I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now (cost basis)

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baw703916
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I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now (cost basis)

Post by baw703916 » Mon Jan 16, 2012 2:55 pm

Forgive my rant.

Back in 2004 I invested in Vanguard EM Index fund (VEIEX). At the time I didn't have an account directly with Vanguard, and wasn't that familiar with ETFs, so just bought the mutual fund shares. One problem is the account custodian (E*Trade) didn't support admiral shares, or ETF conversions, and charged a $25 transaction fee. Since I had over the admiral minimum, I decided to transfer the holding to Vanguard. Since my shares have a lot of capital gains selling and repurchasing wasn't an option. I transferred the investor shares over, converted them to admiral shares, and then later converted to ETF shares (VWO). One amusing anecdote was that when I called Vanguard to request the ETF conversion, the person answering the phone didn't think it was possible to do this, and told me I would have to sell and repurchase, until I convinced her otherwise

The problem is that none of the cost basis information made it to the Vanguard account. Not only that, but the information that Vanguard does have (from reinvestment of the 2011 dividend distribution) is completely wrong. It says that the shares purchased with the reinvested dividends were purchased at a cost per share of $1614.23!!! (the actual price is about $40/share).

After spending a while on the phone with Vanguard on saturday, their position is that 1) they won't let me enter the correct cost basis information (which I have) on the website, 2) they can't enter it for me, even if I send it to them, 3) I'd better consult "my tax advisor" on how to correct the share prices on the class conversions (note that these were done while the shares were in the Vanguard account), 4) it's not their responsibility to be helpful with anything, even to the point of letting me see how much my capital gain currently is, 5) even though I've selected specific tax ID lots on the shares (I had previously established that cost basis method on this holding while at E*Trade) they aren't going to keep track of anything but the average cost.

For comparison, in my other account, I can just click the "expand" view on any portfolio holding, and see a complete list of the date, number of shares, purchase price, and unrealized capital gain/loss for each tax lot. And, it gets updated when I buy or sell shares.

Very disappointing that Vanguard can't do a better job facilitating record-keeping.

Brad

edit: retitled thread to clarify topic
Last edited by baw703916 on Tue Jan 17, 2012 6:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by HueyLD » Mon Jan 16, 2012 3:01 pm

Hi Brad,

Have you sent a certified letter (with returned receipt requested) to the CEO of Vanguard?

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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by winterescape » Mon Jan 16, 2012 3:03 pm

I understand your frustration. Seems you have a very unique situation with those shares but I am unclear as to why they would not let you enter cost basis info? Is that something new?

When I helped transfer my Fathers account to Vanguard the brokerage screeen had a place to enter a revised cost basis, has that gone away with the new law going into effect?

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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by JDCPAEsq » Mon Jan 16, 2012 3:13 pm

baw703916 wrote:It says that the shares purchased with the reinvested dividends were purchased at a cost per share of $1614.23!!! (the actual price is about $40/share).
That's a good problem to have! Think of the capital losses you will have when you sell. :D
John

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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by dbr » Mon Jan 16, 2012 3:20 pm

The future will be a bit different, but imagining that brokers and mutual fund companies are going to be reliable or even available to do one's tax accounting is probably not realistic. Even after new laws are in effect I bet there will be instances of odd-ball situations where the numbers aren't right. Wasn't there another thread just today about that?

It is a service issue, but there is also an issue that a fund company would not want to start keeping records based on unsubstantiated data from an investor or even another fund company. That said, I think it is common that one can at least enter a basis for transferred assets.

I am not sure how good a job different companies do on this. Vanguard might not be top drawer in that department. If better service is desired the suggested letter to the CEO would be a good idea.

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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by NAVigator » Mon Jan 16, 2012 3:22 pm

The new cost basis reporting for mutual funds, by IRS rules, is effective as of Jan 1, 2012. The cost basis reporting for stocks and ETFs was a year earlier. This only applies to transactions since the initial effective date.

