Navigating the complexities of Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) in India demands a comprehensive understanding, especially when addressing their taxation. As vehicles for seasoned investors, AIFs open doors to an array of investment strategies, categorized into three broad types: Category I, II, and III, each with its unique fiscal implications and investment focuses. From incubating start-ups and small to medium-sized enterprises to funneling capital into distress assets and hedge funds, these funds offer a spectrum of opportunities that extend beyond traditional investment avenues. At their core, Category I and II AIFs benefit from a pass-through status, punctuating the distinct advantage for investors in terms of tax liabilities, while Category III AIFs bear the brunt of taxation at the fund level itself.

In this article, we aim to dissect and elucidate the legal structures that influence the tax regimen of these funds, with a keen eye on how the categories differ markedly in their approach to fiscal obligations. We will explore the nuances of taxation for Category I and II AIFs, analyzing the benefits of pass-through taxation and its impact on investor returns. Additionally, we will delve into the distinctive tax framework governing Category III AIFs, dissecting their potential for higher yield albeit coupled with heightened risk. Insight into the legal backdrop of these funds and their tax implications is not only instrumental for alternative investment management but forms the crux of savvy alternate investment fund strategies. By embracing our analysis, investors and professionals within alternative asset management can navigate the intricate landscape of types of alternative investments with informed decisions and optimal tax positioning in the dynamic Indian market.

Understanding the Categories of AIF

Within the domain of alternative investment funds in India, a meticulous categorization system has been established, differentiating between:

Category I AIFs:

  • Target Sectors: These funds channel investments into sectors perceived as beneficial for the economic and social development of the country. This includes nurturing innovation in start-ups, bolstering small and medium enterprises (SMEs), backing social ventures, and fostering infrastructure projects.

Tax Implications: Enjoying a pass-through status, these AIFs ensure that taxation on incomes such as capital gains and dividends is levied directly upon the investor rather than at the fund level, preserving tax efficiency for stakeholders.

Category II AIFs:

  • Investment Focus: Emphasizing diversification, these funds predominantly pour capital into debt and equity securities. They cater to investors seeking alternatives to mainstream assets by focusing on private equity, real estate, and distressed assets.
  • Tax Approach: Similarly to Category I, these AIFs benefit from a pass-through provision, aligning the tax responsibility with the investors and promoting a favorable tax environment.

Category III AIFs:

  • Trading Strategies: These funds implement an array of complex trading strategies and have the agility to invest in both listed and unlisted derivatives, catering to a clientele eager for sophisticated and higher risk-return profiles.
  • Taxation at Fund Level: Contrary to Categories I and II, Category III AIFs do not receive pass-through status, leading to taxation at the fund level—a factor that significantly affects the net returns of the investments.

    Investors and professionals in alternative investment management engaging with these types of alternative investments must be vigilant about the disparate taxation frameworks which govern each category of AIFs. This not only shapes the tax liability but also influences the return on investment and the potential growth of the invested capital.

Operational Structures and Requirements Across AIF Categories:

  • Legal Form and Registration Fees: Category III AIFs often attract higher registration fees due to their intricate trading methodologies, and there are stipulations for a continued interest from sponsors or managers, which are more stringent than in other categories.
  • Fund Structure: While Category I and II AIFs are exclusively close-ended, granting a definitive investment period, Category III funds offer the flexibility of being either close or open-ended, thus permitting ongoing capital subscriptions and redemptions.
  • Investment Concentration: The regulatory framework prescribes more liberal investment concentration norms for Category III AIFs, thereby allowing a broader investment scope when compared to Categories I and II.

    Adhering to such structured categorization not only facilitates clarity for alternative asset management but also ensures that the investors can align their financial strategies with their investment objectives and risk appetites.

    To remain in compliance with the regulations, AIFs are required to meet specific reporting and disclosure norms, and with SEBI's latest mandate, any scheme of AIFs with a corpus exceeding INR 500 crore must dematerialize their units by October 31, 2023. Understanding this complex landscape, we in alternative investment funds hold ourselves accountable for keeping our investors informed about the nuances of our financial maneuvers and the subsequent tax-related outcomes.

