During the life of the investment, investors normally pay taxes on income and capital gains distributions, as well as any capital gains created on the selling of their ETF units.
Indexed assets, such as index ETFs, can save you money on taxes compared to actively managed open-end mutual funds because they require less portfolio turnover. Lower turnover can help to reduce capital gains distributions, improving long-term after-tax performance and tax efficiency.
Index exchange-traded funds (ETFs) may also be more tax-efficient than index mutual funds. This is due to the fact that ETFs rarely see cash redemptions from investors. Despite the fact that ETF units can be redeemed like mutual fund units, most investors will sell their ETF units on the stock exchange. This means that, unlike a mutual fund, an ETF does not need to sell its portfolio securities in potentially capital-gain-generating transactions to meet redemption demands from investors.
Only a few authorized dealers often redeem ETF units directly, and in most cases, the ETF redeems by giving the authorized dealers with a basket of the ETF’s portfolio securities. ETFs can reduce transaction costs and portfolio-level capital gains by using these “in-kind” redemption procedures.
Which is preferable: ETFs or mutual funds?
- Rather than passively monitoring an index, most mutual funds are actively managed. This can increase the value of a fund.
- Regardless of account size, several online brokers now provide commission-free ETFs. Mutual funds may have a minimum investment requirement.
- ETFs are more tax-efficient and liquid than mutual funds when following a conventional index. This can be beneficial to investors who want to accumulate wealth over time.
- Buying mutual funds directly from a fund family is often less expensive than buying them through a broker.
Why are exchange-traded funds (ETFs) more tax efficient than mutual funds?
Susan Dziubinski: I’m Susan Dziubinski, and I’m Hello, my name is Susan Dziubinski, and I’m with Morningstar. Because they payout smaller and fewer capital gains, exchange-traded funds are more tax-efficient than mutual funds. However, this does not imply that ETFs are tax-free. Ben Johnson joins me to talk about how the capital gains distribution season is shaping out for ETF investors this year. Ben is the worldwide director of ETF research at Morningstar.
Do you have to pay more taxes on ETFs?
Equity ETFs, which can include anywhere from 25 to over 7,000 different equities, are responsible for ETFs’ reputation for tax efficiency. In this way, equities ETFs are comparable to mutual funds, but they are generally more tax-efficient because they do not distribute a lot of capital gains.
This is due in part to the fact that most ETFs are managed passively by fund managers in relation to the performance of an index, whereas mutual funds are generally handled actively. When establishing or redeeming ETF shares, ETF managers have the option of decreasing capital gains.
Remember that ETFs that invest in dividend-paying companies will eventually release those dividends to shareholders—typically once a year, though dividend-focused ETFs may do so more regularly. ETFs that hold interest-paying bonds will release that interest to owners on a monthly basis in many situations. Dividends and interest payments from ETFs are taxed by the IRS in the same way as income from the underlying stocks or bonds, and the income is reflected on your 1099 statement.
Profits on ETFs sold at a profit are taxed in the same way as the underlying equities or bonds. You’ll owe an additional 3.8 percent Net Investment Income Tax if your overall modified adjusted gross income exceeds a certain threshold ($200,000 for single filers, $125,000 for married filing separately, $200,000 for head of household, and $250,000 for married filing jointly or a qualifying widow(er) with a dependent child) (NIIT). The NIIT is included in our discussion of maximum rates.
Equity and bond ETFs held for more than a year are taxed at long-term capital gains rates, which can be as high as 23.8 percent. Ordinary income rates, which peak out at 40.8 percent, apply to equity and bond ETFs held for less than a year.
What are the drawbacks of ETFs?
ETF managers are expected to match the investment performance of their funds to the indexes they monitor. That mission isn’t as simple as it appears. An ETF can deviate from its target index in a variety of ways. Investors may incur a cost as a result of the tracking inaccuracy.
Because indexes do not store cash, while ETFs do, some tracking error is to be expected. Fund managers typically save some cash in their portfolios to cover administrative costs and management fees. Furthermore, dividend timing is challenging since equities go ex-dividend one day and pay the dividend the next, whereas index providers presume dividends are reinvested on the same day the firm went ex-dividend. This is a particular issue for ETFs structured as unit investment trusts (UITs), which are prohibited by law from reinvesting earnings in more securities and must instead hold cash until a dividend is paid to UIT shareholders. ETFs will never be able to precisely mirror a desired index due to cash constraints.
ETFs structured as investment companies under the Investment Company Act of 1940 can depart from the index’s holdings at the fund manager’s discretion. Some indices include illiquid securities that a fund manager would be unable to purchase. In that instance, the fund manager will alter a portfolio by selecting liquid securities from a purchaseable index. The goal is to design a portfolio that has the same appearance and feel as the index and, hopefully, performs similarly. Nonetheless, ETF managers who vary from an index’s holdings often see the fund’s performance deviate as well.
Because of SEC limits on non-diversified funds, several indices include one or two dominant holdings that the ETF management cannot reproduce. Some companies have created targeted indexes that use an equal weighting methodology in order to generate a more diversified sector ETF and avoid the problem of concentrated securities. Equal weighting tackles the problem of concentrated positions, but it also introduces new issues, such as greater portfolio turnover and costs.