You transferred mutual fund shares to Vanguard, so the cost basis was established at another firm. You then converted those investor class shares to Admiral shares at some point. Then those mutual fund shares were converts to ETF class shares. Tracking the cost basis of such conversions originally from outside of Vanguard is not their responsibility but the owner of the security. Why should they allow you to enter a cost basis now and bear the responsibility of reporting that to the IRS? You might be disappointed, but I applaud their diligence.

The other matter of the $1614.23 value should be investigated, however.

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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by baw703916 » Mon Jan 16, 2012 4:01 pm

NAVigator wrote: Why should they allow you to enter a cost basis now and bear the responsibility of reporting that to the IRS? You might be disappointed, but I applaud their diligence.
No, the shares in question were purchased (as mutual fund shares) before 2012, so Vanguard and I agree that they aren't covered under the new rules. It's my responsibility, not Vanguard's, to accurately report the cost basis.

But why can't they at least let me make the information listed on my account page meaningful? It would not become their legal responsibility were they to do so.

The larger point is that I currently hold more in Vanguard ETFs in my E*Trade account than the total value of my Vanguard account. Since Vanguard doesn't charge commissions on trades on their own ETFs (vs. $10 at E*Trade), there's a good rationale for moving them to Vanguard. But not if all the cost basis information is going to be lost in the process and Vanguard isn't going to let me re-establish it.
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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by kd2008 » Mon Jan 16, 2012 4:24 pm

These things can complicated very quickly and also frustrating. Retain all proof of transactions. Ask for a supervisor if possible. Always remain calm and patient. They are trying to help you but may not be able to do so in this particular case. It is not the end of the world.

When I did my fund-to-ETF conversion, the representative was very helpful and went over cost basis of each lot and explained in detail what I should expect to happen. I had called 866-499-8473.

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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by tfb » Mon Jan 16, 2012 4:28 pm

Vanguard only does the minimum it's legally required. It's not their obligation to help you track but they are not helping you as other firms do because it doesn't see it as its competitive advantage, only extra cost. If you need help with tracking, don't go with Vanguard. Only use Vanguard for retirement accounts or if you are comfortable with doing the tracking yourself. If you are not using software now, get the free Microsoft Money sunset edition. Reconstruct your records there. Use it for tracking.

I transferred some mutual fund shares from Wells Fargo to Vanguard. Vanguard doesn't let me enter my tax lots. It wants nothing to do with it. I'm OK with tracking it myself but I'm still disappointed. When I transferred assets from VBS to Wells Fargo, Wells Fargo let me enter the lots, just like most other competent brokers routinely do. It's a service their customers expect. So they do it.
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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by PB » Mon Jan 16, 2012 4:37 pm

I have similar (if not exact) complaints re Vanguard's system:

1. Lack of cost-basis functionality in general;

2. Indefensible lack of functionality re brokerage holdings in general, not only re external (non-Vanguard) funds, but even Vanguard ETFs, even though they're held in a Vanguard account.

For those interested, the thread is below. And for what it's worth: I've spoken with several Vanguard reps, including supervisors, and there's simply no commitment to improve the system. Seems their legacy systems are terrible and clients simply accept it, so no motivation to improve.

http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=87184

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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by abuss368 » Mon Jan 16, 2012 4:50 pm

Contact Bill McNabb, the CEO of Vanguard.
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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by livesoft » Mon Jan 16, 2012 6:04 pm

tfb has obliquely provided a solution for you: Move your shares to Wells Fargo. That way all your 1099B's will be correct. At least my WF 1099B's have been complete and correct every time I have downloaded them electronically. I can't say the same for Vanguard.
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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by SGM » Mon Jan 16, 2012 6:40 pm

I just had a similar issue with Vanguard when I transferred a stock certificate to them and sold the stock late last year. They refused to accept the basis I had calculated from my records.

They requested I send them a list of every purchase, the date of purchase and the number of shares and cost. I am not going to let Vanguard add it up. I will give the information to the IRS, if they do not believe me. I have kept all the records.

Vanguard put my basis at zero. That is fine, but they better report the basis as unknown to the IRS.

