Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-US Index Fund tax distributions

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The Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-US Index Fund is a very suitable candidate for placement in taxable accounts. The fund is often recommended as a core holding in a simple three-fund or four-fund (Figure 1) portfolio. The fund is also used in combination with the Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-US Small-Cap Index Fund for investors desiring to establish their own set allocations between international large cap and international small cap stocks. The table below summarizes the fund's relation to a number of tax factors.

Core Four 60 40.PNG
Fig.1 Rick Ferri's core four portfolio.

Table 1. Summary
Fund Distributions.jpg Favorable tax factors Fund Distributions.jpg Unfavorable tax factors

Historical gains distributions : none
Foreign tax credit: Yes
Qualified dividends: Yes (avg. 75%)
Turnover: low
Stock Migration: neglible
ETF shares : Yes

Dividends: Higher than growth indexes

The following tables provide long term data on the fund's history of both dividend and capital gains distributions. The first table also provides an estimate of the foreign tax credit.

The second table provides a database of the fund's accounting figures: the annual level of realized and distributed gains; its level of unrealized gains and loss carryforwards; as well as the annual in-kind redemption gains the fund has realized. These figures highlight the level of a fund's tax liabilities.

Because both manager turnover of securities inside the portfolio and investor turnover of fund shares can affect the level of gains realization, a third table provides historical turnover ratios.

Distributions

Imbox notice.png The Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-US Index Fund has a fiscal year ending in October, so its reported distributions for a year reflect the prior year's December distribution of dividends and capital gains.


The Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-US Index Fund has not distributed a capital gains distribution from its inception in 2007. Approximately 75% of dividend distributions have been qualified dividends, which under the current tax regime, are taxed at lower capital gains tax rates.

Table 2. Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-US Index Fund
Year Dividend Investor shares [1] Dividend Admiral shares [1] Dividend ETF shares [1] Short-term capital gains [2] Long-term capital gains [2] Qualified Dividends[3] Foreign tax credit [4] (FY) Annual Return - Investor [5]
2013 2.69% 2.84% 2.84% 0.00% 0.00% 69.97% 0.18% 19.97%
2012 3.13% 3.28% 3.28% 0.00% 0.00% 72.53% 0.21% 5.30%
2011 2.87% n/a 3.09% 0.00% 0.00% 72.98% 0.20% -6.11%
2010 2.45% n/a 2.58% 0.00% 0.00% 71.16% 0.18% 13.94%
2009 2.75% n/a 2.90% 0.00% 0.00% 76.55% 0.23% 32.19%
2008 3.24% n/a 3.39% 0.00% 0.00% 73.82% 0.19% -48.32%
2007 2.61% n/a 2.76% 0.00% 0.00% 87.23% 0.12% 24.55%

  • FY 2007 dividend annualized
  • FY 2011 admiral shares introduced
  • FY 2012 - Elimination of 2% transaction fee on redemptions of shares held < 2 mos. [6]

Accounting data

The accounting figures and associated ratios (tables 3 and 4) can help one visualize some of the major determinants of a fund’s tendency to distribute taxable gains. These determining features include:

Turnover: The rate at which a fund manager sells securities within the fund has a major effect on potential gains realization. Single digit annual fund turnover percentages result in a low rate of realized gains. Similarly, fund shareholders' sales flows have major effects on a fund’s distribution tendencies. Net flows into the fund have the following effects:

  1. Constant inflows allow a fund manager to purchase a wide range of price lots for shares. The manager can select high basis shares when forced to sell a stock (this may realize a loss). The manager can also select low basis shares when redeeming a stock in-kind (a non-taxable transaction that can remove an unrealized gain out of the portfolio.) This redemption technique is primarily employed with institutional creation and redemption of ETF shares. [7] Net inflows mean that shareholders are not forcing the manager to liquidate assets (and realize gains or losses) in order to meet redemptions. Large outflows can force such liquidation.
  2. A large and growing net asset base serves to diffuse any realized capital gains across a large base of shareholders and reduces the per share gain distribution. Large outflows have the opposite effect; any gains realized are spread across a smaller asset base and result in higher per share distributed gains. [8]

The level of unrealized gains and carryover realized losses in a fund: Index funds defer gains realization and often accumulate significant unrealized appreciation, which if distributed, would be taxed; thus the unrealized gain/loss figure shows the potential gain (or loss) that would be realized if the portfolio was to be entirely liquidated. Any loss carryovers a fund possesses can be used to offset future realized gains (carryovers have an eight year expiration period).

Table 3.

