I’ve to invest in ELSS for 80C tax saving. Which fund(s) should I pick?

Pick a fund that you like. No point having more than one ELSS fund. But know why you're investing in ELSS in the first place, because it's equity, and you should give it longer than 3 years to perform

When it comes to ELSS, present categorization gives the fund managers wide berth in picking stock from Nifty 500 universe of stocks. They can pick any stock from top 500 stocks listed in NSE / BSE - this is different from funds that are categorized as large-cap, mid-cap, small-cap, or multi-cap funds. Only flexi-cap category of equity funds is similar.

This makes it tricky to pick an ELSS fund, because all funds from these category might not be on the same footing.

You can look at past returns, or metrics derived from past returns (alpha, beta, sortino ratio, and other greeks); but all these won't indicate how a fund would perform in next time period of similar duration.

If a fund had 4% alpha on its benchmark over last 3 years; it's not an indication of what kind of alpha it would have going into next 3 / 5 / 7 years.

Active fund picking is hard, and ELSS having widest latitude can be really hard to pick the right fund that'd perform great after you invest in that.

For instance, until 2015-16, Nippon ELSS used to be one of the popular recommendation on many mutual fund portals. Since then, next 3-4 years haven't been kind to this fund, owing to this fund's huge bets on infrastructure / manufacturing sectors.

Conversely, Axis Long Term Equity (not a recommendation, using as illustration) has done better than expected over the same period.

In 2020, Canara Robeco ELSS fund looked like a great fund, doing much better than its peers over last 3-4 years. But 3-4 years ago, or even a year ago, it wasn't doing anything extraordinary, that it'd get into anyone's radar.

The harsh truth is, you can pick an ELSS fund, and at best hope for it to do well-enough. We've discussed in these FAQs how picking the right fund isn't exactly a big requirement - if you pick something that does ok enough, and give it time, that's fine.

ELSS investment which would be countable under 80C deductions is capped at 1.5L per year (though you can invest more than that amount in one/multiple ELSS schemes, the amount available for 80C will remain at 1.5L as per the current IT laws). On top of this, most salaried workers have PF, insurance etc., limiting ELSS investments to much lower value. If the investment principal is small, return difference isn't that important.

Just pick one, you're as likely to be wrong as you could be lucky.

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