Taxes on Mutual Funds: How Are Mutual Funds Taxed? (2024)

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Filling out your tax return is like compiling the index of a book — the book is complete, but you have to rummage (sometimes painfully) through your work again, assuring accuracy and factual content, in order to make the book easier for someone else to read. If you're a mutual fund investor trying to determine your taxable gain or loss for the past year, your tax return will entail additional work.

But if you've kept good records and understand some basic guidelines, the process can be relatively painless.

Tax treatment of mutual funds

The first step in evaluating your tax liability is knowing which investment transactions require payment of taxes. In general, whenever you sell or exchange shares of a mutual fund, you may have a capital gain or loss that must be reported in the tax year of the transaction. In addition, most funds receive periodic dividend or interest income from stock or bond investments and incur capital gains or losses when selling securities in the fund during the year. The fund company passes these dividends, interest, and capital gains to you, the shareholder, either in a check or through reinvested distributions. You must pay taxes on dividends, interest, and capital gains that the fund company distributes to you, in addition to capital gains on sale or exchange of shares in your account. Reinvesting distributions in more shares of the fund does not relieve you from having to pay taxes on those distributions.

The next step is understanding the difference between short- and long-term capital gains. Short-term capital gains (assets held 12 months or less) are taxed at your ordinary income tax rate, whereas long-term capital gains (assets held for more than 12 months) are currently subject to federal capital gains tax at a rate of up to 20%.Footnote1 Remember that each dollar of capital loss can offset a dollar of capital gain. In other words, if you have $1,000 in long-term gains and $600 in long-term losses, you only have to pay tax on a net long-term gain of $400. Should your losses exceed your gains, you can offset up to $3,000 of excess capital losses against ordinary income. Losses beyond $3,000 can be carried over and deducted from income in future years.

How to determine a gain or loss

In order to determine whether you have a gain or loss on a sale or exchange, you must first know your "adjusted cost basis." That's because you will be taxed on the difference between the adjusted cost basis of the fund shares and the amount you received when you sold them.

Under a federal law that took effect on January 1, 2011, financial institutions are now required to report cost basis for certain investments to investors, on Form 1099-B, which typically is made available to investors in January of the following year. The expanded Form 1099-B specifies whether a gain or loss was short-term or long-term. The cost-basis reporting requirements took effect for certain securities in 2011, and apply to mutual fund shares purchased on or after January 1, 2012.

Previously, when an investor sold a position in a security or a fund, the investor's financial firm was required to report only the gross sale proceeds to the investor and to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It was typically up to the investor to track the cost basis and to calculate the capital gain or loss, and the resulting tax liability, for income tax purposes. The IRS typically gives you the choice of accounting methods to determine cost basis.

FIFO, which stands for "first in, first out," means the shares you bought first are also the ones you sell first.

The specific identification method of selling shares demands more planning on your part, but also provides the most flexibility of any method for determining the amount of gain or loss on your shares. For example, if you want to select certain shares to sell in order to produce the best tax benefit for your situation, you have to specify the shares you want to sell in advance and in writing to your fund company. Then, you'll receive confirmation of your request for your tax records. Therefore, if you've sold shares of a fund in the past year, and didn't specify which shares, it's too late to use this method for that particular fund. You can, however, use specific identification in the future, as long as you haven't previously employed the single- or double-category average cost method.

The average cost method calculates your cost basis by simply averaging the purchase price of all your shares, regardless of how long you have held them. This method is particularly time-saving if you are redeeming or exchanging all shares of a fund account and have invested over many years and reinvested your dividends. But the tax result may not be advantageous if you're only redeeming a portion of the account.

Ways to Determine Cost Basis

  1. FIFO (first in, first out) — Shares bought first will be sold first.
  2. Specific Identification Method — You specify shares to be sold to provide yourself with the best possible tax benefit.
  3. Single-Category Average Cost — Simply averages the purchase price of all shares bought.

Most financial institutions use average cost as the default tax lot identification method for mutual funds, but you should check before making this assumption. Note that you may still select the cost basis reporting method you prefer, subject to certain exceptions.

Other factors to consider

Keep in mind that you can't change to another method at a future date without permission from the IRS once you've chosen single-category or double-category averaging for a particular fund. Also, you must specifically state on your return if you are using one of the averaging methods. These restrictions are not placed on shareholders using either the FIFO or specific identification method of selling shares.

