Total Expense Ratio (TER) in Mutual Funds

Mutual funds have emerged as a popular investment choice for Indian investors seeking diversified exposure to financial markets while benefiting from professional fund management. While evaluating mutual fund options, investors often consider various factors such as historical performance, fund objectives, and risk profile. However, one crucial aspect that investors should not overlook is the Total Expense Ratio (TER).

What is Total Expense Ratio (TER)?

The Total Expense Ratio (TER) is a measure of the total costs associated with managing and operating a mutual fund scheme. It represents the annual expenses incurred by the fund house as a percentage of the average assets under management (AUM) of the scheme. TER encompasses various expenses, including fund management fees, administrative expenses, registrar fees, marketing expenses, and other operational costs incurred in running the mutual fund scheme.

Components of Total Expense Ratio

  1. Management Fees: This component comprises the fees paid to the fund manager and the investment management team for managing the fund’s portfolio. Management fees are typically calculated as a percentage of the AUM and are a significant part of the TER.

  2. Administrative Expenses: Administrative expenses include costs related to fund administration, custodian fees, audit fees, legal expenses, and regulatory compliance costs. These expenses ensure the smooth functioning and compliance of the mutual fund scheme.

  3. Registrar and Transfer Agent (RTA) Fees: RTA fees cover the costs associated with investor servicing, including record-keeping, investor communication, transaction processing, and distribution of dividends.

  4. Marketing and Distribution Expenses: Mutual fund companies incur expenses on marketing and distribution activities to promote their schemes and attract investors. These expenses include advertising costs, sales commissions, distributor commissions, and other promotional expenses.

Importance of Total Expense Ratio

Understanding the Total Expense Ratio is crucial for investors as it directly impacts the overall returns generated by a mutual fund scheme. While TER may seem like a small percentage, it can have a significant impact on long-term investment returns, especially in schemes with lower expected returns or during periods of market volatility.

Factors Affecting Total Expense Ratio

  1. Size of the Fund: Larger mutual fund schemes often benefit from economies of scale, leading to lower TERs compared to smaller funds. Higher AUM allows fund houses to spread fixed costs over a larger asset base, thereby reducing the overall expense ratio.

  2. Asset Class and Investment Strategy: The nature of the underlying assets and the investment strategy adopted by the fund manager can influence the TER. For example, actively managed equity funds may have higher TERs compared to passively managed index funds or debt funds.

  3. Fund House Reputation and Track Record: Established fund houses with a strong track record and brand reputation may charge higher fees for their expertise and investment management services, resulting in higher TERs.

How to Evaluate Total Expense Ratio

When selecting mutual fund schemes, investors should consider the Total Expense Ratio along with other factors such as historical performance, risk-adjusted returns, investment objectives, and fund manager credentials. While a lower TER is generally favorable, investors should also assess whether the fees charged are justified based on the value proposition offered by the fund.

How TER Affects Your Returns

TER is deducted directly from the fund’s Net Asset Value (NAV) on a daily basis. This means that a higher TER leads to a lower NAV, ultimately reducing your returns. For example, a fund with a TER of 2% will have a 2% lower return than an identical fund with a TER of 1%, all else being equal.

SEBI Regulations on TER

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the regulatory body for mutual funds in India, has set limits on the maximum TER that mutual funds can charge. These limits vary based on the type of fund and its assets under management (AUM):

Equity Funds: The TER for equity funds is capped based on their AUM, with smaller funds allowed to charge a higher TER.

Debt Funds: Debt funds generally have lower TER limits in comparison to equity funds.

TER and Direct vs. Regular Plans

Mutual funds offer two plans: direct and regular. Direct plans eliminate the distributor’s commission and generally have a lower TER than regular plans. This translates into higher returns for investors who opt for direct plans.


Total Expense Ratio (TER) is an essential metric for investors to evaluate the cost efficiency and competitiveness of mutual fund schemes. By understanding and comparing TERs across different funds, investors can make informed decisions and optimize their investment returns over the long term. Additionally, investors should seek transparency and clarity regarding fee structures from fund houses to ensure alignment with their investment objectives and preferences.

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