I have been fine with Vanguard's mutual funds, but I find the brokerage to be abominable. I am in the proccess of transferring individual drip plans to another brokerage house. I might use Vanguard's brokerage to purchase their ETFs.
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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by dbr » Mon Jan 16, 2012 6:54 pm

SGM wrote:I just had a similar issue with Vanguard when I transferred a stock certificate to them and sold the stock late last year. They refused to accept the basis I had calculated from my records.

They requested I send them a list of every purchase, the date of purchase and the number of shares and cost. I am not going to let Vanguard add it up. I will give the information to the IRS, if they do not believe me. I have kept all the records.

Vanguard put my basis at zero. That is fine, but they better report the basis as unknown to the IRS.

I have been fine with Vanguard's mutual funds, but I find the brokerage to be abominable. I am in the proccess of transferring individual drip plans to another brokerage house. I might use Vanguard's brokerage to purchase their ETFs.
Of course, if you didn't buy the stock last year, they won't be reporting anything to the IRS. I don't even know what they would do with all that data if you did comply with the request. It would be meaningless as tax documentation anyway. If you did buy the stock at a different broker last year (2011), I think that broker would have been required to forward all the details to Vanguard in order to make the transfer. Is that not so under new regulations?

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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by pkcrafter » Mon Jan 16, 2012 6:55 pm

It says that the shares purchased with the reinvested dividends were purchased at a cost per share of $1614.23!!!
Wow, talk about buying high. I see no acceptable excuse for this error or Vanguard's reluctance to correct it.

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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by livesoft » Mon Jan 16, 2012 6:56 pm

Quick! Tax loss harvest before Vanguard changes their mind.
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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by Muchtolearn » Mon Jan 16, 2012 8:40 pm

This is unfair to Vanguard. No brokerage will report the cost basis to IRS for shares of mutual funds (or most ETFs) bought before 2011. Vanguard could let you enter your cost basis to your heart's delight for shares pre-2012. It might make you feel good but they cannot verify it and won't report it. So it doesn't matter.

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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by pkcrafter » Mon Jan 16, 2012 8:55 pm

I agree on the cost basis, but the recorded purchase price of $1614?

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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by tfb » Mon Jan 16, 2012 9:16 pm

Muchtolearn wrote:This is unfair to Vanguard. No brokerage will report the cost basis to IRS for shares of mutual funds (or most ETFs) bought before 2011.
Nobody is asking Vanguard to report the cost basis to the IRS for shares of mutual funds (or most ETFs) bought before 2011. We are asking it to report it to the customers!
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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by jpsfranks » Mon Jan 16, 2012 9:37 pm

Muchtolearn wrote:This is unfair to Vanguard. No brokerage will report the cost basis to IRS for shares of mutual funds (or most ETFs) bought before 2011. Vanguard could let you enter your cost basis to your heart's delight for shares pre-2012. It might make you feel good but they cannot verify it and won't report it. So it doesn't matter.
When selling shares by specific lot purchased prior to 2011/2012 at Vanguard the procedure is to send an email to Vanguard indicating which shares were sold. My understanding is that this will continue to be the case for non covered shares. Recording and allowing input of cost bases like Fidelity and Wells Fargo do avoids this hassle. I was hoping that Vanguard's upgrades in response to the new regulation would see support for this feature and was also disappointed that they didn't materialize.

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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by baw703916 » Mon Jan 16, 2012 9:46 pm

The $1614 purchase price number appears to be a calculated number. What appears to have happened was that since the shares purchased with 2011 distributions were the only ones for which Vanguard had a purchase date, they assumed that the basis on the ones I had held previously was zero, and then derived the purchase price per share of the new purchases by dividing the value of all the shares by the number of newly purchased shares.

Obviously, the result is nonsensical (garbage in, garbage out). Yes, I understand that this is not an official record, won't be reported to the IRS, and that it's my responsibility, not Vanguard's, to provide the correct cost basis information.

That said, if Vanguard is going to put in any number at all, why not one that's correct?