If you buy shares of a fund that has a front-end load, the sales charge may be included in the cost basis of those shares. Therefore, if you send your fund company $1,000 to purchase shares that have a 5% load up front, your account would be worth $950. However, your cost basis would still be $1,000 for tax purposes. If your fund company charges a load when you sell your shares, the load should be deducted from your gain or added to your loss. For example, if you invested $1,000 in a fund and sold those shares later for $2,000 with a 2% back-end load, your gain on those shares would be $1,000 minus the load of $40 (2% of $2,000), or $960.

Also note that when you purchase additional shares as a result of reinvesting dividends and capital gains, such shares are included in your cost basis. And if you're thinking about taking losses this year in order to offset other gains, keep in mind that you cannot sell shares at a loss and buy additional shares in the same or substantially identical mutual fund within 30 days before or after the date of sale. The applicable federal tax law treats that as a "wash sale" and disallows the loss.

Some helpful hints

There's no substitute for keeping careful records of all mutual fund investments. Especially important are year-end statements, which generally list the past year's transactions, including dividends and capital gains distributions. If you're missing records for any year, ask your fund company to supply them. They'll be indispensable when preparing your tax return in future years when you sell those shares.

The above guidelines can provide you with some sense of direction as you plan to compile your "index" of taxable transactions from the past year. Of course, you may want to consult a tax professional regarding your particular situation to ensure that you are making the decisions that are best for you. It can never hurt to have someone "edit" the masterpiece you've created.

Next steps

  • Watch our video how to invest in mutual funds
  • How to choose a mutual fund

Footnote1 A 3.8% net investment income contribution tax may also apply to capital gains.

Merrill, its affiliates, and financial advisors do not provide legal, tax, or accounting advice. You should consult your legal and/or tax advisors before making any financial decisions.

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The material was authored by a third party, DST Retirement Solutions, LLC, an SS&C company ("SS&C"), not affiliated with Merrill or any of its affiliates and is for information and educational purposes only. The opinions and views expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Merrill or any of its affiliates. Any assumptions, opinions and estimates are as of the date of this material and are subject to change without notice. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The information contained in this material does not constitute advice on the tax consequences of making any particular investment decision. This material does not take into account your particular investment objectives, financial situations or needs and is not intended as a recommendation, offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security, financial instrument, or strategy. Before acting on any recommendation in this material, you should consider whether it is in your best interest based on your particular circ*mstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice.

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Taxes on Mutual Funds: How Are Mutual Funds Taxed? (2024)


Taxes on Mutual Funds: How Are Mutual Funds Taxed? ›

Like income from the sale of any other investment, if you have owned the mutual fund shares for a year or more, any profit or loss generated by the sale of those shares is taxed as long-term capital gains. Otherwise, it is considered ordinary income

ordinary income
Key Takeaways

Examples of ordinary income include salaries, tips, bonuses, commissions, rents, royalties, short-term capital gains, unqualified dividends, and interest income. For individuals, ordinary income usually consists of the pretax salaries and wages they have earned. › terms › ordinaryincome

How are you taxed on mutual funds? ›

Mutual fund taxes typically include taxes on dividends and earnings while the investor owns the mutual fund shares, as well as capital gains taxes when the investor sells the mutual fund shares. The tax rate (and in turn the tax on mutual funds) depends on the type of distribution and other factors.

How tax saving mutual funds are taxed? ›

Since ELSS funds are locked up for three years, there is no way to realize short-term profit gains. As a result, you can only realize long-term capital gains. These gains are tax-free up to Rs 1 lakh per year, and any earnings beyond this amount are subject to a 10% long-term capital gains tax.

How is tax calculated on mutual fund income? ›

The income in the form of dividends from mutual funds (now called IDCW) will be taxed as 'Income from Other Sources' as per your income tax slab rate. If the dividend amount is above Rs 5,000 dividend will be subject to TDS as per Section 194K @10% for resident individuals, but if the PAN is not provided then @20%.

How are debt mutual funds taxed? ›

Taxation of Debt Mutual Funds after 1 April 2023

The Budget 2023 has brought about certain amendments that imply that a Specified Mutual Fund will no longer receive indexation benefits when computing long-term capital gains(LTCG). Therefore, debt mutual funds will now be taxed at the applicable slab rates.

