Investing in Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) is an increasingly popular strategy for both novice and experienced investors. One of the most attractive aspects of ETFs is their inherent tax efficiency, which can lead to significant savings in your investment portfolio. However, understanding the taxation of ETFs can be complex. This blog aims to demystify the world of taxable investments with ETFs, by providing a comprehensive guide to help you make informed decisions. Let’s delve into the mechanics and nuances of ETF taxation and explore how to effectively manage your investments.

Benefits of Taxable and Tax-Deferred Investing

Investing can be classified into two categories – taxable and tax-deferred investing. While both have their unique set of advantages and disadvantages, understanding the benefits of each can help investors make informed decisions. Here are some key benefits of taxable and tax-deferred investing:

  • Taxable Investing: One of the primary benefits of taxable investing is the freedom to choose your investments. With taxable accounts such as brokerage accounts, you can invest in various securities including stocks, bonds, options, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and mutual funds. Additionally, taxable investments are also more easily accessible as compared to tax-deferred ones.Another significant advantage of taxable investing is that investors have the option to withdraw money whenever they need it. They are not subject to any restrictions or early withdrawal penalties that are imposed on certain tax-deferred investment accounts such as retirement accounts.Furthermore, taxable investments provide greater flexibility to investors. Investors can use their money for short- or long-term goals such as purchasing a down payment on a home or paying for college tuition. Additionally, taxable investments also provide greater liquidity, which means that investors can easily convert their investments into cash.
  • Tax-deferred Investing: While taxable investments offer several benefits, there are also certain significant advantages to tax-deferred investing. First and foremost, tax-deferred investments such as traditional and Roth IRAs offer significant tax advantages.Traditional IRAs allow investors to defer taxes on their contributions until they reach retirement age, when they are likely to be in a lower tax bracket. This means that investments grow tax-free until withdrawal. On the other hand, Roth IRAs offer tax-free growth and withdrawals, which means that investors do not have to pay taxes on any investment gains upon withdrawal.Another significant benefit of tax-deferred investing is the potential to earn tax-free income. For example, municipal bonds are not subject to federal income tax, so they can provide tax-free interest to investors. Tax-deferred investments also provide investors with the opportunity to compound their earnings over time, which can significantly increase their overall investment returns. This means that tax-deferred investments have a higher potential for long-term growth compared to taxable investments.

In conclusion, both taxable and tax-deferred investing have their unique set of benefits. Investors must choose the option that best aligns with their financial goals, risk tolerance, and overall investment strategy. By understanding the various advantages of each type of investment, investors can develop a well-rounded investment portfolio and maximize their returns.

Taxable vs. Tax-Deferred Investing with ETFs

One of the most popular investment choices in recent years has been exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which are collections of stocks or bonds that are traded on a stock exchange like individual stocks.

Taxable ETFs are those that are subject to capital gains taxes when sold for a profit. This means that when an investor sells their shares and makes a profit, they must pay a percentage of that profit to the government in taxes. In contrast, tax-deferred ETFs, also known as tax-exempt ETFs, are those that invest in securities that are exempt from income taxes, such as certain municipal bonds. This means that investors in tax-deferred ETFs are able to keep more of their profits, as they are not subject to capital gains taxes.

It is important to note that while tax-deferred ETFs may seem like the obvious choice for investors looking to minimize their tax burden, they may not always be the best option. Taxable ETFs often offer higher returns than tax-deferred ETFs, which can help to offset the tax burden. Additionally, tax-deferred ETFs may have lower liquidity and be more difficult to sell than taxable ETFs, which can make them less appealing to some investors.

Another important factor to consider when choosing between taxable and tax-deferred ETFs is the investor’s individual tax situation. For example, high-income earners may benefit more from investing in tax-deferred ETFs, as they are subject to higher capital gains taxes. On the other hand, those in lower tax brackets may be better off investing in taxable ETFs, as they may face lower tax rates.

Asset location, the practice of placing different types of investments in different accounts based on their tax implications, can also play a role in determining the suitability of an ETF for a taxable versus tax-deferred account. For instance, an ETF that invests in international stocks may be better suited for a taxable account because the foreign tax credits generated from these investments can offset taxes on other investments in the same account.

Real-World Examples of Taxable and Tax-Deferred Investments

Taxable ETFs, such as the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF, are designed to provide broad market exposure to investors at a low cost. Investors looking to gain exposure to the 500 largest companies listed on U.S. exchanges, often invest in this ETF as it provides long-term capital appreciation. However, investing in taxable ETFs involves a significant amount of tax implications, such as capital gains tax, which can significantly reduce investors’ earnings.

Alternatively, tax-deferred ETFs, such as the iShares National Muni Bond ETF (MUB)1, provide access to investment-grade municipal bonds, usually with maturities of 10 years or less. These bonds are issued by various states and municipalities across the United States, exempt from federal income tax, and generally exempt from state and local taxes. Such ETFs offer a tax-free income stream, which makes them an attractive option for investors seeking to yield stable and consistent income. In contrast, taxable bond investments such as corporate bonds can incur federal taxes and may be subject to specific state and local income taxes.

Another example of a tax-deferred ETF is the iShares iBonds Dec 2026 Term Muni Bond ETF (IBMO)1. This fund provides access to municipal bonds with maturities expiring in 2026. Like the MUB, this ETF also offers tax-exempt income to investors. The fund’s investment objective is to provide fixed-income returns that match the performance of the iBonds® Dec 2026 AMT-Free Muni Bond Index1. The ETF’s focus on bonds with a shorter investment horizon can reduce the impact of interest rate changes on the fund’s value.

In conclusion, choosing between taxable and tax-deferred ETFs can significantly impact an investor’s returns. Investors who are willing to take on market risk can opt for taxable ETFs, while those looking for tax-free and less volatile fixed-income options can choose tax-deferred ETFs like the MUB or IBMO. Ultimately, understanding an ETF’s structure and investment objective can assist investors in choosing the best option to meet their financial goals.

Working with a Financial Advisor

To make the right investment decision between taxable and tax-deferred ETFs, investors may benefit from seeking the guidance of a financial advisor. These professionals have the expertise and knowledge to help investors navigate the complex landscape of tax laws and regulations and provide personalized investment advice tailored to individual needs and objectives.

Moreover, financial advisors can offer insights and recommendations on tax-efficient investment strategies, such as asset allocation, tax-loss harvesting, and retirement planning. They can also provide guidance on managing the tax implications of different investment options and help investors maximize their after-tax returns while minimizing their tax liability.

Members Trust Company offers investment management and financial planning services to help investors understand the potential impact of taxes on their portfolios. Our team will assess your overall financial situation, risk tolerance, and investment objectives and recommend investment strategies that align with your specific needs. To start your investment plan today, contact us.

External Sources: ishares.com1.

Non-deposit investment products available through Members Trust Company are not deposits of or guaranteed by the trust company, a credit union or credit union affiliate, are not insured or guaranteed by the NCUA, FDIC or any other governmental agency and are subject to investment risks including possible loss of the principal amount invested. Members Trust Company, owned and managed by America’s credit unions, is a special purpose federal thrift regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Past performance is not indicative of future results. This is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal or tax advice regarding your situation. For legal or tax advice, please consult your attorney and/or accountant. Any opinions expressed are those of the presenter and do not necessarily reflect the position of Members Trust Company. The information above is obtained or compiled from sources we believe to be reliable. We Do Not Guarantee that such information, will be free from errors, omissions, whether human or mechanical, nor do we guarantee their timeliness, accuracy, or completeness.