Debt Mutual Fund vs. Fixed Deposit Comparator – Version II

There are many articles on the web that talk about the difference in the way debt mutual funds and fixed deposits are taxed. Almost all of them (including the ones by self-proclaimed beacons of financial literacy) talk about post-tax returns typically over 3-5 year periods.

To my knowledge there is only one article, written by Subramoney which talks about the advantages of debt funds over fixed deposits when one stays invested for several years (much more than 5!): Money Control article dated Nov 26, 2011: Advantages of debt funds over fixed deposits

Many readers maybe aware that, following Subra’s suggestion, I made a fixed deposit vs debt fund comparator to illustrate his point. In this post, I present the second version of this calculator to with additional options.

Before we get to the calculator, we need to clear the air about certain issues:

Long term investing and debt funds

Use the phrases ‘debt fund’ and ‘long term’ in a sentence and immediately there are comments which read/sound, “One should invest only in equity for the long term”, “for more than 5 years one should always invest in equity”. Sorry I need to say this: such sentiments are plain dumb. People who say such things without understanding the context are often clueless about what asset allocation means.

  • Every investor needs a debt instrument. Every portfolio needs a debt component, regardless of time frame. The same cannot be said about equity. Of course the percentage allocation to debt will vary depending on the time frame involved. However,the percentage is never zero.
  • While investing for long term goals like retirement or a child’s education or marriage, a SIP is a debt ‘income’ fund is not a bad idea at all. This allows an investor to freely rebalance the portfolio.
  • PPF is good but inflexible and cannot be used for rebalancing. A debt fund is a not a bad idea even for people who use PPF + equity MFs or EPF + equity MFs.
  • Tax efficiency is important, but more important is preserving the fruits of compounding by rebalancing.
  • Many times we receive a lump sum from various sources (bonuses, pay arrears, gifts etc.). If we are already saving enough for our goals then this lump sum can be invested in a debt mutual fund for a long period of time and be used to fund different goals.
  • There are many more such uses. If you can think of some more, please do share them in the comments section so that all of us can benefit.

The advantage Income from both fixed deposits and debt funds is taxable. Debt funds are taxed at a constant rate for all investors: 10.3% without indexation or 20.6% with indexation (whichever is lower can be used). Tax on fixed deposits depends on the investors tax slab since it is added to income and taxed as per slab. For someone in the 20% or 30% slab choosing a debt fund can is advantageous over a FD especially if one stays invested for a long enough time (10 years or more). Even if someone is currently in the 10% slab, if he/she has a chance of moving to the 20% slab (or higher) after a few years, a debt fund investment is a good idea.

Income from debt funds is taxed only when an investor redeems the investment. However,there is a disagreement regarding when the FD income is taxable. Most people (include me, Subra and other CAs) are convinced that tax on FD income has to be declared and paid each financial year. Others believe tax on FD income can be paid on maturity like debt funds.

I consider this disagreement below and also offer both possibilities in the calculator.

If you choose to pay tax on FD income each year then the amount that is allowed to compounded each year is lower. In the case of a debt fund the entire fund-value participates in the compounding. So in this case, over a long enough period the debt fund corpus can be significantly bigger. Version I of the calculator considers only this possibility: Fixed deposit vs debt fund comparator

If you choose to pay on tax on maturity (tax in this context refers to tax over and above the 10.3% tax deducted by the bank (TDS)), then a much higher amount participates in the compounding. In this case the advantage held by the debt fund is typically lower but non-zero.

Fixed Deposit: nature of taxation As mentioned above there is a disagreement regarding when the FD income is taxable. Some CAs state tax on FD income has to be declared and paid each financial year. Other CAs disagree with this and state that the method of taxation is up to the investor. That is investors can choose to pay tax on FD on maturity (by tax I refer to tax over and above the TDS) or they can choose to pay tax each FY. However the directives in this connection indicate that the method of taxation should not be changed as and when the depositor pleases. My cousin, Mr. Vishwanathan Ravi a CA (a man of great integrity and competence) disagrees with me. He has shared some information on this topic: Accounting policy cash vs. accrual

Food for thought indeed. I am however convinced that FD income should be declared and paid each year. The most recent directive in this regard makes me think this way. You could refer to this FD calculator post for all relevant links regarding this.

Please consult a CA  before making a decision in this regard for your FDs and RDs.

What about volatility? Yes debt fund volatility will reduce the final return (CAGR). To take this into account, you could use a conservative debt fund return in the calculator and a reasonably accurate value of FD return. It will be even better if you know about different debt instruments and choose a conservative return that reflects the typical volatility of each fund category.

Note: Volatility is almost always short term. For debt funds it is typically much more shorter than equities. So if you invest in a debt fund for several years, volatility will not affect you much.

The debt fund return used in the calculator is the final average return (CAGR). That is the volatility is bundled in. I am working on a calculator which takes into account annual debt fund returns. I am convinced that the arguments presented here will remain unchanged.

I am also convinced that even with high volatility (due to FII, RBI etc.), debt funds left undisturbed for several years will outperform FDs for those in the 20% and 30% slabs. Of course those in the 30% slab can afford to take more risks with their debt fund choices.