My account page does in fact show a huge fictitious capital loss. I would hope the IRS would call me out on the mistake were I to actually try to claim it.

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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by baw703916 » Mon Jan 16, 2012 9:56 pm

jpsfranks wrote: When selling shares by specific lot purchased prior to 2011/2012 at Vanguard the procedure is to send an email to Vanguard indicating which shares were sold. My understanding is that this will continue to be the case for non covered shares. Recording and allowing input of cost bases like Fidelity and Wells Fargo do avoids this hassle. I was hoping that Vanguard's upgrades in response to the new regulation would see support for this feature and was also disappointed that they didn't materialize.
I agree. Which brings up another question: if Vanguard has no cost basis or purchase date information for most of the shares in that holding, and I wish to use specific tax lot ID for my EM index holding (this is what I established when it was in my E*Trade account), am I supposed to tell Vanguard anything? Or is the procedure different for ETF shares and mutual fund shares?
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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by frose2 » Mon Jan 16, 2012 10:30 pm

My recollection is that Vanguard does not support specific ID. Nothing you can do or say will change this policy. I wish I had asked them before using that method on one of my funds (doing the send-your-broker-a-letter thing recommended in books on investing). In retrospect, I sort of wish I had filed revised tax forms correcting the cost basis method, although I was afraid the IRS would be very suspicious of that. Luckily now I have sufficient embedded losses in other funds that I can sell everything in the fund I foolishly used specific ID on and buy that fund back. Additional luck: I think the tax statute of limitations has run out on the old transactions which I did before Vanguard told me they didn't support specific ID.

Vanguard has a variety of anti-trading policies (a category in which I put lack of support for specific ID). Other firms, more attuned to "normal" investors who trade in and out, don't seem to have those restrictions.

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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by baw703916 » Mon Jan 16, 2012 11:07 pm

livesoft wrote:tfb has obliquely provided a solution for you: Move your shares to Wells Fargo. That way all your 1099B's will be correct. At least my WF 1099B's have been complete and correct every time I have downloaded them electronically. I can't say the same for Vanguard.
If there any reason for me to be leery of Wells Fargo, given that they also have a full service brokerage, and are also now the owner of Wachovia (at whose brokerage I had some *memorable* experiences while managing and then inheriting my grandmother's account)?

One reason for moving the EM holding away from E*Trade is that they aren't in the best financial shape, and I want to make sure I stay under the SIPC limits. I've never had any actual issues with E*Trade regarding my account.
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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by dbr » Tue Jan 17, 2012 12:38 pm

baw703916 wrote:
jpsfranks wrote: When selling shares by specific lot purchased prior to 2011/2012 at Vanguard the procedure is to send an email to Vanguard indicating which shares were sold. My understanding is that this will continue to be the case for non covered shares. Recording and allowing input of cost bases like Fidelity and Wells Fargo do avoids this hassle. I was hoping that Vanguard's upgrades in response to the new regulation would see support for this feature and was also disappointed that they didn't materialize.
I agree. Which brings up another question: if Vanguard has no cost basis or purchase date information for most of the shares in that holding, and I wish to use specific tax lot ID for my EM index holding (this is what I established when it was in my E*Trade account), am I supposed to tell Vanguard anything? Or is the procedure different for ETF shares and mutual fund shares?
I would understand that what jpsfranks is saying still applies across the board. Vanguard not having any information should not affect that. I would understand that the business of sending Vanguard a letter and getting confirmation back is simply a process of having third party confirmation of your intentions at the time of sale. This asks the broker to spend time and money to assist you with your tax reporting, and some brokers, well one broker we know of, has been resistant to this. They are under no law to provide this service. The broker does not literally store and retrieve for sale any particular shares so telling them which shares are sold does not affect what they do, and for non-covered shares there is no report to the IRS. Back in the days when people literally removed paper stock certificates from a safety deposit box and mailed them to a broker the shares really were tracked by serial numbers and associated with specific buy and sell dates.

