ETFs: More Tax-Efficient than Apple?

ETF Trends

Apple (AAPL) has faced intense scrutiny lately over using foreign subsidiaries to cut its U.S. income taxes.

Of course, no one likes to pay taxes, which is why the tax efficiency of stock ETFs versus mutual funds is a key selling point.

The tax advantages of ETFs stem from how the exchange-listed financial products are traded between investors. Their tax efficiency is also related to how ETFs create and redeem shares, which is different than traditional mutual funds. [ETFs and Taxes]

When investors buy an equity mutual fund, the portfolio manager puts the cash to work by buying company shares. Conversely, when the fund receives redemption requests from shareholders, the manager sells stock to raise the cash, which can trigger a capital gain distribution for all the shareholders remaining in the fund.

ETFs take a different approach. Investors trade ETFs on an exchange in the secondary market like individual securities.

“When one investor sells ETF shares and another investors buys them on the exchange, the underlying securities of the ETF don’t need to be sold in order to raise cash for the redemption,” Invesco PowerShares notes in a primer on tax efficiency.

Furthermore, trading firms known as authorized participants or APs are responsible for working with the ETF manager to create and redeem large blocks of shares, called creation units. These exchanges are “in-kind” transactions that involve stock rather than cash.

These large creation units are created and redeemed based on demand for the ETF, and selling pressure. [Creation and Redemption Explained]

“An in-kind redemption process enables the fund manager to purge the lowest cost-basis stocks through stock transfers during the creation and redemption process,” according to Invesco PowerShares. “The result may be greater tax efficiency because shareholder activity and resulting portfolio turnover don’t affect the portfolio to the same extent as with mutual funds.”

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of John Spence, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.

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