The Investment Scientist

Archive for June 2021

Recently, Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA,) a mutual fund company whose funds I use a lot for my clients, replaced its Tax-Advantaged US Core 2 Equity Fund DFTCX with an ETF DFAC. In this article, I will explain how a mutual fund can achieve tax-advantaged status, and I will further explain how it is even more advantageous to move to an EFT.

A mutual fund is simply a pooled investment vehicle. Many folks’ money is pooled together in the fund, and the fund manager invests it. As a fund investor, you may still hold the fund and therefore there is no realization of capital gains on the portfolio level. But on the fund level, there are still capital gains because of trading. These gains are passed down to each individual investor, and they must pay taxes on them. This is despite the fact that they have not sold the fund. 

A tax-aware fund manager can reduce this tax burden on the fund’s investors by trading less, especially by deferring the realization of gains. That’s why a fund’s turnover is an indicator of a fund’s hidden cost. The higher the turnover, the higher the transaction costs and tax burden. 

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Michael Zhuang is principal of MZ Capital, a fee-only independent advisory firm based in Washington, DC.


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