Best Debt Funds - Consider the best performing debt mutual funds to invest in 2023 with Scripbox.com. Find the list of best debt funds in India on the basis of Returns, Latest Nav, Ratings, Performance etc
While investing in debt mutual funds always remember to consider evaluation parameters like the historical performance of the fund, returns, latest NAV, exit load, and fund manager’s portfolio performance. Above all, it is important that you must select a debt fund that fulfils your investment objectives. Hence, consider these parameters carefully along with your goals before investing.
What are Best Debt Funds?
A debt mutual fund is a mutual fund scheme that invests in fixed income generating instruments with lesser risk and lesser volatility like Certificate of deposit, Corporate Bonds, treasury bills, commercial paper, government securities. Debt mutual funds are also popularly known as Bond Funds or Fixed Income Bonds
The main objective of this fund is to provide regular and fixed interest during the investment period. Also, aim for capital appreciation for an investor.
The selection of assets for a debt mutual fund is based on the credit rating. A higher credit rating gives a higher assurance that the interest will be paid regularly and the principal amount invested will be repaid upon the maturity of the investment.
What are the Advantages of Investing in Debt Funds?
Below are the advantages of investing in debt mutual funds:
Debt mutual funds carry less risk than equity funds, this scheme is ideal for an investor seeking stability
These funds are highly liquid and an investor can anytime convert his investment into cash quicker than any other comparable investment option.
The amount invested in debt mutual funds can easily be transferred to an equity mutual funds or any other scheme as per an investor’s choice. Such options are not available in other investment options. Example- FD can be closed but cannot be transferred
Higher potential returns as compared to FD rates and saving account interest rates
When a debt mutual fund is combined equity mutual funds, a portfolio is more stable due to diversification
Who Should Invest in Debt Mutual Funds?
Debt mutual funds are suitable for investors who wish to earn a fixed and regular income with less or no risk involved for a short duration. Usually, investors stay invested from a short to medium duration. Accordingly, investors choose the funds which match their investment horizon.
A Liquid fund is suitable for investors who look for a short or medium duration investment and generally park their surplus money either in fixed deposits or saving account. Liquid mutual funds can be withdrawn anytime just like a savings bank account and provide returns in the range of 7% to 9%.
How are Debt Mutual Funds Taxed?
For investments done before March 31st, 2023, the gains arising from debt mutual funds are taxed under Capital Gains depending on the holding period of the investment.
Short Term Capital Gain: STCG arises if the investment is held for less than 3 years from the date of investment in the fund STCG is levied on the capital gain arising from investment in a debt fund held for a period of less than 3 years. The capital gain will be added to the total income of an investor and the rate of tax will be as per the income tax slab rate. The income tax slab rate depends on the net taxable income and age of the taxpayer
Long Term Capital Gain: LTCG arises if the investment is held for more than 3 years from the date of investment in the fund LTCG is levied on the capital gain arising from investment in a debt fund held for a period of more than 3 years. LTCG is taxed at a rate of 20% after indexation. Indexation is a method of calculating the effect of inflation on the underlying asset. This effect is calculated from the date of purchase to the date of sale of the investments. Once indexation is applied, the purchase price is inflated. This provides an equilibrium in terms of inflation between the purchase price and sale price. Hence the quantum of capital gain is decreased due to indexation
As per the Finance Bill 2023, for investments done after April 1st 2023, the capital gains are taxable as per the investor’s income tax slab rate. The benefit of indexation for long-term capital gains is no longer available for debt mutual funds.
Taxation of Debt Mutual Fund
Taxation for investments made before March 31st 2023:
Period of holding
Less than 1 year
STCG- Taxed at Slab Rate
1 year to 3 year
STCG- Taxed at Slab Rate
More than 3 years
LTCG- 20% after indexation
For investments made after April 1st 2023, the capital gains are added to the investor’s taxable income and are taxed at the applicable slab rate. Thus, no LTCG tax benefit for debt mutual funds.
Different Types of Debt Fund
There are many types of debt mutual funds depending on the interest rate and maturity. An investor who wishes to invest in debt mutual funds must also consider which type of fund is most suitable for his investment terms.
The different types of debt mutual funds are listed below:
Risk: Debt mutual funds also carry risk and an investor must be aware and considerate of these risks while choosing debt mutual funds. The types of risk are listed below
Interest rate risk- Due to market fluctuation in interest rate, the fund value may fluctuate as well
Credit Risk- The risk of default in payment of the interest amount and principal amount invested. Here, the higher the credit score of a debt mutual fund the more reliable it is.