(view Google Spreadsheet in browser or download as xls, ods, or pdf)


Definition of terms

Net sales/redemptions: This statistic reveals whether investors are net buyers or sellers of the fund.

Realized gain/loss: A realized capital gain/loss is an increase (or decrease) in the value of a security that is "real" because the security has been sold by the portfolio manager. The capital gains/losses are "realized" by the fund, and any distributions to the shareholder as a result of realized gains (adjusted for any realized losses) are taxable during the tax year in which the security was sold. Realized losses can be used to offset realized gains in an attempt to reduce taxable gains. If realized losses are higher than realized gains, a fund can "carry forward" these excess losses to offset future gains. In-kind redemption gains are included as gains in this statistic. As these gains are not taxable, they must be deducted from the realized/gain tally to reflect the net gain/loss for the year. (see tax attributes for the net gain computation).

Distributed gains: A net realized gain will be distributed to shareholders as a capital gains distribution.

Unrealized gain/loss: An unrealized capital gain/loss (also called a "paper profit or loss") is an increase (or decrease) in the value of a security that isn't "real" because the security hasn't been sold. When a portfolio manager sells a security, however, the capital gains/losses become "realized" by the fund, and any realized gains (net of any losses) are taxable during the tax year in which the security was sold. Funds with low turnover rates, such as index funds, tend to have more unrealized gains than actively managed funds and are less likely to pass taxable gains on to investors. A fund's unrealized appreciation or depreciation figures are valuable because they can give an idea of whether a fund would need to distribute any gains if all of its securities were sold. Such information may help you determine your potential exposure to taxable distributions. This statistic is volatile, and will increase or decrease depending on market returns.

Loss carryforward: Realized losses can be “carried forward”, over a set span of years, to offset any future net realized gains.

In-kind redemptions: Instead of selling securities, a portfolio manager may elect to distribute securities in-kind to redeeming shareholders. Unlike a sale, an in-kind transfer is not taxable. This technique is frequently used in the ETF creation/redemption process. For institutional redemptions, a portfolio manager can select low-basis securities to transfer (removing the embedded tax liability) from the portfolio.

Turnover

Reference article: Average net assets

Table 4.

(view Google Spreadsheet in browser or download as xls, ods, or pdf)


Definition of terms

Average net assets: Average net assets are derived from NSAR reports from the EDGAR database.

Redemptions: The dollar amount of fund shares sold by shareholders.

Sales: The dollar amount of fund shares bought by shareholders.

Turnover: The rate at which the fund manager sells securities within the portfolio. The reciprocal of this number reflects the average holding period of the portfolio. Low turnover often results in low capital gains realization.

R/ANA: The redemptions/average net assets (R/ANA) ratio reflects how fund shareholders are turning over their holdings in the fund. It is analogous to the investment manager's turnover ratio.

R/S: The redemption/sales ratio (R/S) illustrates whether investors are net buyers or sellers of the fund. A ratio of less than 1 means that investors are net purchasers of the fund. A ratio more than one means investors are net sellers of the fund. The R/ANA and R/S ratios, viewed together, can signal market timing activity within a fund. For example a fund showing an R/ANA ratio of 400% and an R/S ratio of 1 (equal buys and sells) is likely being market timed by fund shareholders.

Tax rates

Mutual fund distributions will be taxed according to the tax laws governing the investment over the holding period of the investment, which are subject to change. The actual tax imposed will depend upon each individual's tax rate and the timing of purchases and sales. The federal tax rates applicable to mutual fund distributions and investor sales of securities for the period 2013 onward are outlined below. Keep in mind that investment income may also be subject to state and local taxation.

