The Public Provident Fund (PPF) and equity-linked saving schemes (ELSS) are popular investment options that both qualify for income tax deductions. A deduction reduces your overall tax liability. Contributions up to 1.5 lakh a year qualify for tax deduction under Section 80C. Financial planners say that when it comes to investments in the PPF and ELSS mutual funds, investors should look at these investments not just from a tax-saving perspective but one that will help achieve their financial goals. ELSS mutual funds invest in equity shares of companies across sectors and market capitalization and have a three-year lock-in.

An ELSS mutual fund is quite the same as a diversified equity fund, other than tax deduction benefits and the three-year lock-in. ELSS investments come with a lock-in period of three years, which is lowest among Section 80C investments. Investors should understand ELSS mutual funds are equity market-linked products.

1) The PPF is a 15-year government-backed savings option offered through banks and post offices. Thereafter, it can extended further in batches of five years.

2) The interest rate on the PPF is revised every quarter and is benchmarked to yields on government securities. Currently, the PPF fetches an interest rate of 7.6%.

3) In the PPF, you can maximise your returns by investing early in the financial year so that your deposits can earn interest for the entire year.

4) The minimum amount that must be deposited in a PPF account in a financial year is 500 and the maximum allowed is 1.5 lakh.

5) From the seventh year, you can make partial withdrawals from your PPF account. Apart from income tax benefits, the PPF is suitable for conservative investors who are looking at long-term financial goals like a child’s education or retirement, say financial planners. The interest and maturity proceeds are exempted from tax.

6) Premature closure of a PPF account is allowed only under specific conditions such as expenditure towards medical treatment. For this, a PPF account must have completed at least five financial years.

7) ELSS or tax-saving mutual schemes have a three-year lock-in period. You can partially or fully redeem your ELSS or tax saving mutual fund investments after three years.

(Also read: Top ELSS or tax saving mutual funds)

8) Financial planners suggest investors to opt for systematic investment plans (SIPs) in tax saving mutual funds to help spread their spread their investments throughout the year.

9) The lock-in of three years also applies to SIPs. In other words, every SIP instalment in a ELSS fund is subject to a three-year lock-in.

10) Long term capital gains from equity mutual funds, including ELSS funds, above 1 lakh will be taxed at 10%. ELSS funds come with both growth and dividend options. Mutual fund houses have to pay a dividend distribution tax or DDT of 10% on dividends declared under equity schemes, including ELSS funds. This effectively reduces the return from dividends from equity funds.

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