Are mutual funds taxed as income or capital gains? ›

Capital gains distributions are paid by mutual funds from their net realized long-term capital gains and are taxed as long-term capital gains regardless of how long you have owned the shares in the mutual fund. Mutual funds may keep some of their long-term capital gains and pay taxes on those undistributed amounts.

Are mutual funds taxed twice? ›

Mutual funds are not taxed twice. However, some investors may mistakenly pay taxes twice on some distributions. For example, if a mutual fund reinvests dividends into the fund, an investor still needs to pay taxes on those dividends.

Are mutual funds always taxable? ›

Just as with individual securities, when you sell shares of a mutual fund or ETF (exchange-traded fund) for a profit, you'll owe taxes on that "realized gain." But you may also owe taxes if the fund realizes a gain by selling a security for more than the original purchase price—even if you haven't sold any shares.

How much mutual fund is tax free? ›

You will get a tax deduction of up to Rs 1.5 lakh under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act. a. ELSS funds are the only tax-saving funds within the Rs 1.5 lakh limit which has the additional advantage of giving equity-linked returns.

What are the tax disadvantages of mutual funds? ›

Disadvantages include high fees, tax inefficiency, poor trade execution, and the potential for management abuses.

How do you declare income from mutual funds? ›

The required documents for filing ITR with mutual fund income include PAN card, linked Aadhaar card, Form 26AS, Form 16, bank account details, salary slips (if applicable), proof of tax-saving investments, and documentation related to capital gains and dividend income.

What is the tax on long term mutual funds? ›

Long-term capital gains on mutual funds are available when you sell your equity shares after holding on to them for more than a year. When your long-term capital gains are above Rs 1 lakh, you will have to bear taxes on them. The LTCG on mutual funds tax rate is 10% with no indexation benefit.

Do mutual funds reduce taxable income? ›

Key Takeaways. Mutual funds with dividend distributions can bring in extra income, but they are also typically taxed at the higher ordinary income tax rate. In certain cases, qualified dividends and mutual funds with government or municipal bond investments can be taxed at lower rates, or even be tax-free.

How are mutual fund dividends taxed? ›

Mutual funds are pass-through investments, meaning any dividend income they receive must be distributed to shareholders. Dividends paid by a stock or mutual fund (for the most part) are considered ordinary income and are subject to your normal income tax rate.

Is it safe to invest in mutual funds? ›

Mutual fund investments when used right can lead to good returns, keeping risk at a minimum, especially when compared with individual stocks or bonds. These are especially great for people who are not experts in stock market dynamics as these are run by experienced fund managers.

Which mutual fund is best? ›

  • LIC MF Flexi Cap Fund Direct Plan Growth Option. ...
  • Mirae Asset Flexi Cap Fund Direct Growth. ...
  • Axis Flexi Cap Fund Direct Growth. ...
  • Canara Robeco Flexi Cap Fund Direct Plan Growth Option. ...
  • Sundaram Flexi Cap Fund Direct Growth. ...
  • Navi Flexi Cap Fund Direct Growth. ...
  • SBI Flexicap Fund Direct Growth.

Do I claim mutual funds on income tax? ›

When you redeem your mutual fund units or shares, you may have a capital gain or a capital loss. Generally, 50% (1/2) of your capital gain or capital loss becomes the taxable capital gain or allowable capital loss.

How do you avoid capital gains distributions on mutual funds? ›

If you want to help avoid falling into this sneaky tax trap, there are several options available to you:
  1. Make sure your investments are in the appropriate accounts. ...
  2. Seek out tax-managed mutual funds. ...
  3. Consider swapping out your mutual funds for exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Which mutual fund is tax free? ›

Since there is a mandatory lock-in period of three years, there is no question of enjoying short-term capital gains. Therefore, the tax on short-term capital gains on selling the fund units of ELSS mutual funds is non-existent. The long-term capital gains of up to Rs 1 lakh a year are made tax-exempt.

Are mutual funds tax friendly? ›

Index mutual funds & ETFs

Index funds—whether mutual funds or ETFs (exchange-traded funds)—are naturally tax-efficient for a couple of reasons: Because index funds simply replicate the holdings of an index, they don't trade in and out of securities as often as an active fund would.


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