The EPFO on Wednesday lowered the rate of interest on the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) to 8.55% for 2017-18, from 8.65% in the previous financial year. The decision will impact more than 15 crore EPF subscribers, 6 crore active and others holding dormant accounts. Though the latest EPF interest rate approved by the retirement fund body’s central board of trustees (CBT) is the lowest in five years, it cited lower returns from its investment in debt instruments as the reason for the rate cut. The EPF still remains the most attractive fixed-income investment option. Currently, the government’s debt instruments such as Sukanya Samriddhi Account Scheme and Kisan Vikas Patra fetch between 7.3% and 8.3%, while PPF attracts 7.6% rate of interest. Talking to reporters after the CBT meeting here, labour minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar said firms with a minimum of 10 employees would now need to compulsorily enroll their employees under the retirement fund scheme, while mandatory EPF cover was earlier only for firms with 20 or more workers.
The provision would, however, require amendment to the relevant Act, to become effective. The retirement fund body has also lowered its administrative charges to 0.5% from 0.65% earlier. Exuding hope that the finance ministry would not raise any objection to the CBT’s proposal, Gangwar said the after paying 8.55% return to all subscribers, the EPFO will have Rs 586-crore surplus in 2017-18. This will be lower than the last year’s surplus of Rs 695 crore. Though any decision on interest payouts are taken by the CBT, the finance ministry notifies the final rates, as a matter of practice.
EPFO’s investments in debt portfolio fetched only 6.75% return in the current year. EPFO would have to pay even less to its subscribers had it not received Rs 1,011 crore capital gains by redeeming its equity investment to the tune of Rs 3,700 crore, officials said. Gangwar further said the Exchange Traded Fund investments have fetched a return of 20.65% so far this year, and in the months of January and February this year, the EPFO has sold Rs 3,700-crore ETFs which earned return of
Rs 1,011 crore.
The EPFO has invested around Rs 44,000 crore so far in the ETFs. It had started investing in ETFs in August 2015. Currently, while an employee contributes 12% of her basic pay to EPF, the employer contributes 8.33% towards employees’ pension scheme and 3.67% to the EPF itself. Additionally, the employer also pay 0.5% towards Employees’ Deposit-linked Insurance (EDLI) Scheme, 0.65% as EPF ACs and 0.01% as EDLI handling fee, taking her total contribution to 13.61%.