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NRI final

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Most NRIs typically have assets both in their country of residence and in India. These are typically a mix of both financial and real assets. Managing the assets in India can pose a number of challenges due to the fact that NRIs live thousands of kilometres away and visit the country after long gaps. These should be kept in mind whilst managing your personal finances. Here are a few tips they can use.

Avail of DTAA: If you live in a geography with which India has a double taxation avoidance agreement (DTAA), then you will typically be taxed at the lower of the two rates (the rates applicable according to the Income Tax Act in India and the DTAA rate) on, say, interest income on your bank deposits in India. But to avail of DTAA you will have to submit a tax residency certificate (TRC) verified by the government of the country in which you reside and Form 10F. You will also have to submit a self-declaration cum indemnity form, self-attested copy of PAN card, and a copy of your passport and visa. These documents have to be submitted every year. Unless you submit these documents in advance, the bank will deduct tax on interest income at the highest tax rate in India.

To avail of DTAA you will have to submit a tax residency certificate (TRC) verified by the government of the country in which you reside and Form 10F.

Don’t omit to file tax return: NRIs need to file tax return in India if their income here exceeds the basic exemption limit. You also need to file tax return if the tax deducted at source (TDS) exceeds the tax payable and you wish to claim a refund, or you have a loss that you want to carry forward.

Salary received in India or salary for services provided in India, rental income from property, capital gains on sale of assets in India and interest from deposits will all be taxable in India. Any income that you earn outside India is not taxable in India if you are an NRI.

NRIs need to file tax return in India if their income here exceeds the basic exemption limit. You also need to file tax return if the tax deducted at source (TDS) exceeds the tax payable and you wish to claim a refund, or you have a loss that you want to carry forward.

Be practical about asset selection: Like their resident brethren, NRIs too have an inordinate fondness for investing in real estate. Before you do so, however, give thought to how the property will be looked after and maintained. Avoid investing in a plot as it is most vulnerable to encroachment. Even the maintenance of an apartment can sometimes prove burdensome. While facility management is fairly common overseas —you can entrust the maintenance of your apartment to a professional agency, that is not very common in India.. You may have to depend on an individual to act as caretaker. This person must be reliable. If you lock up the apartment for years together, its condition will invariably deteriorate. In this context, investing in financial assets provides a more hassle-free alternative, even if it may not provide the same emotional satisfaction as investing in real estate.

Investing in financial assets provides a more hassle-free alternative, even if it may not provide the same emotional satisfaction

final power of att

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Use power of attorney, but judiciously: While NRIs can handle many transactions online, some require their presence. In such cases, it may become essential to appoint an agent to act on their behalf. By giving a power of attorney (PoA), you can empower someone to do so. A general PoA allows a person to undertake all transactions on your behalf. A special/specific PoA, on the other hand, empowers the person to act only in a specified matter. While granting a PoA is useful, it can also be dangerous as there is a risk of these powers being misused. Remember that you will be responsible for any liability arising from your agent’s actions. Avoid giving a general PoA as this increases the scope for misuse. The PoA should be given only to someone who can be trusted absolutely.

In the field of real estate, PoA can be used to lease property, collect rent, sell the property, etc. In the financial markets, PoA can be given to someone to buy and sell stocks, bonds and other securities. In banking, PoA can be given to someone to deposit or withdraw money from the account. Your agent can even sign your tax returns, insurance forms, etc on your behalf.

While granting a PoA is useful, it can also be dangerous as there is a risk of these powers being misused. Remember that you will be responsible for any liability arising from your agent’s actions. Avoid giving a general PoA as this increases the scope for misuse. The PoA should be given only to someone who can be trusted absolutely.

estate planning

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Don’t ignore estate planning: NRIs are as guilty as resident Indians of not writing a will. In their case, the consequences of passing away without a will be even more onerous for their loved ones as the latter will have to deal with the jurisdictions of two countries. It may also mean that your assets may not be distributed in a manner that is to your liking. If you pass away without a will, the laws of succession of the country in which you reside could apply. In countries where Sharia laws apply, for instance, your male successors could have an advantage over female. The absence of a will also means a lot of paperwork, bureaucratic hassles and legal expenses for loved ones before they are able to gain control of your assets.

Remember that while there is no estate or inheritance tax in India, it does exist in many other countries and it could take away a sizable chunk of your wealth.

It may be a good idea to create a separate will for your assets in your country of residence and for your assets in India. After creating the will, inform the executor about where to find it. Also, create a list of your assets and share the information with your family.

It may be a good idea to create a separate will for your assets in your country of residence and for your assets in India. After creating the will, inform the executor about where to find it. Also, create a list of your assets and share the information with your family.

Use software to get single view of assets: The benefits of using aggregation software is that you will be able to know the value of all your assets at a single glance. You will also be able to see the date of purchase and sale of assets and the capital gain or loss made, quite easily. This is also critical for your family in case something happens to you.

Distance and dealing with the laws of two jurisdictions do make the NRI’s task of managing assets difficult. He can only do a competent job if he is aware of the challenges, informed about his options, and disciplined in execution. NRIs should be open to seeking professional expertise wherever needed.

