Under the hood – Vanguard international index funds in 2017
Vanguard issues annual reports for the firm’s international and global index funds on October 31 of each year. The reports provide information that can highlight some of the underlying conditions affecting a fund’s future capital gains distribution outlook; an indication of a fund’s foreign tax credit; the level of security lending in each fund, and a means of measuring investor turnover in the funds.
Mutual funds are legally structured as pass-through conduits of investment income. The income usually comes from dividends and interest received from securities or by profits realized by selling securities. By law, the fund must distribute income and gains to shareholders or else pay tax on retained income. Funds cannot, however, pass realized losses on to shareholders. These losses are retained by the fund, and can be used to offset future gains.
Taxable shareholders are no doubt pleased when they open their 2017 annual reports and see that none of the Vanguard international index funds has distributed a capital gain over the past five fiscal years.
While not distributing gains, the funds at times realize net gains during a given fiscal year. Often a fund will offset any realized gains with realized losses, or use retained loss carryovers to offset gains, thus providing shareholders zero capital gains distributions. In 2017, the Vanguard Pacific Stock Market Index fund and the Vanguard FTSE All-World ex US Small Cap Index fund both used loss carryovers to offset realized gains.
In addition, Vanguard international index funds contain both mutual fund share classes and exchange-traded fund share classes. The exchange-traded funds frequently realize in-kind redemption gains. Because in-kind redemption gains are not taxed to the fund or its shareholders, the fund manager will usually select shares with the lowest tax basis for redemption baskets.
Although these gains are not taxed, they are nonetheless included in a fund’s reported annual realized gain. Netting out these non-taxable gains produces the actual taxable gain or actual realized loss. The table below shows the 2017 reported gain or loss realized for each Vanguard international fund, the in-kind redemption gain or loss, and the actual net realized gain or loss. As an accounting entry, in-kind redemption gains become a part of the fund’s paid-in capital.
|Fund||Gain/Loss||In-kind Redemption||Net Gain/Loss|
|FTSE all world ex US||(200,378,000)||0||(200,378,000)|
|FTSE all world ex US small||57,508,000||32,169,000||25,339,000|
|Global ex us real estate||49,701,000||30,225,000||19,476,000|
More on loss carryovers
As noted, realized losses cannot be distributed to shareholders. Surplus losses can be “carried over” to subsequent years when they can be used to offset future gains. Prior to 2010, these carryover losses where subject to expiration dates. The passage of the Regulated Investment Company Act Modernization Act of 2010 stipulated that mutual fund losses could be carried over indefinitely, but these losses must be used before taking any expiring loss carry forwards.
The table below shows each fund’s loss carry forward and shows both the amount and percentage of unexpiring carry forwards.
|Fund||Total Loss Carryforwards||2011 Forward Unexpiring||% Unexpiring|
|FTSE all world ex US||1,341,435,000||1,229,645,000||91.67%|
|FTSE all world ex US small||139,472,000||130,756,000||93.75%|
|Global ex us real estate||98,031,000||96,083,000||98.01%|
The considerable level of unexpiring carryover losses in most of the funds suggests that most, if not all, of the carryover losses with expiration dates will actually expire without being used. As the table below indicates, six of the international funds had carryover losses expire in 2017. If a carryover loss expires, it becomes a part of the fund’s paid in capital.
|Fund||2017 Expired||10/31/2018 Expiring||10/31/2019 Expiring|
|FTSE all world ex US||138,342,000||32,560,000||79,230,000|
|FTSE all world ex US small||8,716,000|
|Global ex us real estate||1,948,000|
Given that in-kind redemption helps improve a fund’s tax basis, it is somewhat helpful to examine a fund’s share class distribution. Most Vanguard index funds have mutual fund share classes (investor shares, lower cost admiral shares, and institutional shares) as well as exchange-traded fund shares. The following table shows the ratio of exchange-traded fund share class assets to total fund share class assets. As one can see, exchange-traded shares represent a majority share of most of Vanguard’s international index funds.
The lone exception is the Total International Fund, which has a history dating back to 1994, but only added exchange-traded shares in 2011. In addition, mutual fund shares of the Total International Fund are used in Vanguard ‘s suites of balanced target date and target risk funds.; the positive investor inflows into these funds assures a large issuance of Total International mutual fund shares.
|Fund||Total Assets||ETF Assets||ETF/Total Assets|
|FTSE all world ex US||35,840,868,000||21,639,662,000||60.38%|
|FTSE all world ex US small||5,605,896,000||4,568,035,000||81.49%|
|Global ex us real estate||5,785,758,000||5,121,577,000||88.52%|
Foreign tax credit
The annual report reveals the amount of foreign tax a fund has paid during the fiscal year. The foreign tax paid on the fund’s dividend income can qualify for a foreign tax credit on a taxable investor’s tax return. Dividing the foreign tax by a fund’s average net assets provides a percentage estimate of the value of the credit.
|Fund||Average Net Assets||Foreign Tax Paid
||Foreign Tax Credit|
|FTSE all world ex US||29,797,396,000||67,168,000||0.23%|
|FTSE all world ex US small||4,291,769,000||8,919,000||0.21%|
|Global ex us real estate||4,701,194,000||12,536,000||0.27%|
Vanguard international stock index funds earn additional income by lending securities to qualified institutional borrowers. The firm allocates 100% of after expense security lending earnings to the fund.
A fund’s expenses are paid out of fund earnings. Given that the US tax code gives a tax preference to dividends that qualify for lower tax rates, it is prudent for fund managers to allocate non-qualified income to fund expenses. The table below shows the amount of security lending income earned by each fund in fiscal year 2017 and calculates its percentage ratio to total annual fund expenses.
|Fund||Net Security Lending Income||Total Expenses||% of Expenses|
|FTSE all world ex US||15,140,000||32,156,000||47.08%|
|FTSE all ex US small||11,882,000||6,340,000||187.41%|
|Global ex us real estate||4,578,000||6,638,000||68.97%|
The annual report documents the rate of annual turnover of its assets by the fund manager. In addition, the reports also document the sales and redemption of fund shares by shareholders. This data allows us to compute a redemption-to-average net assets ratio (R/ANA) that corresponds to a shareholder annual turnover rate. The following table reports the investor sales and redemption in each fund using a composite total of all share classes.
|Fund||Average Net Assets||Sales||Redemptions|
|FTSE all world ex US||29,797,396,000||7,595,777,000||2,425,323,000|
|FTSE all world ex US small||4,291,769,000||1,639,162,000||230,272,000|
|Global ex us real estate||4,701,194,000||1,736,357,000||715,911,000|
The table below provides ratio data for each fund. The turnover percentage documents the fund manager turnover of assets. The R/ANA ratio documents the shareholder turnover of assets. The redemption-to-sales ratio ( R/S ) shows net shareholder purchase or net shareholder redemption in a fund. A ratio less than one shows net purchase; a ratio greater than one shows net redemption.
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.
|FTSE all world ex US||4%||8%||0.32|
|FTSE all world ex US small||14%||5%||0.14|
|Global ex us real estate||6%||15%||0.41|
- Table data is derived from fund annual reports. Average net asset data is derived from NSAR reports on EDGAR. The computations are derived from this google spreadsheet.
- The Vanguard Developed Market Index Fund has a fiscal year ending December 31. The annual report is not issued along with Vanguard’s international and global stock funds examined in this report.