Are exchange-traded funds (ETFs) less expensive than mutual funds?
ETFs are generally less expensive than mutual funds. Exceptions exist, and investors should carefully compare the expenses of ETFs and mutual funds that track the same indexes. However, all else being equal, ETFs have a cost advantage over mutual funds due to structural differences between the two products.
Mutual funds carry a mix of transparent and not-so-transparent fees that pile up over time. It’s just the way they’re laid out. The method necessitates the majority, but not all, of these costs. Most may be a little less expensive; some could be significantly less expensive. However, getting rid of them completely is practically impossible. ETFs feature both visible and hidden fees—there are simply fewer of them, and therefore are less expensive.
Mutual funds charge their investors for everything that happens inside the fund, including transaction fees, distribution fees, and transfer-agent fees. Additionally, they pass down their annual capital gains tax burden. These expenses reduce the return on investment for shareholders. Furthermore, several funds impose a sales load in exchange for allowing you to invest with them. ETFs, on the other hand, allow greater trading flexibility, greater transparency, and lower taxation than mutual funds.
Do mutual funds outperform exchange-traded funds (ETFs)?
While actively managed funds may outperform ETFs in the near term, their long-term performance is quite different. Actively managed mutual funds often generate lower long-term returns than ETFs due to higher expense ratios and the inability to consistently outperform the market.
Are Vanguard ETFs better than mutual funds in terms of tax efficiency?
When compared to typical mutual funds, ETFs can be more tax efficient. In general, keeping an ETF in a taxable account will result in lower tax liabilities than holding a similarly structured mutual fund.
ETFs and mutual funds have the same tax status as mutual funds, according to the IRS. Both are subject to capital gains and dividend income taxes. ETFs, on the other hand, are constructed in such a way that taxes are minimized for ETF holders, and the final tax bill (after the ETF is sold and capital gains tax is paid) is less than what an investor would have paid with a similarly structured mutual fund.
Vanguard Total Stock Market Index (VTSAX)
If you’re seeking for a tax-efficient core holding, consider the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund Admiral Shares (VTSAX) or the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI). Small-cap stocks, which tend to improve long-term gains and lower short-term dividend taxes, are included in the VTSAX and VTI. VTSAX has a 0.04 percent expenditure ratio. The initial investment is $3,000 as a minimum.
How long should an ETF be held?
- If the shares are subject to additional restrictions, such as a tax rate other than the normal capital gains rate,
The holding period refers to how long you keep your stock. The holding period begins on the day your purchase order is completed (“trade date”) and ends on the day your sell order is executed (also known as the “trade date”). Your holding period is unaffected by the date you pay for the shares, which may be several days after the trade date for the purchase, and the settlement date, which may be several days after the trade date for the sell.
- If you own ETF shares for less than a year, the increase is considered a short-term capital gain.
- Long-term capital gain occurs when you hold ETF shares for more than a year.
Long-term capital gains are generally taxed at a rate of no more than 15%. (or zero for those in the 10 percent or 15 percent tax bracket; 20 percent for those in the 39.6 percent tax bracket starting in 2014). Short-term capital gains are taxed at the same rates as your regular earnings. However, only net capital gains are taxed; prior to calculating the tax rates, capital gains might be offset by capital losses. Certain ETF capital gains may not be subject to the 15% /0%/20% tax rate, and instead be taxed at ordinary income rates or at a different rate.
- Gains on futures-contracts ETFs have already been recorded (investors receive a 60 percent / 40 percent split of gains annually).
- For “physically held” precious metals ETFs, grantor trust structures are employed. Investments in these precious metals ETFs are considered collectibles under current IRS guidelines. Long-term gains on collectibles are never eligible for the 20% long-term tax rate that applies to regular equity investments; instead, long-term gains are taxed at a maximum of 28%. Gains on stocks held for less than a year are taxed as ordinary income, with a maximum rate of 39.6%.
- Currency ETN (exchange-traded note) gains are taxed at ordinary income rates.
Even if the ETF is formed as a master limited partnership (MLP), investors receive a Schedule K-1 each year that tells them what profits they should report, even if they haven’t sold their shares. The gains are recorded on a marked-to-market basis, which implies that the 60/40 rule applies; investors pay tax on these gains at their individual rates.
An additional Medicare tax of 3.8 percent on net investment income may be imposed on high-income investors (called the NII tax). Gains on the sale of ETF shares are included in investment income.
ETFs held in tax-deferred accounts: ETFs held in a tax-deferred account, such as an IRA, are not subject to immediate taxation. Regardless of what holdings and activities created the cash, all distributions are taxed as ordinary income when they are distributed from the account. The distributions, however, are not subject to the NII tax.
How do ETFs get around paying taxes?
- Investors can use ETFs to get around a tax restriction that applies to mutual fund transactions when it comes to declaring capital gains.
- When a mutual fund sells assets in its portfolio, the capital gains are passed on to fund owners.
- ETFs, on the other hand, are designed so that such transactions do not result in taxable events for ETF shareholders.
- Furthermore, because there are so many ETFs that cover similar investment philosophies or benchmark indexes, it’s feasible to sidestep the wash-sale rule by using tax-loss harvesting.