Income funds are a class of debt mutual funds that invest in a combination of government securities, certificates of deposits, corporate bonds and money market instruments. They are managed by expert fund managers who actively try to manage the portfolio based on interest rate movements, while at the same time keeping the portfolio credit worthy.

In other words, they seek to generate returns both in declining and rising interest rate scenarios by managing their portfolio actively. They either generate interest income by holding the instruments till maturity or manage gains by selling them in the debt market if the price of the instrument rallies well.

For most investors, mutual funds mean investing in equities and therefore come tagged with risks.

If you are investing for not less than two years, then ‘income funds’ a class of debt mutual funds can deliver superior returns compared with bank deposits. That means you can earn a bit more than traditional debt avenues, by still staying invested in debt.

What are income funds and what makes them attractive?

That means that these instruments will not guarantee you fixed returns like deposits. Yet, over the last 10 years, they have beaten three-year deposit rates, irrespective of the year in which you invested. Let us look at income funds’ features and how they score over fixed deposits.

Income fund advantages

• Highly liquid. Can with draw money anytime unlike fixed deposits that come with a fixed lock-in period

• Actively managed. Seek to generate returns from varying interest rate cycles. Fixed deposits, on the other hand, carry re-investment risk. When a deposit matures and is reinvested, you may fall into a low interest rate regime and get lower returns than before.

• Have historically generated superior returns than fixed deposits.

• Very tax efficient, especially for those in the 20% and 30% tax brackets. Long-term capital gains (for holding over one year) are taxed at 10% without indexation or 20% with indexation. Interest on fixed deposits, though, is taxed at your income slab. Please see table for post-tax returns

• Offers high flexibility. Besides investing systematically you can even withdraw money systematically thus generating regular cash flow for yourself.

How to use income funds

• When you build a mutual fund portfolio, consider investing over one half of your capital in income funds when you have a time frame of say 2-3 years

• You can use income funds to also provide for some monthly cash flows by opting for a systematic withdrawal plan after first holding it for at least two years.