Cost: The fund houses charge a fee in exchange for maintenance of the fund by a fund manager known as the expense ratio. An investor must choose the fund with a lower expense ratio when compared to peer funds in the category
Investment horizon and objective: A period of 3 months to 12 months is ideal for investing in liquid funds, to invest for a longer period an investor must consider investing in short term bond funds. An investor must also set the ultimate objective of his investment and accordingly select amongst the different types of funds.
How to Choose the Best Debt Mutual Funds?
The average maturity of debt funds
The maturity of any debt fund is a very important criterion for any investor before selecting the most suitable debt fund to match with investment horizon and investment goals. Often, this is missed by investors and results in unnecessary risk.
The duration or maturity of a debt fund is important because it helps in optimizing returns at a given risk and maturity. Example- a liquid fund has an average maturity ranging from a few days to a month and it is a better option for an investor looking for an investment option for a few days. On the other hand, for investors looking for an investment option for say a year, short-term debt funds will be an ideal option.
Current yield and portfolio yield
The yield is the measure of interest income generated by the bonds. A higher coupon or yield of the invested debt instruments or bonds would mean a higher coupon of the entire portfolio.
The yield to maturity (ytm) of a fund means the present yield of the fund. An investor must always be keen to know-how is the extra yield being generated on the existing funds. Is this extra yield being generated through funds with lower quality? If this is the case it would mean the fund may default later.
In debt funds, one of the most important factors is the interest rate prevailing in the economy. An investor must understand the market environment w.r.t. Interest rate and its fluctuations.
The interest rate is directly related to the price or NAV of the bonds. With an increase in interest rate, the price of the bonds falls, and vice versa. While the interest rate increases, new bonds are introduced in the market which are attractive for new investors and values higher than current bonds. Here a repricing of current bonds takes place.
A debt fund portfolio which involves such older bonds will be impacted. With a rise in the interest rate, the value of these older bonds will decrease, having a negative impact on the overall portfolio.
During the period of rising interest rates in the market, long term debt funds are at a higher risk. In such a scenario, investing in short term debt funds and liquid funds are a safer and better option
An investor who has a better understanding will always benefit from market conditions.
An expense ratio is a fee that the fund manager charges for the management of the portfolio. An expense ratio differs from fund to fund.
BPS is a unit to measure interest rates wherein one bps is equal to 1/100th of 1%.
Liquid funds have an expense ratio of up to 50 bps while other debt funds charge up to 150 bps.
The expense ratios lower the net returns earned by the portfolio. Hence an investor must consider the expense ratios before selecting funds.
The credit rating of the portfolio
A credit rating is provided to all the debt instruments and bonds. This rating reflects the ability of the instrument or bond to repay the amount invested. The higher the rating, the lower is the level of default risk.
An investor who wants a safe and secure option for investment must consider AAA or AA+ rated instruments and bonds
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe to invest in debt funds?
Yes, it is a relatively safe option to invest in debt mutual funds. Debt funds invest in government securities, corporate bonds, fixed income generating instruments Historically, these funds have provided a regular income with moderate to low risk on the invested amount.
Why are debt funds better than fixed deposits?
There are two reasons why debt mutual funds are considered a better option to invest than FD or saving account. Firstly, debt mutual funds do not have a lock-in period like FD. Secondly, historically debt mutual funds have delivered higher returns than FD rates.
What is the average maturity of debt funds?
Maturity is the time period for which the amount is invested in the scheme and on the expiry of this maturity period, the principal amount invested is redeemed. On average, the maturity period of debt funds is 5 years. However, an investor can choose to invest in schemes with any maturity period
Do debt funds have a lock-in period?
Debt mutual funds do not have a lock-in period, an investor can choose to withdraw anytime.
What is TREPs in a mutual fund?
TREPs are Tri-Party Repo agreements. TREPs allow the borrowing and lending of funds against Government Securities as collateral in a Triparty Repo arrangement. TREP is a repo contract in which a third party (Tri-party) acts as an intermediary between the borrower and lender. The role of the Tri-Party Agent is collateral selection, ensuring payments and settlements, custody and management of the contract. Clearing Corporation of India Ltd (CCIL) is the Central Counterparty to all trades from Tri-Party Repo Dealing System (TREPS). The following entities participate in TREPS: Mutual Funds, Banks, Financial Institutions, Pension Funds, NBFCs, Insurance Companies, Corporates, Primary Dealers, etc.