A little phrase that may mean a big difference. When you read about investing and other financial topics, you occasionally see the phrase “tax efficiency” or a reference to a “tax-sensitive” way of investing. What does that really mean?
The after-tax return vs. the pre-tax return. Everyone wants their investment portfolio to perform well. But it is your after-tax return that really matters. If your portfolio earns you double-digit returns, those returns really aren’t so great if you end up losing 20% or 30% of them to taxes. In periods when the return on your investments is low, tax efficiency takes on even greater importance.
Tax-sensitive tactics. Some methods have emerged that are designed to improve after-tax returns. Money managers commonly consider these strategies when determining whether assets should be bought or sold.
Holding onto assets. One possible method for realizing greater tax efficiency is simply to minimize buying and selling to reduce capital gains taxes. The idea is to pursue long-term gains, instead of seeking short-term gains through a series of steady transactions.
Tax-loss harvesting. This means selling certain securities at a loss to counterbalance capital gains. In this scenario, the capital losses you incur are applied against your capital gains to lower your personal tax liability. Basically, you’re making lemonade out of the lemons in your portfolio.
Assigning investments selectively to tax-deferred and taxable accounts. Here’s a rather basic tactic intended to work over the long run: tax-efficient investments are placed in taxable accounts, and less tax-efficient investments are held in tax-advantaged accounts. Of course, if you have 100% of your investment money in tax-deferred accounts, then this isn’t a consideration.
How tax-efficient is your portfolio? It’s an excellent question, one you should consider. But this brief article shouldn’t be interpreted as tax or investment advice. If you’d like to find out more about tax-sensitive ways to invest, be sure to talk with a qualified financial advisor who can help you explore your options today. What you learn could be eye-opening.