Market-Linked Debentures (MLDs) have become increasingly popular as investment instruments that offer potential returns based on the performance of an underlying market benchmark. While MLDs provide investors with unique opportunities, there is a need to have a comprehensive understanding of their tax implications. In this blog, we will explore the taxation aspects related to MLDs in India, changes implemented in Finance Act 2023 and shed light on key considerations for investors.
MLDs have gained significant popularity among investors due to shorter holding periods for being entitled to lower capital gains tax rates. According to Section 2(42A) of the Income Tax Act, listed securities, including MLDs, are subject to a holding period of 12 months for determining capital gains, instead of the standard 36 months applicable to unlisted securities. The gains from MLDs with a holding period of 12 months or more are treated as Long-Term Capital Gains (LTCG) and taxed at 10% plus a surcharge.
Before April 01, 2023, investors in plain-vanilla debt instruments had to pay tax on the annual interest payouts based on their applicable slab rates. On the other hand, investors in MLDs had the advantage of planning their tax liability by holding the MLDs for more than 12 months, which allowed them to pay a reduced tax rate of 10%. This resulted in MLDs offering a higher post-tax return compared to Bank Fixed Deposits and other plain-vanilla Debt Instruments like Non-Convertible Debentures (NCDs).
With the implementation of the Finance Bill 2023 presented by Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman in the Parliament on February 01, 2023, a new section 50AA has been introduced, effective April 01, 2023. As per this provision, any gains derived from the transfer of MLDs on or after April 01, 2023, will be automatically classified as Short-term capital gains (STCG). Consequently, these gains will be subject to taxation at the applicable tax slab rate of the investor, rather than being treated as long-term capital gains and taxed at a reduced rate of 10%. This change has eliminated the previous benefit of enjoying a lower tax rate for long-term capital gains on MLDs.
As per the newly inserted section 50AA, the holding period of MLDs will now be irrelevant and capital gains arising on MLDs will be treated as short-term gain. It is important to note that now capital gains on MLDs will be short-term even if they are held for 36 months or more.
Let us take a simple example to understand post-tax returns before and after the tax changes.
Clause (ix) of the proviso to section 193 of the Income Tax Act, provides exemption from the requirement of deductions of TDS on any interest income arising on a listed debt security. The aforesaid section provides that there is no tax deduction in the case of any interest payable on any security issued by a company, where such security is in dematerialized form and is listed on a recognized stock exchange in India under the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in the Budget 2023-2024, announced the removal of this exemption from TDS. This is because ‘there is under-reporting of interest income by the recipient due to above TDS exemption. Hence, it is proposed to omit clause (ix) of the proviso to section 193 of the Act. 4. This amendment will take effect from 1st April 2023,’ read the finance bill.
It is important to highlight the tax treatment of considering the transfer of Market-Linked Debentures (MLDs) as short-term capital gain in all cases and taxing them at the higher tax rate as per the slab rate of the investor. The implementation is without any grandfathering relaxation for existing MLDs held in investors' portfolios before April 1, 2023. The Finance Bill 2023 does not propose any exemption or special treatment for MLDs acquired before this date.
Consequently, for MLDs acquired before April 1, 2023, any gains resulting from their transfer, redemption, or maturity will also be subject to this provision.
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Disclaimer: This communication does not constitute advice relating to investing or otherwise dealing in securities and is not an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any securities. Grip Invest Technologies Private Limited ("Grip", formerly known as Grip Invest Advisors Private Limited) is not registered with SEBI in any capacity and does not advise, encourage, or discourage its users to invest or not invest in any securities. Grip is solely an execution-only platform and does not guarantee or assure any return on investments made by you in any opportunities sourced by Grip and accepts no liability for consequences of any actions taken based on the information provided. Your investment is solely based on your judgement. Investments in debt securities are subject to risks. Read all the offer-related documents carefully.