Legal Structure and Tax Implications

In our pursuit to demystify the taxation framework for alternative investment funds in India, it's imperative we comprehend the variances in legal structures underpinning these funds. Alternative investment funds can indeed be constituted under multiple legal forms, including companies, Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs), trusts, or even corporate bodies. Each legal form carries specific tax implications that are crucial for alternative investment management strategies:

  • Companies: AIFs structured as companies are subject to corporate tax rates, with the potential for dividends distributed by these AIFs to fall under the Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT) regime.
  • LLPs: An LLP-structured AIF typically sees its income taxed at the entity level, and in the absence of the DDT regime, the distribution of post-tax profits to partners is not taxed again.
  • Trusts: Trust-structured AIFs are usually preferred due to their tax transparency; the fund itself is not taxed if it distributes income, and instead, investors are taxed based on the nature of the income received.

The legal structure also concretely influences taxation specifics for alternate investment fund categories, particularly I & II, which notably enjoy a pass-through status. Here's what that entails:

  • Pass-Through Status: For Category I and II AIFs, income other than business income is not taxed at the fund level. We see this benefit reflected most significantly in:
  • Long-Term Capital Gains: Typically subjected to a tax rate of 10% for listed shares and 20% on unlisted shares if held for over a year, preserving investment growth.
  • Short-Term Capital Gains: Shorter holding periods, less than a year, translate into STCG, commonly taxed at 15%.

The delineation is more pronounced in Category III AIFs, absent a special tax regime, leading to their income being taxed based on their legal constitution. The implications for alternative asset management are manifest:

  • Varied Tax Rates: Income from Category III AIFs, encompassing investment income, capital gains, or business income, are taxed at differential rates at the fund level.
  • Investor Taxation: While dividends are taxed at the investor's slab rate, similar is the outcome for interest income received from these AIFs.

    We're actively discerning the disparities that currently exist within the taxation landscape for AIF investors, noting the necessity for reforms, such as addressing the GST disparity on management fees. Bringing parity, especially in the context of foreign investments in alternative investment funds, is pivotal to not only simplifying the tax structure but also enhancing the attractiveness of types of alternative investments in India's dynamic economic ecosystem. Addressing these complexities head-on is essential for fostering an environment conducive to robust and well-informed alternative investment management.

Tax Implications for Category I and II AIFs

In our exploration of Category I and II Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs), we observe their distinct tax treatment which markedly separates them from Category III AIFs. With the pass-through status accorded to these categories, Alternative Investment Management practices must account for taxation at the investor level rather than at the fund level. Let's delve into the specifics:

Capital Gains Taxation:

  • Long-term Capital Gains (LTCG): Investors in Category I and II AIFs must pay tax on LTCG at a rate of 20%, with the benefit of indexation, which adjusts the purchase price for inflation to compute real taxable gains.
  • Short-term Capital Gains (STCG): STCG from these funds are taxable at a favorable rate of 15%, which applies to gains made on investments held for less than three years.
  • Surcharge and Cess:
    • The surcharge on LTCG and STCG imposes an additional tax based on income brackets. For individual investors, it stands at 10% on gains exceeding Rs. 50 lakhs up to Rs. 1 crore, and 15% for gains over Rs. 1 crore.
    • For entities like firms and LLPs, a surcharge of 12% is levied, and for companies, it varies between 7% and 12%, depending on the income levels.
    • Furthermore, an education cess at the rate of 4% is applicable encompassing all taxpayers, which includes individuals, Hindu Undivided Families (HUFs), firms, LLPs, and companies.
  • Withholding Tax:
    • Income distributed by Category I and II AIFs, apart from business income, is subject to withholding tax at the rate of 10%. This is equally applicable to both residents and non-residents, ensuring tax compliance right at the source.

      Within these frameworks, alternative asset management professionals and investors in alternative investment funds must adopt astute tax strategies. Keeping abreast of these regulations is vital for optimizing returns and aligning investment strategies with fiscal responsibilities.

      In our role in alternative investment management, we uphold the commitment to shed light on the complexities of the tax landscape surrounding alternative investment funds in India. It's critical for those engaging with types of alternative investments to be well-versed in these intricacies, ensuring a level playing field for all stakeholders involved. Through this knowledge, investors can navigate the dynamic fields of alternative investment funds with greater efficacy and financial savvy.

Taxation of Category III AIFs

In the segment of alternative investment funds in India, Category III AIFs are distinctive given their structuring flexibilities as either open-ended or closed-ended funds, the latter mandating a minimum tenure of three years. It's essential for investors and professionals in alternative asset management to understand Category III AIFs’ tax obligations, as these can significantly influence the net return on investments. Here's an overview of the taxation landscape for these funds:

  • Taxation at the AIF Level: Unlike Category I and II AIFs, Category III AIFs do not benefit from pass-through tax status, and as a result, the income earned is taxed directly at the fund level. This can encompass a variety of income types, including but not limited to capital gains, interest, dividends, and business income, the implications and rates of which vary according to the fund's incorporated structure.


