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March is the time for...

13 Mar 2022 - Contact Sayan Sircar
7 mins read

At the end of the financial year, you need to complete some essential tasks and opportunities related to personal finance. Here’s a small list.

March is the time for

Table of Contents

Advance tax payment

If you have salary income, your company already deducts taxes every month and pays them to the government. However, you might have taxes incurred on income, like interest, dividends or capital gains (e.g. selling stocks and mutual funds or trading), that must be calculated and paid as per the schedule below to avoid penalties.

Due date Advance tax payable
15th June 15%
15th September 45%
15th December 75%
15th March 100%

Resident individuals should use Challan Type 280, major head 0021 (Income Tax other than companies) and Minor Head (100-Advance Tax) from the TIN NSDL site to pay their advance tax. Delaying advance tax payments will lead to penalties.

If any income or capital gains happen after 15-Mar, you can pay the tax using the Minor Head (100-Advance Tax) code by 31st March. If any tax is to be paid after that, for example, while filing tax returns, that is to be paid using Minor Head (300-Self Assessment Tax). It is good to pay this tax as early as possible to avoid penalties.

Portfolio rebalancing

Rebalancing is the way to systematically buy low and sell high inside a portfolio. Since different asset classes, like equity, debt and gold do not all go up or down at the same time, rebalancing protects profits by moving the capital from those assets which have risen in value to those who have not risen that much or have fallen. If you have not done rebalancing yet in the current financial year, then March is the last chance to do it. Portfolio rebalancing can be performed using our Plan Excel-based tool tool very easily since the tool will show you the portfolio and goal-level equity and debt asset allocation.

Portfolio rebalancing leads to lower variation

Without rebalancing, periodic profit booking does not happen and the final portfolio value is unpredictable. There is no point of investing for 30 years and then ending up with a portfolio in retirement that you cannot predict will give you 10,000/month or 1lakh/month.

Portfolio rebalancing as a part goal-based investing

Of course, to effectively rebalance, you need to set your goals first by following this process: I am now ready to do goal-based investing. What now?. We have discussed the concept of portfolio rebalancing in detail in this post: Portfolio rebalancing during goal-based investing: why, when and how?.

Tax harvesting

Loss harvesting using offsetting transactions

The profits obtained from the sale of some funds can be offset by deliberately selling other funds whose oldest units are at a loss.

Date Folio Fund Transaction Units Price Comment
1 A X Buy 100 10 First buy
2 B Y Buy 100 12 First buy
3 A X Sell 50 12 50*2=100 profit
4 B Y Sell 25 8 25*(12-8)=100 loss

For example, we sell 25 units of fund Y to offset the profit from selling 50 units of fund X.

Suppose you are planning to keep investing in fund Y. In that case, selling units from Y now lowers the average purchase price of the remaining units. This leads to higher taxes in the future and needs to be weighed vs. saving taxes today.

Using different folios

Some investors prefer to segregate portfolios using different folio numbers and tag them to varying goals as described here. This leads to a logical separation of goals and allows the booking of capital gains as per requirement.

One lakh equity LTCG booking

Currently, long term capital gain in equity is tax-free for the first one lakh per year. If units sold in different funds are sold at a price higher than the purchase price, and the total profit is:

  • less than one lakh, then the tax is zero
  • more than one lakh, then tax of 10% (+ cess + surcharge) is payable on the amount more than a lakh.

So if the LTCG is ₹ 120,000, then the tax payable is ₹20,000 * 10% = ₹2,000 + cess + surcharge.

This feature of the tax code allows booking ₹100,000 profit every year in equity funds or stocks to save ₹10,000 in taxes. This feature is calculated on ₹ 1 lakh of profits and not sale consideration.

For more details, here is a detailed case study on equity LTCG harvesting.

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Timing rebalancing trades

For this section, we need to distinguish between mutual funds that primarily invest in equities vs debt and mutual funds considered equity or debt funds based on taxation rules.

We will use this article as a base for tax calculation of shares and mutual funds: How is tax calculated on selling shares/MFs and how do to do tax harvesting?.

Funds with less than 65% exposure to Indian equities, either directly or via arbitrage, are taxed like debt funds. Indexation is available on the purchase price of these funds based on the cost-inflation index (CII), which is determined by the financial year in which the fund is purchased. Since CII goes up with time, it makes sense to buy debt-taxed funds as early as possible and sell them as late as possible to take advantage of the tax calculation.

In general, assets with indexation benefit on the purchase price, irrespective of appreciation, will lower taxes the longer they are held. Of course, you should not keep capital blocked solely to have the benefit of indexation but a bit of planning is important.

If you are rebalancing annually, it makes sense to do it in March. You can use the following thumb rules to time purchases and redemptions for rebalancing and harvesting:

  • sell equity-taxed funds and buy debt-taxed funds sometime before 31-Mar
  • buy equity-taxed funds and sell debt-taxed funds just after 1-Apr

Given that AMCs allot new MF units only on realization of incoming funds from the investor, investors who do not have large amounts of cash handy for such trades, can use the daily SPP facility of MFUIndia to perform such switch trades. They can do this by slowly selling out of the old fund, wait for the money to come and then enter the new fund with that redeemed cash to eliminate the risk of the markets moving abruptly while they are waiting for the AMC to allocate new units.

Tax saving investments

31st March is the deadline for tax saving investments under Section 80C (PPF, ELSS, NPS etc), Section 80CCD (NPS) and other eligible deductions as described in this post on How to plan tax deductions for salaried income?.

If you are looking for an ELSS fund for 80C investment, this article shows a way to shortlist one.

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