Investment Capital Gains


Have you bought any mutual funds this year or late last year while the market was doing its skyrocket thing? Last year it was hard to lose money. This year it has been easy.

You should be calling your mutual fund (they all have 800 numbers) to find out if and when they plan to pay their capital gains and dividends. You might say to yourself, they won't be paying anything this year because the fund is selling for less now than it did at the beginning of the year. Think again. It is very probable that the mutual fund manager took profits on many high flyers that he bought cheap last year. According to the way funds are set up those profits are taxable to holders of the mutual fund and not to the fund itself.

It is possible you bought a fund at $40 per share that is now selling at $30 per share and be hit with a 25% capital gains distribution of $10. On paper you now have a $10 per share loss and a tax bill based on the $10 per share distribution. That is adding injury to insult.

With this as a possible scenario it might be prudent to sell your fund for less than you paid for it. You should work the numbers with your accountant to see if this might reduce your tax bill. But you have to do it now. You can't wait until after the mutual fund declares its capital gains distribution. This is especially true if you have purchased any high tech or international funds during the past year. You can carry losses forward to next year to offset against profits and distributions next year.

The greatest numbers of mutual funds declare these distributions near the end of the year, usually starting in November with most of them in December. The rumors I hear are that the distributions will be early this year because of the poor performance of the majority of funds.

This applies to everyone who does not have a tax shelter of some kind such as a 401k, IRA, SEP or other similar investment vehicle.

One piece of advice I want you to heed. Don't buy any mutual funds now because they are "cheap". Wait until after they declare their capital gains and dividend distributions. You could be whacked with a big tax bill.

Copyright 2005


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