeks.

I must say it’s a brilliant move by the Governor to put the ball back into Finance Ministers court and push for structural fiscal reforms in the upcoming budget. The general sentiment has been that the higher rates are keeping India from growing which overshadows the fundamental issues of red tape, poor infrastructure and wastage in public expenditure.

The sustained fall in oil prices (thank Russia for occupying Crimea) has given India the much-needed window to push through reforms without being worried about stroking uncontrolled inflation.

The question is that will this rate cut and structural reforms be enough to achieve the targeted growth? No, absolutely not. The other key factor, which should not be ignored, is the exchange rate of the rupee against other currencies. To recap the last year – Rupee has oscillated between 58 and 63.5 against the US dollar (I use USD as a benchmark because the other rates are nothing but a cross rate). The fall in rupee has been less pronounced as compared to its Asian peers like the Malaysian Ringgit, Indonesian Rupiah, Singapore Dollar, Korean Won etc. On the global front, the Yen, Euro and Pound have also dropped sharply against the USD resulting in net gains by the Rupee against these currencies as well.

While the gains in Rupee boost the feel good factor about the India story – is a sustained gain in Rupee the right thing for the Indian economy? My take is that RBI would not let Rupee gain beyond the 62 mark to keep the exports competitive. There was evidence of this when RBI was seen buying dollars in the last week when Rupee gained sharply. With a generally weaker Rupiah, Ringgit, Peso and Riel the Indian exports would face tough competition in areas like garments, IT services, food grains and other manufacturing. Also with Euro and Pound weakening the demand from European countries would decline if the goods are not priced competitively.

With crude oil staying below 50, I think RBI would target the Rupee around 65 against the USD (at-least that’s would I would do, if I were the RBI governor). That would be a roughly 5% decline from the current levels and will bring it at par with other countries with export competitiveness. A sharp gain in the currency would negate any benefit that the lower oil prices would have and I don’t think the RBI or the finance minister would want that.

We should not forget that infrastructure reforms do not happen overnight and take years to fully have the desired impact.

What would that do to SGD INR – 45 mark would remain as the strong support for the pair with upside of Rs.50, but of-course remitting money to India and investing in NRE deposits would always remain a good option.

Postal Stamps: A long forgotten treasure

It had been years since I had looked at my stamp collection and while on vacation this year I wanted to spend some time ensuring that the stamps were still there and in good condition.

Collecting stamps was a childhood hobby and maybe something that was passed down the family (at-least in my case) – my Grandfather, Father, Uncle had all all indulged in stamps at some point or the other in their lives. As a kid I always wanted to have all stamps from all countries and felt the collection I had was not big enough – in retrospect I could nor be more wrong.

So on the second day of my holidays I pulled out the case with all my stamps.I must say it was pretty heavy (much heavier than what I had imagined) – There were many albums filled with stamps, first day covers, miniature sheets, postcards and various other postal items. There were stamps from Russia, China, America, Britain, Hungary and of-course India. Browsing through the collection I felt like a little kid who has been left in a candy store – everything was so pretty and brought back memories of childhood.

Having some time on hand I decided to catalogue the collection for future reference and started with the slow process of noting everything on a spreadsheet. The real challenge was to keep myself focused and not get carried away admiring the stamps. After many hours I had finally listed all the indian stamp sheets that I had and this was just a small portion of the overall collection.There were quite a few stamps of which I had more than one sheet and out of curiosity I thought of why not selling off the extra stuff to buy more stamps (once a collector, always a collector).

So here I was checking the listed prices of my extra stamps on auction sites – and what I saw was nothing short of complete amazement!!

Most stamps had shot through the roof and were selling at 50-100 times the face value.

It was hard to believe what I was seeing and initially I just brushed it aside as people ask crazy prices, but having seen the valuations I had to dig around a little more – after all, this could be a lot of money and what I found left me wide eyed. The prices I was seeing were transacted prices.

The stamp sheet from my collection that had appreciated the most were from 2003 – Aero India and Temple Architecture of India

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The temple architecture sheetlet set had 5 sheets which I had bought for Rs.80 each (~1.25USD) and they now commanded a price of Rs.10,000 each (~165USD) a massive 132 times appreciation in 10 years – yielding me a 55% annualised return.

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Similarly the Aero India sheet set o 4 sheets with a face value of Rs.600 (~USD10) was valued at Rs.40,000 (~670) an annualized return of 40%

Just as with China the valuation of Indian collectibles increased with the general growth in the country. I also found an old stamp from China which was valued at $50 in the international market and was again baffled to see that one could get upto USD 3000 for the same stamp in Mint condition (unfortunately mine was cancelled and used)

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Having looked at the valuation of some parts of my collection I am all re-convinced about stamps as an alternate investment. As with any investment there are risks and for stamps the 2 biggest risks are lack of liquidity and risk of destruction – after all they are delicate pretty thing on paper.

Next I had a look at some coins and they took me on another roller coaster ride of awe and disbelief, but that is for another post..,