How can NRIs invest in mutual funds in India?

As a non-resident, you may want to take exposure to Indian equity markets. Picking up stocks on their own is not everybody’s cup of team. Such non-resident investors may take exposure to equity markets through equity mutual funds.

In this post, I will discuss answer basic queries that an NRI investor may have about mutual fund investments in India. I will also discuss the procedure NRI can follow to start investing in mutual funds in India.

Can NRIs invest in mutual funds in India?

Yes, NRIs can invest in mutual funds in India on both repatriable and non-repatriable basis. No approval is required from RBI or any other body to invest in mutual funds in India.  

You need to be KYC compliant

Before you invest in mutual funds, you will have to go through KYC (Know your customer) procedure i.e. you must be KYC compliant.
Do note you do NOT need to repeat KYC exercise with every AMC (mutual fund). You need to go through this procedure just once. Your KYC is automatically updated in the central repository. You can check your KYC status here. If you are KYC compliant, you can invest in any mutual fund in India.

I am a new investor. How do I get my KYC done?

You will need to submit following documents to the AMC (mutual fund house) or R&T agent:
1. Self attested copy of PAN
2. Self attested copy of Passport
3. Address proof (both Indian and overseas)
4. Passport size photograph
5. KYC Form

You can check the complete set of instructions in the KYC form. Apart from submitting the above documents, you also need to get in-person verification (IPV) done. During IPV, an authorized official confirms your presence and verifies the copies of aforesaid documents with the originals.

If you are on a visit to India, you can simply visit any CAMS, Karvy, AMC branch or distributor office in your city with the aforesaid documents and complete the process. Documents verification and IPV will be done at the same time and you are good to go.

How do I get In-person verification (IPV) done if I am not in India?

You can approach authorized officials of overseas branches of Scheduled Commercial Banks registered in India, notary public, Court Magistrate, Judge, Indian Embassy/Consulate General in the country where you reside. Such individuals are permitted to do IPV along with verification of originals.

Once IPV (and document verification) is completed, you can send the KYC form along with the aforementioned documents to the fund house or R&T agents (CAMS, Karvy). Your KYC information will be updated in the system in a few weeks.

Any additional documents to send?

Along with KYC form and documents, you can send the purchase form (Common Application Form) along with cheque for the purchase amount. Additionally, you must also send FATCA-CRS declaration form. Typically, common application form will automatically have FATCA-CRS declaration form.

Which bank account to use?

If you want to invest on non-repatriable basis, you can invest from your NRO account. Alternatively, if you want to invest on repatriable basis, funds for purchase must come from your NRE account or FCNR account or inward remittance from abroad.

Separate mutual fund folios will be created for NRO and NRE accounts so that it is easier to keep track. An NRI cannot make investment in foreign currency.

If you want to invest in direct plans of MF schemes but cannot select funds on your own, you can approach a SEBI registered Investment Adviser, seek advice and subsequently invest in direct plans to MF schemes.
The key lies in KYC compliance. Once you are KYC compliant, you can do almost everything online. You can purchase, redeem, start and cancel SIPs online.

How are mutual funds redemption/dividends taxed?

The tax treatment is no different as compared to a resident investor.

Equity Funds: Short term capital gains (holding period < 1 year) are taxed at 15%. Long term capital gains are exempt from tax.
Debt Funds: Short term capital gains (holding period < 3 years) are taxed as per your income tax slab. Long term capital gains (holding period > 3 years) are taxed at 20% less indexation. 
Surcharge and cess are extra.

Dividends are tax-free in the hands of the investor. However, in case of debt mutual funds, the mutual fund house deducts dividend distribution tax at the rate of 28.4% before distributing dividends.

Is TDS deducted?

Yes, this can be a point of pain for many NRIs.

For NRIs, if there is prospect of tax liability, the tax is deducted at highest income tax rate.

There will not be any TDS for long term capital gains on sale of equity fund units since LTCG on equity funds is NIL.
TDS on short term capital gains (STCG) on equity funds is 15%.
TDS on STCG on debt funds will be 30% (irrespective of your income tax slab).
TDS on LTCG on debt funds will be 20% (no indexation benefit).

If any excess tax has been deducted, you can claim it back at the time of filing income tax returns.Dividends are not taxed in the hands of the investors. Hence, TDS is not applicable.

Where are redemption proceeds credited?

Redemption proceeds can be directly credited to your bank account (NRO or NRE). You can also choose to receive redemption proceeds by cheque.

I am a US based NRI. Can I invest in mutual funds in India?

If you are an NRI based in US or Canada, following mutual fund houses have now started accepting investing in
1. Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund
2. UTI Mutual Fund
3. SBI Mutual Fund
4. Sundaram Mutual Fund
5. L&T Mutual Fund
6. DHFL Pramerica
7. PPFAS mutual fund
8. ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund

Hence, decent choice is now available to even US based NRIs. However, not all the AMCs are accepting online investments. You are advised to check with respective AMC about how to proceed.But yes, be prepared to slug it out. Setting up the investment account for US and Canada based NRIs may not be hassle free.

India may present great opportunity in terms of returns but you must also consider exchange rate risk.
Though you expect to earn better returns in India, be mindful of the risk of rupee depreciation too. For instance, you invest USD 100,000 in India at exchange rate INR 65/USD. Total investment is Rs 65 lacs. You corpus grows at 10% per annum to 1.05 crores in 5 years. Let us assume rupee depreciates from INR 65/USD to INR 85/USD. So, Rs 1.05 crores is equivalent to USD 123,539. A return of 4.3% p.a. in dollar terms.

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