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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by catch22 » Tue Jan 17, 2012 4:08 pm

tfb wrote:I transferred some mutual fund shares from Wells Fargo to Vanguard. Vanguard doesn't let me enter my tax lots. It wants nothing to do with it. I'm OK with tracking it myself but I'm still disappointed.
Just curious, is this to VBS or a taxable mutual fund account at Vanguard?

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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by rob » Tue Jan 17, 2012 4:51 pm

Specific ID is one place Vanguard has pathetic "service" and apparently has ZERO interest in fixing it..... Seems they justify it under well your a trader or some such nonsense - I'm NOT. I think the last response from their rep (on this forum somewhere) is that many vs few thing when it's really just plain contempt for certain customer needs and hiding their own system and procedural inadequacies.

Those that don't care or need it will just wash it off and shrug but your only at the start of the issue - try placing a sell and see how your treated with getting the acknowledgement - I am still waiting for one and have called twice over the last few weeks (after mailing by snail mail the info and them costing me some $$ by buying into a distribution)........ I wonder if Vanguard stopped doing - say - the calc for min IRA distributions or alike whether there would be more push from this group.

They sell great funds and easy stuff is easy to deal with them... but there are areas......
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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by rustymutt » Tue Jan 17, 2012 5:22 pm

winterescape wrote:I understand your frustration. Seems you have a very unique situation with those shares but I am unclear as to why they would not let you enter cost basis info? Is that something new?

When I helped transfer my Fathers account to Vanguard the brokerage screeen had a place to enter a revised cost basis, has that gone away with the new law going into effect?

His situation is not unique. It's the same thing that I got from Vanguard also. When I rolled over my lump sum 401K, and pension to them. I to spent some amount of time with reps and even got it escalated to the IT department. In the end I got nowhere with Vanguard. People had better track their cost basis, because Vanguard doesn't always do it correctly.
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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now

Post by baw703916 » Tue Jan 17, 2012 6:53 pm

rob wrote:Specific ID is one place Vanguard has pathetic "service" and apparently has ZERO interest in fixing it..... Seems they justify it under well your a trader or some such nonsense - I'm NOT. I think the last response from their rep (on this forum somewhere) is that many vs few thing when it's really just plain contempt for certain customer needs and hiding their own system and procedural inadequacies.
Agreed. Specific ID is not just for traders. Anyone in a significant tax bracket with a sizable taxable account should (IMO) pay careful attention to tax management, and the specific share option gives one a lot more control. I would bet that most of the FAs on this board use specific share ID for their clients, and not because they recommend frequent trading.

I'm certainly capable of keeping track of things myself, but it's disappointing that Vanguard seems to be significantly behind the curve on this compared to their competitors.
They sell great funds and easy stuff is easy to deal with them... but there are areas......
I agree, most of my portfolio is in Vanguard ETFs. They have some great funds; I like their philosophy and think they are definitely one of the good guys in the financial industry. Were it a company I didn't hold in such high regard I wouldn't feel nearly so disappointed.

I wonder if this new IRS rule has really caught them off guard.
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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now (cost basi

Post by tfb » Tue Jan 17, 2012 9:09 pm

catch22 wrote:
tfb wrote:I transferred some mutual fund shares from Wells Fargo to Vanguard. Vanguard doesn't let me enter my tax lots. It wants nothing to do with it. I'm OK with tracking it myself but I'm still disappointed.
Just curious, is this to VBS or a taxable mutual fund account at Vanguard?
Taxable Vanguard mutual fund account at Vanguard proper.
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Re: I'm very disappointed with Vanguard right now (cost basi

Post by baw703916 » Tue Feb 14, 2012 11:08 pm

Thought I'd give an update. I sent an e-mail to Vanguard a couple days ago, explained the issue about the missing/incorrect basis information on my shares (which were converted to VWO in my VBS account after the transfer). They replied and said they would modify the account page to let me enter the missing data--and I did just so just now. :)

That was surprisingly easy. I'm thinking that by phone wasn't the best way to contact them, and that maybe an e-mail, which didn't have to be responded to in real time and could be forwarded to a person who understood and knew how to handle the issue, was a better approach.
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