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In today’s volatile environment which largely stems from economic uncertainties from global markets, be it the Yuan devaluation some time back or Brazil being downgraded to junk or the September Fed meet on which everyone had an eye which resulted in no rate hike at the moment. The thing which most investors lose focus on is something that is called as long term investment perspective. By investing for the long term one will not try to time the market. Nobody can. We all know the simple rule of investment – buy at low and sell at high but invariably we tend to do it the other way round.

While focusing on short term we tend to buy stocks which have all the positive news around it and little do we realize the half of the time that news has already been priced in. If we focus on the short term our investments are bound to react to events in the short term both positive and negative. Whereas if we focus on the long term the returns will be impacted less by volatility and more by the performance of the investment instrument.

As per tax laws holding stocks beyond one year is categorized as long term but when it comes to investment an investment horizon of 3 – 4 years or more can be considered as long term. On the other hand when it comes to real estate it is far beyond that. Gold is another asset class but again it depends in which form it is held, whether in physical form as ornaments or in the form of ETFs.

Historical data also shows SENSEX had jumped 250% from April 1991 to March 1992 on the back of Harshad Mehta scam. He took crores of rupees from the banking system and pumped it in the market. The scam came to light when the State Bank of India reported a shortfall in government securities. That led to an investigation which later showed that Mehta had manipulated around Rs 3,500 crore in the system. On August 6, 1992, after the scam was exposed, the markets crashed by 72 percent leading to one of the biggest fall and a bearish phase that lasted for two years.

Similarly, from April 1999 to March 2000 SENSEX rallied 35% on the back of improving macroeconomic scenario – improved GDP numbers from growth in manufacturing, infrastructure and construction sector, falling inflation, healthy forex reserves and good industrial production numbers as against the year before and also the technology bubble was engulfing the rest of the world.

Again SENSEX fell 27% in March 2001 when the Ketan Parekh scam took place. A chartered accountant by training, Parekh came from a family of brokers, which helped him create a trading ring of his own. Be it investment firms, mostly controlled by promoters of listed companies, overseas corporate bodies or cooperative banks, all were ready to hand the money to Parekh, which he used to rig up stock prices by making his interest apparent.

Again in Feb 2008 SENSEX corrected by 8% approx on the day Reliance power Ltd. got listed. It closed 17% below its cost. Sensex witnessed a fall of approx 36% from 2008 to 2009 on the back of US Subprime crisis.

Following that there was a sharp pull back in equities between March 2009 to November 2010 led by global (Quantitative Easing announcement by US) and domestic (general elections) news flow. Putting all the pieces together the message to take away is that events will keep on happening but if one keeps a long term investment horizon it will be a safer bet.

The two main factors to consider before taking an investment decision for one self are ability and willingness. It is very important to know the difference between the two. Willingness is more about the attitude towards risk irrespective of the financial ability to do so. Ability on the other hand is financial capacity to bear the risk. It depends on income of the individual, his savings and expense pattern. It depends on the amount of money which one can keep aside purely for investment and not dip into it time and again for personal needs and can hold on to it even if they are not doing good at a particular point in time.

But again the point to note here is that if a particular investment is consistently a poor performer, one should plan an exit from the same and reinvest it in another suitable option. If one is not very good at deciding which stock to invest in and what the best time to do so is, then there are professionally managed mutual funds with different investment objectives from which one can choose.

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Asset Allocation should also include global stocks and mutual funds as a diversification strategy is always better. Its always good to get the best of all global markets.

Break your home bias-page-001

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Fin resolutions that can change your life - The times of India - 30.12.2014-page-001

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From our experience of interactions with nonresident investors, we have found that a significant number of investments by NRIs tend to be made during their short visits to India.

During that period, when they visit their bank or speak to relatives/ friends, they get a broad view on what is happening to various asset classes – be it real estate, stock markets, or bank deposit interest rates. Between the various social obligations, time with family, and other things to do in their action packed agenda, quick investment decisions tend to be made, a large number of which tend to be long term commitments through investments in long term insurance policies/ real estate investments. Unfortunately, a large number of these investment decisions are not necessarily aligned to long term financial goals of the NRI and his family. Once NRIs return back to their home overseas, they then tend to wonder if it was the right investment decision or whether haste made waste, especially as they now get time to think about it. They wonder whether these investments fit in case they wish to return to India at a latter point in their lives or in case they wish to use these investments for children’s education or their own retirement, or to support their family members back in India.

In addition to the alignment to financial goals for self and family, it is critical to ensure that the investment products chosen allow non residents to invest in them, the repatriation restrictions (if any) on the principal amount and the gains, as well as the taxation of the gains in both India as well as the overseas location of the NRI. A lot of these answers can only be obtained when there is clarity in terms of what role the investment is expected to play for the NRI in his portfolio.

It is therefore critical to ensure that the focus on working to a financial plan is given the same degree of importance, irrespective of whether the individual is a resident or a non resident. In fact, working to a plan tends to be even more critical for a non resident than a resident, due to a legacy holdings and finances that they may have from their days in India.