  • Structural Considerations:
    • Trusts: Where the AIF is established as a trust, the tax treatment is generally more favorable, with taxation transpiring at the investor level in many cases.
    • LLPs and Companies: If an AIF is constituted as an LLP or a company, the income is typically taxed at the entity level, and certain corporate tax rates apply, potentially altering the net returns for investors.

      Amongst the spectrum of types of alternative investments, Category III AIFs invite the most attentive scrutiny due to the complexity of their tax consequences. As we delve into the subtleties that appertain to these funds, we discern several key issues that need navigating:
  • Investor Tax Considerations: From the characterisation of income – discerning between business income and capital gains – to the treatment of tax paid in India for US investors, the challenges are multifaceted.
  • Operational Intricacies: Alternative investment management must address vital operational matters, such as compliance with the payment of tax and filing of tax returns, determination of net asset value, especially for open-ended funds, and dealing with tax on unrealised income.
  • Granular Complexities: For Category III AIFs, the nuances extend to tax credits, onshore vs. offshore pooling for foreign investors, and robust compliance with SEBI's rigorous reporting requirements.

We at CorpZo equip our clients with comprehensive advisory services to adeptly manage these tax and regulatory complexities. Our suite of services includes tax advice on the income earned by the AIF and investors, regulatory compliance assistance, and meticulous due diligence, among others. By availing of our expertise, alternative investment funds and investors can remain confidently compliant and strategically positioned in the dynamic marketplace of alternative investment management.


In summarizing the comprehensive analysis of the taxation of Alternative Investment Funds in India, we have traversed the distinctive tax structures across Category I, II, and III AIFs—emphasizing the pass-through advantages for the former two and the fund-level taxation complexities for the latter. Investors and industry professionals must recognize the variance in tax implications to adeptly navigate the investment landscape, utilizing our insights to align fiscal strategies with potential returns effectively.

This exploration into the taxation of AIFs underscores the importance of staying informed and compliant within the dynamic investment ecosystem in India. The broader implications of these findings have critical resonance for the future of alternative investment management, inviting further analysis and a proactive approach to regulatory adaptations. As the alternative investment sector continues to mature, the continued collaboration between investors, fund managers, and regulatory authorities will be integral to fostering an environment conducive to growth and innovation.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) in India

What are the different categories of AIFs available in India?

There are three types of AIFs:

  1. Category I: Invests in start-ups, social ventures, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), or sectors displaying high growth potential and enjoy tax pass-through benefits.
  2. Category II: Focuses on diversified stocks and bonds, preferred by risk-averse investors for their defensive investment options and hedging mechanisms.
  3. Category III: Employs complex trading strategies for short-term profits and adopts a more aggressive investment approach.

How are AIFs taxed?

AIFs are subject to a taxation framework that differs by category:

  • Category I and II AIFs: Have pass-through status; income is tax-exempt at the fund level, with gains taxable in the hands of investors.
  • Category III AIFs: Taxed at the fund level. Investors aren't taxed again on these gains.
  • It is crucial for alternative asset management and investors to note these distinctions for tax planning.

What is the minimum investment required for AIFs?

  • The minimum investment in AIFs is typically Rs 1 crore. This higher threshold means AIFs are predominantly geared towards High-Net-Worth Individuals (HNIs) and institutions.

Can NRIs invest in AIFs in India?

  • Yes, NRIs, barring USA and Canadian Nationals, can invest in AIFs without opening a Portfolio Investment Scheme (PIS) account, facilitating their participation in types of alternative investments.

What are the primary differences between AIFs and Portfolio Management Services (PMS)? (Read More)

  • Investment Scope: AIFs can invest in both listed and unlisted securities, while PMS is restricted to listed securities.
  • Leverage: AIFs can leverage their investments up to two times, which is not permissible for PMS.

What are Unifi AIF funds and how are they taxed?

  • Unifi AIF funds, structured as determinant trusts, bear tax at the fund level, and investors receive returns on a post-tax basis. Profits are taxed at applicable capital gains tax rates for equity and other market-linked instruments, with income from other sources like interest and dividends taxed at Maximum Marginal Rates.