ULIP vs ELSS – A Comparative Analysis

05 Jan, 20246 mins read
ULIP vs ELSS – A Comparative Analysis


ULIP (Unit Linked Insurance Plan) and ELSS (Equity Linked Savings Scheme) are distinct players in the financial realm. ULIP combines insurance and investment, while ELSS is a tax-saving mutual fund with equity exposure. Understanding these differences is crucial for making informed investment decisions, ensuring that individuals align their choices with their financial goals and risk preferences. This brief overview sets the stage for a deeper dive into the unique characteristics of ULIP and ELSS, empowering investors to navigate the complexities of the financial landscape with confidence.

Understanding ULIP

ULIP, or Unit Linked Insurance Plan, is a hybrid financial product that merges the elements of insurance and investment. This unique offering not only provides life insurance coverage but also allows policyholders to invest in a variety of funds, such as equity, debt, or a mix of both.

Key Features:

  • Dual Purpose: One of the distinguishing features of ULIP is its dual purpose. It serves as both a life insurance policy and an investment vehicle, offering a comprehensive financial solution.
  • Flexibility in Investment: Policyholders have the flexibility to choose from various funds based on their risk tolerance and financial goals. These funds may range from high-risk, high-return equity funds to lower-risk debt funds.
  • Transparency: ULIPs are known for their transparency in disclosing charges and fund performance. Investors can track the value of their investment and understand the associated costs with clarity.
  • Switching Options: ULIPs provide the flexibility to switch between different funds based on changing market conditions or evolving investment objectives. This feature allows policyholders to adapt their investment strategy over time.
  • Lock-In Period: While ULIPs offer flexibility, they typically come with a lock-in period. During this period, policyholders are restricted from withdrawing funds. This lock-in period encourages a long-term investment approach.
  • Tax Benefits: ULIPs offer tax benefits under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act for the premium paid. Additionally, the maturity amount is tax-free under Section 10(10D), making it an attractive tax-saving investment option.
  • Death Benefit: In the unfortunate event of the policyholder's demise, the nominee receives a death benefit, which is generally higher than the fund value, ensuring financial security for the family.

Understanding ELSS

Equity Linked Savings Scheme (ELSS) is a type of mutual fund that primarily invests in equities and related instruments. What sets ELSS apart is its unique position as a tax-saving investment option under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act in India. ELSS combines the potential for wealth creation through equity investments with the advantage of tax savings for investors.

Key Features:

  • Equity Exposure: ELSS funds predominantly invest in equities, providing investors with the opportunity to participate in the potential growth of the stock market. This equity exposure distinguishes ELSS from other tax-saving instruments.
  • Lock-In Period: ELSS comes with a mandatory lock-in period of three years, the shortest among all tax-saving investment options under Section 80C. During this period, investors cannot redeem or sell their ELSS units.
  • Tax Benefits: ELSS investments qualify for tax benefits under Section 80C. Investors can claim a deduction of up to ₹1.5 lakh from their taxable income, effectively reducing their tax liability. This makes ELSS a popular choice for tax planning.
  • Professional Fund Management: ELSS funds are managed by experienced fund managers who make investment decisions based on market research and analysis. This professional management aims to optimize returns for investors.
  • Potential for Capital Appreciation: With a significant allocation to equities, ELSS funds have the potential for capital appreciation over the long term. This aligns with the goal of wealth creation for investors willing to stay invested beyond the mandatory lock-in period.
  • Dividend and Growth Options: ELSS funds typically offer investors the choice between dividend and growth options. In the dividend option, investors receive periodic payouts, while in the growth option, the returns are reinvested in the fund.
  • Flexibility: While ELSS comes with a lock-in period, it offers flexibility after the three years. Investors can choose to stay invested for the long term or redeem their units partially or completely based on their financial goals.
  • Risk and Return Potential: ELSS, being equity-oriented, carries a certain level of risk associated with market fluctuations. However, the potential for higher returns over the long term is a key attraction for investors seeking both tax benefits and capital appreciation.

Equity Linked Savings Scheme (ELSS) operates uniquely as a tax-saving mutual fund with a significant emphasis on equity exposure. Investors can enjoy tax benefits under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act while capitalizing on the growth potential of equity investments. ELSS combines the advantages of tax savings and wealth creation, making it a distinctive choice for those seeking both fiscal advantages and long-term capital appreciation. The fund's structure encourages investors to stay invested for a mandatory lock-in period of three years, aligning tax benefits with the potential for robust returns in the equity market.

Risk and Returns Comparison

When it comes to risk, Unit Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs) and Equity Linked Savings Schemes (ELSS) exhibit distinct profiles. Let's navigate the risk terrain of these two investment avenues.

ULIP Risk Profile:

  • Market-Linked Risk: ULIPs are susceptible to market fluctuations as a significant portion of their funds is invested in equities. The performance of the underlying funds is directly impacted by market movements.
  • Insurance Component: The risk in ULIPs is also influenced by the insurance component. Charges related to mortality and other insurance-related factors contribute to the overall risk.
  • Flexibility Impact: While ULIPs offer flexibility in fund switching, this very flexibility can introduce risk if not managed judiciously. Frequent switches may lead to transaction costs and impact overall returns.