  1. Short-term capital gains distributions are made from realized gains on securities held for one year or less. Short-term gains are taxed at ordinary income tax rates up to 39.6%. Mutual fund short-term gain distributions are included in a fund's ordinary dividend distribution; therefore, capital losses may not be subtracted from these distributions when computing taxes.
  2. Long-term capital gains distributions are made from realized gains on securities held for more than one year. Long-term gains are taxed at 0% for taxpayers in the 10% and 15% tax brackets, at 15% for taxpayers in the 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35% tax brackets, and at 20% in the 39,6% tax bracket. They are reported on tax Schedule D along with any other capital gains, and can be reduced by capital losses.
  3. Qualified dividends are the ordinary dividends [9] that are subject to the same tax rate that applies to long-term capital gains. They should be shown in box 1b of the Form 1099-DIV you receive.
  4. When you sell at a loss you will either offset capital gains which would have otherwise been taxed at your capital gains rate or you will offset income (up to $3,000 maximum per year) which would have otherwise been taxed at your marginal income tax rate, or both. If you offset capital gains that would have otherwise not been taxed at all (because your capital gains tax rate is 0%) then this part of the tax loss harvest may be an outright loss.
  5. The Affordable Care Act imposes a Medicare surcharge of 3.8% on all net investment income (NII) once the taxpayer's adjusted gross income exceeds $200,000 (single) or $250,000 (married); while this tax is not part of the income tax, it has the same effect on investors as a higher tax rate. The NII tax begins to apply to individuals falling in the 33% tax bracket. Thus the top effective marginal tax rate is 23.8% on qualified dividends and long-term gains, 43.4% on ordinary investment income.
Federal Income Tax Rates in 2013
Taxable income up to this level Tax rate
Single Married filing joint Head of Household Ordinary income Long-term gains and qualified dividends
$8,925 $17,850 $12,750 10% 0%
$36,250 $72,500 $48,600 15% 0%
$87,850 $146,400 $125,450 25% 15%
$183,250 $223,050 $203,150 28% 15%
$398,350 $398,350 $398,350 33% 15%
$400,000 $450,000 $425,000 35% 15%
above above above 39.6% 20%

In addition, there is a 3.8% Medicare tax rate on investment income in excess of an adjusted gross income of $200,000 ($250,000 for married filing jointly), and 0.9% on salary and self-employment income in excess of this level.


Federal Income Tax Rates in 2012
Taxable income up to this level Tax rate
Single Married filing joint Head of Household Ordinary income Long-term gains and qualified dividends
$8,700 $17,400 $12,400 10% 0%
$35,350 $70,700 $47,350 15% 0%
$85,650 $142,700 $122,300 25% 15%
$178,650 $217,450 $198,050 28% 15%
$388,350 $388,350 $388,350 33% 15%
above above above 35% 15%

In addition, there is a 3.8% Medicare tax rate on investment income in excess of an adjusted gross income of $200,000 ($250,000 for married filing jointly), and 0.9% on salary and self-employment income in excess of this level.



Tax analysis

As an index fund containing large and mid cap stocks, the Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-US Index Fund, has to date, as expected, realized low, primarily single digit turnover ratios. The FTSE All-World ex-US Index holds large and mid cap stocks across both developed and emerging markets. Stock migration out of the index can come in two dimensions:

  1. An individual company is reclassified as a small cap stock and is removed from the index;
  2. An emerging market country is reclassified as a frontier market and is removed from the index.

Shareholders have invested net inflows into the fund over its history. Shareholder turnover in mutual fund shares has settled into the 20% range, suggesting an average holding period of five years. ETF shareholders have been mostly accumulating holdings in the fund, as measured by the very low redemption to sales (R/S) ratio. The transaction and tax efficiencies provided by the ETF shares should continue to provide benefits for the fund.[10]

The fund has netted realized losses over much of its history (see the tab tax attributes in the Table 3. spreadsheet for the net loss figures). The losses accrue into an increasing loss carryforward.

The following table presents the federal tax cost on the fund's historical distributions (see second tab, table 6.) under the tax regime beginning in 2013 (with dividends and long term capital gains taxed at 0%, 15% and 20% tax rates, and an additional 3.8% ACA Net Investment Income tax rate imposed on high tax brackets). Keep in mind that distributions can also be subject to state and local taxation, with marginal rates ranging from 0% to 12% (an average 5% state tax rate will add an approximate 0.14% to the annual tax cost of holding the fund.)

The table does not include the capital gains cost associated with selling the fund at a gain. [11]

Table 6.

(view Google Spreadsheet in browser or download as xls, ods, or pdf)

See also

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Dividend data is derived from the Complete filings: N-CSR reports back to 2003; N-30D reports back to 1994
  2. 2.0 2.1 Capital Gains are derived from annual reports, and are calculated by dividing the dollar amount of capital gains by the average net assets of the fund.
  3. Data derived from Vanguard site.
  4. The foreign tax credit is estimated from annual reports, and the NSAR reports by:
    1. Dividing the foreign tax paid by the average net assets of the fund.
    Table 7.

