The recent pandemic has had an impact on every individual in every part of the world. It has left millions vulnerable financially, emotionally as well as physically in some cases. Many have lost their loved ones to this pandemic while many have lost their employment. People were forced to survive on their savings and in some cases, these savings have long run out. While the loss of life cannot be compensated fully in any case, the financial loss can still be coped.
In these trying times, the Government has introduced many measures to ease the financial strain on the people of the country in the form of relief packages, subsidies, tax relief, etc.
One of the many measures introduced by the Government to help the people of the country is allowing the benefit of withdrawal from the EPF (Employee Provident Fund) on account of financial loss due to the second wave of Covid 19. Given below are a few details relating to such withdrawal from EPF.
What is EPF?
Employee Provident Fund (EPF) is a decades old retirement benefits scheme introduced by the Government of India. Under this scheme, the employer and the employee contribute a small portion i.e. a percentage of the earnings of the employee towards this fund. This scheme focuses on providing retirement benefits to the members of the fund in the form of a corpus fund. Investment in EPF also provides tax benefits to employees with respect to the contribution made, interest earned and the fund withdrawn at maturity.
When is withdrawal from EPF permissible?
Under the normal rules of EPF, withdrawal from EPF is permissible subject to certain conditions. Members can opt for partial or full withdrawal from the fund provided they meet the underlying conditions specified in this regard. The amount of withdrawal and the number of years after which withdrawal is possible depends on the purpose of withdrawal.
The fund also provides relief in the form of withdrawal when a disaster or a pandemic has been declared by the Government. As the Covid 19 situation has been declared a pandemic, the members of the EPF are allowed an emergency withdrawal from the fund. Such withdrawal is considered to be a non-refundable withdrawal.
As of June 2021, EPFO has settled more than Rs 76.31 lakhs advance claims for Covid 19 amounting to a whopping Rs. 18698.15 crores. The government has assured that Covid 19 related claims will be taken on priority and will be settled within a period of 3 days from making the claim.
Who can withdraw from EPF due to Covid 19 pandemic?
What is the permissible amount of withdrawal?
Any member of EPF Scheme, 1952 having a UAN (Universal Account Number) and employed in any establishment or factory that is covered under EPF & MP Act, 1952 is eligible for the withdrawal from EPF due to Covid 19 pandemic. Withdrawal from EPF due to Covid 19 was first declared in March 2020 as part of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana. Such withdrawal is permissible for all the members of EPF.
Under this relief, measures relating to the Covid 19 pandemic, the members of EPF are allowed the following benefits.
Advance as relief against second wave of the pandemic
Permissible withdrawal from EPF under the second wave of Covid 19 is calculated to be lower of,
- 75% of the outstanding balance in the EPF account
- 3 months wages plus dearness allowance.
This clause can be explained with a brief example.
If the balance in the EPF account is Rs. 2,00,000 and the current wages and dearness allowance comes to Rs. 25,000, the amount that can be withdrawn as a non-refundable advance is,
75% of Rs, 2,00,000 = Rs, 1,50,000, or,
Rs. 25,000* 3 = Rs. 75,000
The amount that can be withdrawn in the above case is Rs. 75,000
Withdrawal allowed even after leaving the service
Covid 19 advance facility is available to the EPF members even after leaving the service if final withdrawal from EPF is pending.
Withdrawal in case of unemployment
Another relief provided against Covid 19 pandemic is to members who are unemployed for more than a month. They are allowed to withdraw up to 75% of the balance available from their EPF account.
Relief under EDLI Scheme
Under the EPF EDLI (Employees Deposit Linked Insurance) Scheme, if a member of the EPF dies due to any reason including Covid 19, their family is eligible to get up to Rs. 7,00,000. This amount was earlier Rs. 6,00,000 which was recently raised. The minimum amount of assistance under this scheme is Rs. 2,50,000.
Relief under ESIC Covid 19 Relief Scheme
Another important relief measure announced by the Labour Ministry is the ESIC Covid 19 relief scheme. Under this scheme, the dependents of the workers (who have died to Covid 19) will receive compensation of loss of wages as well as payment for the last rites of the deceased worker.
What is the procedure to withdraw from EPF due to Covid 19?
The procedure for withdrawal of the non-refundable advance can be done through online or offline modes. The process for the same is explained below.
Offline procedure for withdrawal
The offline procedure requires the members to submit the New Composite claim form (Aadhaar) or New Composite claim form (Non-Aadhaar) depending on whether their Aadhaar is linked with the UAN or not. The form has to be submitted to the Jurisdictional EPFO’s Office after self-certifying the Form.
It is to be noted that the New Composite claim form (Non-Aadhaar) also requires the employer’s attestation.
The supporting documents to be submitted along with the form are a PAN card and a cancelled cheque.
Online procedure for withdrawal
The steps for making an online application for withdrawal are mentioned below.
- Login to the EPFO Website using the UAN (Universal Account Number)
- Choose the option Claim (Form-31, 19, and 10C) from the ‘Online services’ tab
- After making the above selection, the next page will display the details of the member and will require them to enter the last 4 digits of their bank account number.
- The member can click on ‘Proceed for online claim’ after verifying the details provided.
- The next step is to apply for ‘PF Advance (Form 31)’
- In the tab purpose of outbreak, the member will have to input ‘Outbreak of Pandemic (Covid 19)’
- The member will be required to mention the amount of advance that is to be withdrawn and provide the necessary details like address and scanned copy of the cancelled cheque.
- In the next step, the member will need to provide the Aadhaar OTP for verification.
- After entering the OTP received on the registered mobile number, the member will have to click on ‘Submit’ to complete the application process for claim.
Is this withdrawal taxable?
The amount withdrawn from EPF is tax-free at the hands of the members. The amount allowed as the non-refundable withdrawal as a relief measure for Covid 19 pandemic is also tax-free in the hands of the members. The amount required to withdraw as a relief measure against the pandemic is provided as aid to the members to ease their financial stress. A levy of tax on such an amount will defeat the purpose of relief and hence the question of taxation, in this case, does not arise.
EPF is an essential investment for the working class of the country. It acts as a safety net at the time of old age and in case of emergencies like the Covid 19 pandemic. A relief in the form of withdrawal from the EPF account along with other relief measures will act as a financial buffer in these testing times and will help the members tide over the financial crises till they get back on their feet.
1. Can a withdrawal claim for Covid 19 relief be made if a recent claim was made on account of any illness?
A. Yes. The advance claim for Covid 19 relief can be made irrespective of any previous claim relating to any illnesses.
2. Can a claim under Covid 19 relief be made if the earlier claim request is still open?
A. No. if a previous claim of the member is pending and they wish to renew their claim under the Covid 19 relief measure, they will first have to request a rejection of the earlier claim via an email and make the fresh claim subsequently.
3. Is the amount of 75% of the balance an adhoc withdrawal amount or can a member request for a lower amount?A. The maximum permissible amount under the Covid 19 relief is up to 75% of the balance under the EPF account of the member. If the member wishes to make a withdrawal of a lower amount they are permitted to do so.
4. What is the minimum relief under EPF EDLI Scheme?
A. The minimum relief under EPF EDLI Scheme is Rs. 2,50,000.
5. What is the amount that can be withdrawn under EPF COvid 19 relief is the EPF balance of a member is Rs. 3,00,000 and the monthly wages and dearness allowance is Rs. 50,000.
Therefore, the amount that can be withdrawn is calculated to be lower of,
- 75% of 300000= Rs. 2,25,000
- 50000*3 = 1,50,000
The amount that can be claimed as relief from EPF against Covid 19 pandemic is Rs. 1,50,000.