As we venture into the world of employment and savings, two financial instruments often come to the fore in discussions about retirement planning: the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and the Public Provident Fund (PPF). Both are long-term investment tools offering attractive interest rates, and both are essential pillars of the retirement-saving infrastructure. But what differentiates them? Which one is more suitable for whom? Let’s delve into a comparative study of EPF and PPF.
What are EPF and PPF?
EPF (Employees’ Provident Fund): This is a retirement benefit scheme exclusively for salaried employees in the organized sector. Both employees and employers contribute a fixed percentage of the former’s salary to the EPF account each month.
PPF (Public Provident Fund): This is a voluntary long-term savings scheme backed by the government, open to all Indian citizens. It’s especially favored by those who are self-employed or are in professions where an EPF is not available.
Key Differentiators: EPF Vs PPF
- EPF: Applicable only to salaried employees in the organized sector.
- PPF: Open to everyone, including salaried individuals, self-employed professionals, and those who are not working.
- EPF: Both employee and employer contribute to the fund. The government may also contribute in specific scenarios.
- PPF: Only the account holder contributes, but others, like parents, can contribute on behalf of minors.
- EPF: Continues as long as one remains employed. On changing jobs, one can transfer the EPF amount.
- PPF: It has a tenure of 15 years, extendable in blocks of 5 years.
- Tax Benefits:
- EPF: Contributions, interest earned, and withdrawals after the specified period (usually 5 years) are exempt from income tax under the EEE (Exempt-Exempt-Exempt) regime.
- PPF: Offers similar tax benefits under the EEE regime. Both the principal and the interest earned are tax-free upon maturity.
- Interest Rates:
- EPF: The interest rate, though competitive, is determined by the government and can change annually.
- PPF: The rate is also set by the government but generally remains slightly lower than EPF rates.
- EPF: Can be withdrawn after retirement or after two months of unemployment. Partial withdrawal is possible under specific circumstances.
- PPF: Partial withdrawal is permissible from the 7th year. After the maturity period (15 years), the entire sum can be withdrawn.
- EPF: No loan facility available.
- PPF: Loans can be availed against the PPF amount from the 3rd year till the 6th year.
Which is Better: EPF or PPF?
The answer largely depends on individual needs and employment status.
- For salaried individuals in the organized sector, EPF is compulsory, so they benefit from both employer contributions and their contributions. They can also consider opening a PPF account to diversify savings and maximize tax benefits.
- Self-employed professionals or those in unorganized sectors should look at PPF as their primary long-term, tax-saving instrument.
While both EPF and PPF offer secure means to save for retirement, they cater to different audiences and have distinct features. Often, a combination of both can work best, providing the dual benefits of diversified savings avenues and maximized tax benefits.