Calculator: As mentioned earlier this is the second version of the debt fund vs. FD comparator. In this version, the post-tax FD and debt fund (with and without indexation) returns are computed and plotted as functions of the investment duration (1-30 years) using a macro.

fdvsdebt

Make up your own mind: Compare the performance of debt funds against FDs, for different tax slabs, investment durations and interest rates. You can see which method of FD taxation is efficient and when debt funds are advantageous for a given method.

Updated version: Budget 2014: Debt Mutual Funds vs. Fixed Deposits

Download the debt fund vs. fixed deposit comparator version II (.xlsx)

Download the debt fund vs. fixed deposit comparator version II (.xls)

Note: Macros must be enabled. Before running the calculator please spend a few minutes looking at the inputs and outputs to get a feel for the advantage mentioned in this post.

 Feedback:

  • What is your take on this issue?
  • Do you have suggestions to improve this calculator? (I am working on a version which uses historical returns)

Install Financial Freedom App! (Google Play Store)

Install Freefincal Retirement Planner App! (Google Play Store)

book-footer

Buy our New Book!

You Can Be Rich With Goal-based Investing A book by  P V Subramanyam (subramoney.com) & M Pattabiraman. Hard bound. Price: Rs. 399/- and Kindle Rs. 349/-. Read more about the book and pre-order now!
Practical advice + calculators for you to develop personalised investment solutions

Thank you for reading. You may also like

About Freefincal

Freefincal has open-source, comprehensive Excel spreadsheets, tools, analysis and unbiased, conflict of interest-free commentary on different aspects of personal finance and investing. If you find the content useful, please consider supporting us by (1) sharing our articles and (2) disabling ad-blockers for our site if you are using one. We do not accept sponsored posts, links or guest posts request from content writers and agencies.

Blog Comment Policy

Your thoughts are vital to the health of this blog and are the driving force behind the analysis and calculators that you see here. We welcome criticism and differing opinions. I will do my very best to respond to all comments asap. Please do not include hyperlinks or email ids in the comment body. Such comments will be moderated and I reserve the right to delete  the entire comment or remove the links before approving them.

43 thoughts on “Debt Mutual Fund vs. Fixed Deposit Comparator – Version II

  1. Ramamurthy

    You have told us that you would be coming soon with a post"How to choose a Debt Mutual Fund".
    Have you done this please? Is yes can I have the link please?

    Reply
  2. Ramamurthy

    You have told us that you would be coming soon with a post"How to choose a Debt Mutual Fund".
    Have you done this please? Is yes can I have the link please?

    Reply
    1. pattu

      Thanks for visiting. Since income on NRE FD is tax free it looks like a superior option to debt fund if you get around 8-9% interest. However, DTAA applies. So you will need to pay tax as per your rules in your country of residence. Since this tax is typically much higher than the debt fund taxation rules it is best to go for a debt fund.

      Reply
    2. pattu

      Sorry I forgot that TDS applies for debt mutual funds (30% for short term gains and 20% for long term). In case additional tax has been deducted via TDS a refund must be sought for. First check about double taxation rules in your country and arrangement with India. If no further tax need be paid in your country on debt funds (other than TDS) then assuming the tax on NRE FD income in the country of residence is much more than 20%, debt fund is a good option IF you stay invested for the long run.

      Reply
      1. Ramamurthy

        Does this mean that I resident investor exit from a Debt Fund I get from the Fund the NAV on that date less than TDS?What is this TDS rate?

        Reply
        1. pattu

          The above is applicable only for NRIs. For residents there will be no TDS. You will need to calculate as mentioned in the article.

          Reply
          1. jaimin

            I m in oman right now. i think it is one of the gcc country there is no tax taken by gov. here,
            so will u suggest me to invest me in debt fund for my short term goal which is less than 5 years.
            i will get 8.75% intrest in NREFD in icici for 390 days

    1. pattu

      Thanks for visiting. Since income on NRE FD is tax free it looks like a superior option to debt fund if you get around 8-9% interest. However, DTAA applies. So you will need to pay tax as per your rules in your country of residence. Since this tax is typically much higher than the debt fund taxation rules it is best to go for a debt fund.

      Reply
    2. pattu

      Sorry I forgot that TDS applies for debt mutual funds (30% for short term gains and 20% for long term). In case additional tax has been deducted via TDS a refund must be sought for. First check about double taxation rules in your country and arrangement with India. If no further tax need be paid in your country on debt funds (other than TDS) then assuming the tax on NRE FD income in the country of residence is much more than 20%, debt fund is a good option IF you stay invested for the long run.

      Reply
      1. Ramamurthy

        Does this mean that I resident investor exit from a Debt Fund I get from the Fund the NAV on that date less than TDS?What is this TDS rate?

        Reply
        1. pattu

          The above is applicable only for NRIs. For residents there will be no TDS. You will need to calculate as mentioned in the article.

