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Exploring Alternative Investment Funds (AIF) in India: Opportunities and Taxation

This article discusses how AIFs work and how they are taxed for both Resident Indians and NRIs.

Exploring Alternative Investment Funds (AIF) in India: Opportunities and Taxation


Posted on 19 May 2024
Author: Sayan Sircar
4 mins read
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This article discusses how AIFs work and how they are taxed for both Resident Indians and NRIs.

Exploring Alternative Investment Funds (AIF) in India: Opportunities and Taxation

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What are Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs)?

In India, Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) offer another option for sophisticated investors looking beyond stocks, mutual funds and FDs. AIFs are grouped into three categories with each category having unique features and investment goals.

Each AIF category follows specific rules on investment strategies, taxation, and disclosures, reflecting their role within India’s broader financial ecosystem.

SEBI has defined AIFs into these categories:

Category I AIFs

These funds invest in start-ups and early-stage ventures, along with sectors deemed beneficial for the country’s social and economic health. This category includes Venture Capital Funds, Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Funds, Social Venture Funds, and Infrastructure Funds.

The government often offers these funds various tax breaks and incentives because they help spur economic growth and innovation.

Category III AIFs

Before understanding Category II funds, we will cover Category III.

Funds in this category use complex trading strategies and may involve leverage through investments in listed or unlisted derivatives.

Because of their high-risk, high-return potential, Category III AIFs are taxed at a higher rate and are under stricter regulatory oversight.

Category II AIFs

This group consists of funds that aren’t in Categories I or III and do not use leverage or borrow, except for daily operational needs. It includes Private Equity Funds, Debt Funds, Fund of Funds, and Real Estate Funds.

Category II AIFs enjoy a more flexible investment approach compared to Category I and can invest in a wide range of securities. They don’t receive specific government incentives or concessions.

Taxation of AIFs in India

The tax treatment of AIFs in India depends on their category:

Category I and Category II AIFs

The income from these funds is taxed directly in the hands of investors at their respective tax rates. This could be as capital gains or ordinary income, based on the income’s nature and how long the investment was held.

They also face a 10% withholding tax. This pre-paid tax helps investors reduce their total tax liability.

Category III AIFs

These funds face taxation at the fund level, unlike the other categories and their income is typically taxed at the maximum marginal rate of 42.7%.

Pass-through Taxation for AIFs

Pass-through Taxation means that all income, gains, and losses are directly transferred to the investors and only taxed in their hands.

A good example of Pass-through Taxation is an Indian mutual fund (or ETF) since the investor pays capital gains tax only when units are sold and not when the fund manager buys and sells shares inside the fund.

On the other hand, a Portfolio Management Services (PMS) scheme investing in stocks in your demat account is not pass-through. The PMS manager buys and sells stocks while you, the investor, pay capital gains tax for every such trade.

Some AIFs, similar to mutual funds and ETFs, might qualify for pass-through taxation. Typically, this benefit applies only to Category I and II AIFs under certain conditions.

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Also read
How is tax calculated on selling shares/MFs and how do to do tax harvesting?

Special case: How do US PFIC rules apply to AIFs?

AIFs are well-liked by NRIs, but US-based NRIs must consider PFIC regulations:

Category I and Category III AIFs are PFIC reportable

If an AIF says that they offer pass-through taxation, then it is automatically PFIC reportable

These categories are PFIC reportable because they invest in passive assets like companies or infrastructure, or they engage in trading.

Category II AIFs may be PFIC exempt

Category II AIFs can be exempt from PFIC rules if they distribute all income and gains/losses directly to unit holders who then pay the necessary taxes. A good example can be a fund investing in real estate that pays (i.e. distributes) the rental income as a dividend to the investor. The investor pays tax on this income as a dividend.

Non-distributing Category II AIFs, which should be rare, will be PFIC reportable.

Related:
What should an US NRI do to become compliant with PFIC and FBAR rules on their Indian investments?

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This post titled Exploring Alternative Investment Funds (AIF) in India: Opportunities and Taxation first appeared on 19 May 2024 at https://arthgyaan.com


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