To encourage savings for the social security of employees, the Government has set up various kinds of Provident Funds. The employee contributes a fixed percentage of his salary towards these funds and in many cases employer also contributes. The whole contribution along with interest is credited to employee’s account. He will get payment out of this fund at the time of retirement and at some other important occasions. If the employee dies, his heirs will get the full payment.
PROVIDENT FUNDS – TREATMENT OF CONTRIBUTIONS TO AND MONEY RECEIVED FROM THE PROVIDENT FUND
For purposes of Income-tax, provident funds are grouped under three heads. The following are the Three types of Providen funds. Statutory provident fund, Recognised provident fund, Unrecognised provident Fund.
Statutory provident fund
All provident funds which are set up under the Provident Funds Act, 1925 are called Statutory Provident Funds. Provident funds of institutions such an Universities, Colleges or other Educational Institutions, Reserve Bank of India, State Bank of India, the Central Government and State Government would constitute Statutory Provident Funds. In case of Statutory Provident Fund, the entire amount of employer’s contribution without any limit or restriction whatsoever and the interest thereon received by the employee shall not be includible in the total income of the employee both at the time when the contribution is made and at the time when the money is received by or on behalf of the employee on his retirement, death or otherwise. This exemption is specifically conferred by Sub-section (11) of Section 10 of the Income-tax Act. The employee can contribute to this fund out of his salary as much as he likes.
Recognised provident fund
All Provident Funds recognised by the Commissioner of Income-tax under Rule 3 of Part ‘A’ of the Fourth Schedule to the Income-tax Act, 1961 and also Provident Funds established under a scheme framed under the Employees Provident Funds Act, 1952 are known under the Income-tax Act as Recognised Provident Funds. For the purposes of being treated as Recognised Provident Fund, the Fund in question must be recognised by the Commissioner of Income-tax at the time of its setting up and must continue to be so recognised even subsequently.
The moment the recognition is withdrawn by the Commissioner, the Fund ceases to be a Recognised Provident Fund. The Provident Funds of various Public Sector Undertakings, Semi-Government bodies and other institutions and organisations including companies which are recognised by the Commissioner for income-tax purposes, would be treated as Recognised Provident Funds. In the case of a Recognised Provident Fund, the employer’s contribution to the Provident Fund is not treated as the employee’s income so long as the contribution by the employer does not exceed 12% of the salary of the employee. But if the contribution of the employer exceeds 12% of the employee’s salary, the excess of the contribution over 12% of the salary of the employee is to be treated as part of the taxable income from salaries in the hands of the employee in respect of the financial year in which the contributions were made by the employer.
The fact that the employee concerned does not receive the money in hand nor is he entitled to get the money immediately does not in any way affect the taxability of the excess over 12% of the employee’s salary. The employee’s own contribution qualifies for deduction under Section 80C of the Income-tax Act. [Salary for this purpose, includes basic salary; dearness allowance/pay (if the terms of employment so provide) and commission (if based on a fixed percentage of turnover achieved by the employee)]. As regards interest on the contributions to the Provident Fund, only an amount exceeding a sum calculated at 12% per annum on the balance standing to the credit of the employee would be treated as part of the taxable income of the employee. In other words, so long as the amount of interest does not exceed this limit, the interest does not become chargeable to tax in the hands of the employee.
Unrecognised provident Fund
The Provident Fund which is neither Statutory nor recognised by the Commissioner of Income-tax nor Public Provident Fund, would be an Unrecognised Provident Fund for income-tax purposes. In the case of an Unrecognised Provident Fund, the employee’s own contribution to the Fund would not be allowed as a deduction. The employer’s contribution and the interest thereon would, however, be exempt from tax as and when the contributions are being made. But when the money in lump sum is received back by the employee, that part of the amount attributable to the employer’s contribution would be taxable as income from salaries and the interest on the employer’s contribution would also be taxable as salary income in the hands of the employee. The employee’s own contributions when received back would not be taxable because they do not contain an element of income. However, the interest thereon would be chargeable to tax as income from other sources and not as income from salaries.