          Reply
          1. jaimin

            I m in oman right now. i think it is one of the gcc country there is no tax taken by gov. here,
            so will u suggest me to invest me in debt fund for my short term goal which is less than 5 years.
            i will get 8.75% intrest in NREFD in icici for 390 days

  3. C.J.GOPINATH

    What is the tax implication on listed NCD held in demat form invested in cumulative option?.
    Can investor claim it as a capital gain or should it accounted as interest income?

    Reply
    1. pattu

      Such NCDs will be taxed as debt funds.

      Short term gain (< than 365 days) will be taxed as per slab and long term gain 10% without indexation and 20% with.

      Thanks for visiting.

      Reply
  4. C.J.GOPINATH

    What is the tax implication on listed NCD held in demat form invested in cumulative option?.
    Can investor claim it as a capital gain or should it accounted as interest income?

    Reply
    1. pattu

      Such NCDs will be taxed as debt funds.

      Short term gain (< than 365 days) will be taxed as per slab and long term gain 10% without indexation and 20% with.

      Thanks for visiting.

      Reply
  5. Ashok Kumar Anand

    So for someone in the Merchant Navy, with no problems like DTAA, the best option would perhaps be an NRE FD, which is presently giving 9-10% Tax-free interest, depending upon the Bank you choose to open the FD with. Equity Mutual funds could probably give better returns over a long term, but then there would be the attendant risk(s) of volatility and uncertainty. Am I right in saying that?

    Reply
    1. pattu

      Yes, you are right. When one is getting 9-10% risk-free post-tax (tax-free or otherwise) income, one does need to go for equity even for long term goals unless one is not saving enough for the goal and THEREFORE needs higher returns.

      For example, for my own retirement, if I get post-tax 9%, I will simply choose FDs. Of course, I don't!

      Reply
  6. Ashok Kumar Anand

    So for someone in the Merchant Navy, with no problems like DTAA, the best option would perhaps be an NRE FD, which is presently giving 9-10% Tax-free interest, depending upon the Bank you choose to open the FD with. Equity Mutual funds could probably give better returns over a long term, but then there would be the attendant risk(s) of volatility and uncertainty. Am I right in saying that?

    Reply
    1. pattu

      Yes, you are right. When one is getting 9-10% risk-free post-tax (tax-free or otherwise) income, one does need to go for equity even for long term goals unless one is not saving enough for the goal and THEREFORE needs higher returns.

      For example, for my own retirement, if I get post-tax 9%, I will simply choose FDs. Of course, I don't!

      Reply
  7. ravikumar

    A pure debt fund is a mutual fund. These investments are generally considered very safe as credit rating of the underlying issuing companies government is very high and a chance of default is negligible

    Reply
    1. pattu

      Such a blanket statement cannot me made. The standard deviations of each category tell a different story. The portfolio maturity much be kept small to minimise credit risk and enhance chances of quicker recovery if bonds crash.

      Reply
  8. ravikumar

    A pure debt fund is a mutual fund. These investments are generally considered very safe as credit rating of the underlying issuing companies government is very high and a chance of default is negligible

    Reply
    1. pattu

      Such a blanket statement cannot me made. The standard deviations of each category tell a different story. The portfolio maturity much be kept small to minimise credit risk and enhance chances of quicker recovery if bonds crash.

      Reply
  9. satish

    Dear Pattu,
    Can you pls save the same file "new-fd-vs-debt-fund-2" to work in office 2003 and mail it to my email id or post it here. Thanks in advance..

    Reply
  10. satish

    Dear Pattu,
    Can you pls save the same file "new-fd-vs-debt-fund-2" to work in office 2003 and mail it to my email id or post it here. Thanks in advance..

    Reply
  11. Montu Sona

    can you please write an article on FATCA tax by US govt?
    This is a robbery on Techies working in US, who are not citizens.
    US govt will now extract tax from our PPF, FD, Equity at 30% rates.
    Moreover nobody knows clearly, how to show these incomes in US Tax filing.

    Reply
  12. Montu Sona

    can you please write an article on FATCA tax by US govt?
    This is a robbery on Techies working in US, who are not citizens.
    US govt will now extract tax from our PPF, FD, Equity at 30% rates.
    Moreover nobody knows clearly, how to show these incomes in US Tax filing.

    Reply
  13. Sadashiv Kashyap

    Dear Sir, I am getting debt fund answer 128052.35
    129503-122461 =7042 long term capital gain
    long term indexation benefit 7042*20.60% =1450.65
    CII=pp*(cpi for cy/cpi for P.p)=100000*(1254/1024) Ans 122461
    I am taking 7% CII inflation for last 34 year . return 9 % on debt fund.
    correct if I am wrong.

    Reply
  14. Nithin

    Dear Pattu,

    I see that in your excel : fd vs debt 2.0, there still is a calculation option of 10% for LTCG. But if I am right LTCG for all debt funds is changed to 20.6% with indexation option only, since Jul 2014 budget. Is there any reason for still giving the option of 10% rate ? See cell # A10.

    Reply
  15. Pingback: SIP STP SWP & Trigger Facility in Mutual Funds

Do let us know what you think about the article