Interest rates on most of the Post Office small saving schemes have been reduced by 10 basis points (bps) or 0.10% effective April 1, 2013. The change has become an annual exercise now and it gets announced in March every year. Here is the link to the statement issued by the finance ministry on Monday, March 25th.
Except 1-year time deposit, all other saving schemes will now carry 0.10% lower rate of interest. Your Public Provident Fund (PPF) account will now earn you 8.70% per annum tax-free rate of interest as against 8.80% earlier. 5-year and 10-year National Savings Certificates (NSC) will now carry interest rates of 8.50% and 8.80% per annum respectively, as against 8.60% and 8.90% now.
Post Office Monthly Income Scheme (POMIS) will also earn you lower at 8.40% vs. 8.50% earlier. The interest rate on Senior Citizens Savings Scheme (SCSS) also stands reduced to 9.20% as against 9.30%.
Here is the table having the interest rates applicable for FY 2012-13 and FY 2011-12:
Interest rate differential between PPF and Tax-Free Bonds
Tax-free bonds as a fixed income investment have become reasonably popular among investors now and since the interest income earned on both tax-free bonds and PPF is tax-free, most financial advisors/analysts compare these two instruments before recommending it to their clients.
Till financial year 2011-12, PPF was fetching 8.60% per annum which got increased to 8.80% per annum effective April 1, 2012 and at the same time, tax-free bonds were getting issued at 8.30% per annum. So, the interest rate differential was only 0.30% which made tax-free bonds a very attractive investment avenue for high net worth individuals (HNIs).
Now, the interest rates on tax-free bonds have fallen to approximately 7.50% per annum as compared to PPF which will now yield 8.70% effective April 1, 2013. This has increased the interest rate differential to 1.20% and hence makes PPF the best fixed income investment for most of the individual investors.
Honestly speaking, I was expecting the interest rate on PPF to fall below 8.50%. As an investor, it is a pleasant surprise to still get 8.70% on PPF but as an Indian and as an equity investor in Indian stock markets, I am disappointed as I think the interest rates have been set on a higher side and it is going to put one more strain on the finances of Indian government. It makes me think again if the government is still serious about containing its fiscal deficit or it wants to keep everybody silent one year before the elections, ignoring its already bad financial condition.