    (view Google Spreadsheet in browser or download as xls, ods, or pdf)

  5. data derived from annual reports.
  6. More Vanguard funds eliminate or reduce fees, Viewed 11/10/2012.
  7. When a fund redeems ETF shares, it prepares a basket of securities that it exchanges in-kind to an institutional investor. The basket often includes a modest cash component for exact settlement. An astute ETF manager can use this as an opportunity to raise cash by selling some high basis stock for a realized loss.
  8. Larry E. Swedroe, What Wall Street Doesn’t Want You To Know, 2001, pp.227-28. ISBN 0312335725
  9. Fairmark says:

    A portion of your ordinary dividend may be nonqualified because it can include items like these:

    • Taxable interest. When a mutual fund receives taxable interest, the income gets paid out as a dividend. It's a dividend when it goes out of the mutual fund, but it wasn't a dividend when it came into the mutual fund, so it can't be a qualified dividend.
    • Nonqualified dividends. Your mutual fund may receive dividends that are nonqualified. For example, the mutual fund may sell shares just 35 days after buying them, but after receiving a dividend. The mutual fund has to hold the shares at least 61 days to have a qualified dividend. Any amount the mutual fund receives as a nonqualified dividend gets paid to you as a nonqualified dividend.
    • Short-term capital gain. When a mutual fund has a short-term capital gain, it pays this amount to the mutual fund shareholders as an ordinary dividend.
    • Holding mutual fund shares less than 61 days. You should also be aware that any dividend you receive on mutual fund shares held less than 61 days is a nonqualified dividend, even if the mutual fund reports that amount to you as a qualified dividend. You don't have to buy the shares 61 days before the dividend is paid, but the total amount of time you hold the shares (including time before and after the dividend) has to be at least 61 days.
  10. Almost all of the dividends distributed by Equity REITS come in the form of non-qualified dividends. Non-qualified dividends are taxed at marginal income tax rates.

  11. Because ETF share classes reduce transaction costs and bring tax benefits to the fund portfolio regardless of share class turnover (which can be quite high) we provide separate R/ANA and R/S ratios for the ETFs. We must approximate the average net asset figure for ETFs. One should also note that Vanguard includes share class conversions (investor/admiral) in the sales and redemptions totals for the fund. Vanguard does not quantify conversions. These non-transaction conversions inflate the reported shareholder ratios.
  12. This table indicates the additional cost for the capital-gains tax when you sell, assuming that you pay taxes on the distribution and reinvest the after-tax portion of the distribution; since it is a one-time cost, the effect is annualized. For example, if you hold an investment for 30 years and lose 10% to taxes when you sell, that is equivalent to losing 0.35% every year. Thus, if you sell the fund, your cost will be the sum of the Table 6 and Table 9 costs. However, you would not pay the Table 9 cost on any stock which you either leave to your heirs or donate to charity, and thus may not pay that cost on your full investment. In particular, you might estimate your total tax cost by using the low-return line in Table 9; if stock returns are high, you will have a large taxable account and will reduce the tax cost by taking longer to deplete it or by not spending it all during your lifetime. Taxes are computed at a tax rate of 15% on long-term gains (except in the "rate rises to 20% column", which applies if that tax reduction is allowed to expire), and on qualified dividends (except in the "no QDI" column, which applies if the tax reduction on qualified dividends expires and the rate is 35%). The foreign tax credit is added to the dividend yield before computing taxes; for example, if a fund had $100 withheld in foreign taxes on dividends, and you pay $20 in taxes on the withheld dividends, you get a $100 credit for a net benefit of $80. Although not tabulated, keep in mind that investors in the lower tax brackets (15% or lower) pay lower federal tax rates on investment income for the period 2003 - 2012, and reap higher after-tax returns, outside of tax-exempt municipal bonds, in all asset classes.
    Table 8. Additional hypothetical tax costs (after taxable funds are sold)
    Fund Pre-tax Returns Distributions Tax Cost Annualized cost over 10 years Annualized cost over 20 years Annualized cost over 30 years 30-year cost if CG tax rate rises to 20%
    Any bond any all any 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
    Tax-efficient stock, low returns 5.00% 2.00% 0.30% 0.36% 0.30% 0.25% 0.33%
    Tax-efficient stock, medium returns 8.00% 2.00% 0.30% 0.63% 0.47% 0.37% 0.50%
    Tax-efficient stock, high returns 11.00% 2.00% 0.30% 0.84% 0.58% 0.43% 0.58%
    Tax-inefficient stock, low returns 5.00% 4.00% 1.00% 0.12% 0.10% 0.09% 0.12%
    Tax-inefficient stock, medium returns 8.00% 4.00% 1.00% 0.43% 0.33% 0.26% 0.35%
    Tax-inefficient stock, high returns 11.00% 4.00% 1.00% 0.66% 0.47% 0.35% 0.47%

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