It is necessary to understand what these small savings schemes actually mean and how they operate before we actually stack them up against each other to find out which one is better for which situation.

Comparison between PPF & ELSS

The difference between Public Provident Fund (PPF) and Equity Linked Savings Scheme (ELSS). Now that we have had a refresher course in what each of the savings scheme actually does, let’s take a look at how each of these stack up against each other in comparison of features.

Features PPF ELSS

Lock-in Period

15 Years

3 Years

Investment Limit

Rs. 150,000 per year

No Limit

Maximum Investment for Deduction



Minimum Investment




Rates are fixed by the Central Government (currently 7.9%)

Based on performance of equity markets



Medium to High


Public Provident Fund (PPF)

Offering more returns over a sizably longer investment period, these are stable financial instruments that have added tax benefits.

  1. Rate of Interest: As mentioned above, these instruments offer interest at a rate of 7.9% per annum, compounded yearly and being effectively added to the balance amount per year
  2. Financial Liquidity: Mandatory lock-in periods of 15 years makes this investment scheme a choice for long term goals, rather than something in the near future. Consequently, when PPFs are extended beyond the 15-year mark of lock-in, the associated returns also increase significantly
  3. Taxable returns: The investments are tax deductible and the returns enjoy tax exemption as under Section 80C of the IT Act, making the effective returns through PPF even higher
  4. Premature withdrawal of funds: PPFs give a hard time when it comes to withdrawing investments before the maturity of 15 years is done. Only under cases of the demise of the account holder, forfeiture of account by a gazetted officer or by order of law is this possible
  5. Loans: Having lock-in periods of 15 years and being stable financial instruments, PPFs can easily be used as collaterals for availing loans for vehicles, housing and other secured loans
  6. Investment Security: Provided by the Government of India, PPFs offer rates that rarely change in a major way and are one of the safest possible investments one can make in India

Equity Linked Savings Scheme (ELSS)

A relatively newer savings scheme offered through many banks, these came into being to encourage the habit of investment among the common folk who are interested in mutual funds and the potential higher returns of the market.

  1. Rate of Interest: These financial instruments offer variable rates of interest since they are linked to the market. The rates overall offered by ELSS could range over 16 percent to 24 percent per annum, taking into consideration extreme lows that might be experienced in the equities market
  2. Financial Liquidity: With a mandatory lock-in period of only three years, one can easily revert to ELSS funds in case of any need in the immediate future. The returns obtained after a longer period of investment will depend upon how market-smart a person is
  3. Taxable returns: The returns on Equity Linked Savings Scheme investments are not taxable. Since the lock-in period is only of 3 years, there are no taxes from long term capital gains either
  4. Premature withdrawal of funds: Closing a ELSS investment by premature withdrawal of funds is not allowed, not until the lock-in period of 3 years is done
  5. Loans: Equity Linked Savings Scheme investments are market dependent instruments and can only be used as collaterals for availing loans for vehicles, housing and other secured loans after the lock-in periods are over. Better rates can be availed on loans, if investments are pledged with banks that offer the particular ELSS schemes
  6. Investment Security: Being a market linked investment, ELSS have a higher degree of risk when it comes to the invested money

PPF and ELSS are different products, considering one relies on fixed income instruments and the other on equities. A healthy combination of both should be present in any investor’s portfolio. In case an ELSS relies too heavily on equity exposure, one could remain wary if market risks are something one is not comfortable with. At the same time, ELSS investments have a lesser lock-in period and can be handy when a sudden need of liquidity arises. It is advisable, thus, to continue smaller investments in PPFs for an expense one considers taking a longer while to decide. Considering an ELSS that lesser exposure to equity, one could build a strong investment portfolio by keeping the investments stable until the market rallies, and then walk away with a profit.

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