The Finance Minister had, last week, announced that about 4.8 crore employees who are members of EPF can withdraw 75 per cent of the amount standing to their credit, limited to three months’ wages. It initially appeared that the leeway was limited to those in the lower wage bracket.
A notification of the Labour Ministry has now clarified that under the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana, if you are regularly contributing to the Employee Provident Fund ( EPF) scheme run by the government, you are eligible to withdraw your savings. This means that everyone is eligible to use the relaxation.
The EPFO is working to make sure that claims can be made online and are also settled in three days, when all documentation is in place.
As per the latest information available on the EPF website, the entity maintains 19.34 crore accounts (as of 2016-17). So, initially, it seemed that there could be restrictions on who could withdraw. Says KE Raghunathan, member of the Central Board of Trustees of the EPFO representing employers, “The 19.34 crore accounts could include pensioners or even inactive accounts. At present there are 4.8 crore subscribers who contribute for the full year and, hence, all these subscribers are eligible to withdraw.”
Second, the definition of wages for the purpose of calculating the eligibility amount for partial withdrawal was open to interpretation. This has been addressed by clarifying that only basic pay and dearness allowance are to be considered as wages.
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If your Aadhaar and bank account details are linked with the UAN (Universal Account Number) provided by the EPFO — an exercise that many employers have already carried out — you can file the withdrawal request online on your own at https://unifiedportal-mem.epfindia.gov.in/memberinterface/. You need not go through your employer at all. In this case, you can expect the amount credited to your bank account in three days’ time, according to Raghunathan.
“The Central Provident Fund Commissioner is working to making sure that the facility to withdraw as well as the issue of clearances is done online to the extent possible. However, not all cases of withdrawal can be auto-piloted. In some cases, KYC may not be up to date or Aadhaar may not be linked. So some physical interventions or interactions may be required to process the withdrawals. Field officers have been alerted to ensure that these cases are handled without putting subscribers to hardship”, he adds.
Gaps may arise
Still, some gaps may have to be addressed. Given that dipping into the EPF kitty will impact retirement savings, employees may need more flexibility. Allowing them to stagger their withdrawals during the three-month window could ensure that they don’t pull out more than what is necessary. It is not clear at present as to whether multiple withdrawals are allowed.
This apart, experts we spoke to are of the view that the government could allow re-credit of amount back into the account once things normalise. This will ensure that their long-term savings are not dented. Some private PF trusts do allow re-credit under certain circumstances. This is something that the EPFO needs to think about.