ELSS Risk Profile:

  • Equity Market Risk: ELSS, being primarily equity-oriented, is exposed to market risks. Fluctuations in the stock market can impact the fund's performance.
  • Systematic Investment Risk: ELSS typically follows a systematic investment approach. While this reduces the impact of market timing, it doesn't eliminate the risk associated with market downturns.
  • Lock-In Period Risk: ELSS has a lock-in period of three years. While this is shorter compared to many other tax-saving instruments, it still exposes investors to market volatility during this period.

Risk and Returns Comparison

  • ULIPs and Diversification: ULIPs offer the advantage of diversification through various fund options, potentially reducing risk. The insurance component adds a layer of stability.
  • ELSS and Long-Term Growth: ELSS, with its higher equity exposure, may have a higher risk but also the potential for substantial long-term growth. The lock-in period encourages investors to adopt a more patient, long-term approach.

Choosing Based on Risk Tolerance:

  • For Conservative Investors: Those with a lower risk tolerance might find ULIPs appealing due to their insurance component and diversified fund options.
  • For Risk-Tolerant Investors: ELSS might be suitable for investors willing to embrace market volatility in pursuit of potentially higher returns over the long term.

Tax Implications

ULIP Tax Implications:

  • Benefits: ULIPs offer tax benefits under Section 80C for the premium paid, reducing taxable income.
  • Exemption: Maturity proceeds are tax-free under Section 10(10D), providing a tax-efficient investment avenue.

ELSS Tax Implications:

  • Advantages: ELSS investments qualify for deductions under Section 80C, allowing a deduction of up to ₹1.5 lakh from taxable income.
  • Exemption: Capital gains from ELSS are subject to Long-Term Capital Gains (LTCG) tax, but gains up to ₹1 lakh annually are exempt.

Choosing with Tax Goals in Mind:

  • Individual Alignment: Consider individual tax planning goals and risk tolerance.
  • ULIP for Insurance: Opt for ULIP if seeking a combination of insurance coverage and tax benefits.

ELSS for Market Exposure: Choose ELSS for equity exposure, tax benefits, and potential wealth creation.


Education, goal alignment, research, and risk awareness form the pillars of informed decision-making. As investors embark on their financial journey, arming themselves with these principles paves the way for financial empowerment and resilience.


  1. What is the basic difference between ULIP and ELSS?

Ans) ULIP (Unit Linked Insurance Plan) and ELSS (Equity Linked Savings Scheme) are both investment instruments, but the key difference lies in their primary objectives. ULIP combines insurance and investment, providing both life coverage and an investment component. On the other hand, ELSS is a type of mutual fund that primarily aims at wealth creation through equity investments.

  1. How do the returns compare between ULIP and ELSS?

Ans) Returns on ULIP are influenced by market performance and policy-related factors. ELSS, being a mutual fund, is directly linked to the stock market. Historically, ELSS tends to have higher volatility but may offer potentially higher returns compared to ULIPs over the long term, given the nature of equity investments.

  1. What are the tax implications of investing in ULIP and ELSS?

Ans) Both ULIP and ELSS offer tax benefits under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act in India. However, the tax treatment varies. ULIP enjoys EEE (Exempt-Exempt-Exempt) status, meaning the investment, returns, and maturity proceeds are tax-free. ELSS, while offering tax deductions, follows EET (Exempt-Exempt-Taxable) status, where returns are taxable, but the investment and gains up to the threshold are exempt.

  1. How flexible are ULIP and ELSS in terms of investment and withdrawals?

Ans) ULIPs typically offer flexibility in premium payments and fund switches. They also allow partial withdrawals after a lock-in period. ELSS, being a mutual fund, allows investors to redeem units at any time, and there is no lock-in period after the initial three years. However, ELSS lacks the premium payment flexibility found in ULIPs.

disclaimer: the information provided in this blog is for general informational purposes only. it should not be considered as personalised investment advice. each investor should do their due diligence before making any decision that may impact their financial situation and should have an investment strategy that reflects their risk profile and goals. the examples provided are for illustrative purposes. past performance does not guarantee future results. data shared from third parties is obtained from what are considered reliable sources; however, it cannot be guaranteed. any articles, daily news, analysis, and/or other information contained in the blog should not be relied upon for investment purposes. the content provided is neither an offer to sell nor purchase any security. opinions, news, research, analysis, prices, or other information contained on our blog services, or emailed to you, are provided as general market commentary. stack does not warrant that the information is accurate, reliable or complete. any third-party information provided does not reflect the views of stack. stack shall not be liable for any losses arising directly or indirectly from misuse of information. each decision as to whether a self-directed investment is appropriate or proper is an independent decision by the reader. all investing is subject to risk, including the possible loss of the money invested.

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