A very large number of NRIs tend to leave India during a phase of their life when they have already begun their financial life – they have probably opened regular savings bank accounts in their names, bought investment products like stocks/mutual funds/insurance products/PPF accounts, or even made a real estate investment. Since there is a tendency to leave India on an overseas assignment/project, a higher education and then decide to settle down overseas, the starting point for a financial plan is to get your existing portfolio of investments in order.

 

The following steps need to be taken to ensure that the existing finances are aligned to the needs of a non resident

1. Close all resident bank accounts or convert them to nonresident ordinary (NRO) accounts. These NRO accounts can be used to credit amounts from investments that may have been made earlier, for example, dividends from stocks, rental income, amongst others.

2. Ensure that the tax returns in India have been filed. Whilst filing a tax return is not mandatory if the income is less than the taxable limit, it is important to be sure that the total income is less than the taxable limit.

3. Review your demat accounts so that they can be converted to nonresident demat accounts.

4. Change your mutual fund portfolios (if any) to a non resident status and link your NRO bank accounts to these investments.

Once the legacy portfolio of investments have been put into order, it is crucial to begin the process of setting up your financial goals through a financial plan. Whilst a financial plan may sound rather complex, it is simply a roadmap that allows you to think about what you want to achieve with your life goals and how your finances will allow you to get there.

Let me illustrate this with an example. Let’s say one of your life goals is to have your child study at a particular post graduate program. How would you design your financial plan towards this life goal?

1. Establish the current cost of the education that you want to plan for – The costs for higher education vary significantly depending on the type of college, country of education, type of program and number of years of education. The total costs of education should be established including the costs of living and travel and not just education costs.

2. Understand the impact of inflation on current costs – Inflation rates on education may vary significantly depending on whether you wish to plan an education in India or overseas. You need to establish the corpus required for the education after adjusting for inflation.

3. Choose the appropriate asset mix to achieve your target – It is critical to establish the right balance of stocks and fixed income exposure so that you understand the returns and associated risks that you will take on the portfolio in order to reach your target.

4. Choose the appropriate product/products to achieve this targeted amount – Once the above steps have been undertaken, you can move to the product selection stage where you can look at the merits/demerits of using deposits, mutual funds, insurance plans , stocks or other options to achieve your target.

5. Evaluate the progress towards your goal at regular intervals – It is important to review the progress of your financial plan to ensure that you are on track to achieve your financial goals. However, it is important that you give your products adequate time to deliver as per their designed objectives. A review once a year should be adequate.

A financial plan can be developed for all your life goals accordingly. You may need to take the help of a financial planner to integrate all your goals into a plan so that your overall finances can be aligned to all your goals. For example, your retirement plan could vary depending on whether you wish to finally settle down in India or continue to live overseas once you retire.

In addition to each of planning for your financial goals, you need your financial plan to cover:

1. Taxation of these investments in your home country – Tax treatment of investment products in the home country may be different from those in India. For example whilst there is no long term capital gains tax on equities or equity mutual funds in India, capital gains tax may be chargeable on these investments in the country that you live in. It is therefore critical to understand the tax implications at both levels as a part of your financial plan. You may need to seek the help of a tax advisor in both India and your home country, so that there is complete clarity on the same. In addition, there may be double tax avoidance treaties in place that allow you to set off the taxes you pay at in one country against taxes due in India, so that you are not taxed twice on the same amount. Your tax advisor should be able to help you on this.

2. Succession planning – Inheritance laws tend to vary from country to country. In addition, whilst India does not currently have any estate duties and taxes, a large number of countries have an inheritance tax. Since you could end up inheriting assets from your parents/ other family members and also having your assets transferred to your family members on death, it is critical to ensure that succession planning documents like wills are created keeping the inheritance laws of both countries in mind.

Once you are clear about your financial goals, taxation and succession laws, you will be in a position to pick your investment products far more easily and can focus on tracking how your investment products are taking you closer to your financial goals.

 

This article was written by Vishal Dhawan, CFPCM 

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One fine day, I got a call from CNBC TV18. I thought it was the usual call from my media friends wanting to chat about the latest happenings in the world of personal finance.

But no, this was no ordinary call. This was a call to inform us that Plan Ahead had been nominated for the CNBC TV18 Financial Advisor Awards 2012. Plan Ahead was amongst the top 3 Financial Advisors nominated for the Independent Financial Advisor Mega City West category. These awards are given to recognise India’s best financial advisors and the contribution they have made in providing productive financial advice thereby partnering in their prosperity. These awards are powered by ICRA, one of India’s leading rating agencies, and the nomination process covers multiple qualitative and quantitative parameters.

We at Plan Ahead are thrilled and grateful for the recognition.

We are happy to share the same with you all who are our extended Plan Ahead family ie. Plan Ahead clients, friends and families. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for the constant support, good wishes and encouragement that we receive regularly from all of you. Thank you all.

We are more aware than ever that this recognition now puts more responsibility on our shoulders to push ourselves to strive harder and outdo ourselves, and live up to the title theme of the CNBC TV18 Financial Advisor Awards i.e. the guardian angels of your wealth.

Vishal Dhawan and the entire Plan Ahead team

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