Register For Our Mailing List

Register to receive our free weekly newsletter including editorials.

Home / 361

Warning about investing in unit trusts in June

Most fund managers struggle to deliver a 1% outperformance after fees every year, and with the cash rate at 0.25%, investors need to eke out every bit of return they can find. So it’s important to know how investment structures work. In particular, the tax impact of investing in June can be a trap for the unwary and cause unexpected leakage in tax.

Distributions from a unit trust

In a unit trust, all income received (including realised capital gains) is divided among unit holders based on how many units they hold at the time of a distribution. Unit holders must then include their share of this income (which may comprise dividends, interest, capital gains and franking (imputation) credits) in their own tax return in the year it was earned.

The same distributions are paid to all unit holders according to their holding on a particular day, whether or not the investor has been in the fund one day or one year. Distributions are not pro-rated for investors who were not unitholders for the whole period. An investor may receive some of their investment back immediately as income if they invested just before a distribution.

Immediately after a distribution is declared, the unit price of the fund will usually fall by the amount of the distribution, because the distribution reduces the fund’s assets.

Don't convert capital to taxable income

An investment in June that receives a distribution in July may be converting capital to taxable income. For example, if someone invests on 25 June 2020 when the unit price is say $1.00 and then a 10 cent per unit distribution is made on 30 June, the unit price will fall to 90 cents (assuming no market movement) at the beginning of July. The 10 cents will be taxable income in the hands of the unit holder in their 2019/2020 tax return.

Obviously, the worst consequences are for individuals with high marginal tax rates where the distribution includes no franking credits. This might be the case for a global equity fund which distributes once a year with no franking credits from Australian companies.

Alternatively, an investor such as a tax-free charity or super fund in pension mode in an Australian equity fund might pay no tax and receive a franking credit, so a June investment might actually be favourable for them.

The only way to eliminate these effects would be for the fund trustee to make a daily distribution, but clearly this is not practical. The more often a fund distributes income during the year then the less of an issue this distribution inequity becomes. For example, most Australian equity funds distribute twice per year but most international funds only distribute once per year.

Other funds with particularly punitive outcomes for unit holders who invest close to a distribution date might be actively-traded funds in a rising market. They might have large capital gains on shares not held for longer than 12 months (and therefore, not subject to the 50% CGT discount factor). The distribution might contain a large taxable capital gain component.

How do we handle the problem with the Third Link Growth Fund?

Many of you know I manage a unit trust, the Third Link Growth Fund. I consider this issue of such significance that from the start of May each year, I ask our administrator to contact every new applicant and check whether they understand the tax consequences. While this might cost us some application money in the short term, hopefully it builds a better long-term investor experience.

I also provide a health warning in the PDS for Third Link Growth Fund. It says: "Distributions are not pro-rated for investors who were not unitholders for the whole period, meaning that you may receive some of your investment back immediately as income if you invest just before a distribution."

Anyone who invests in a unit trust in June should at least ask the fund manager for an estimate of the distribution and its tax components, unless they want to share the tax burden for prior investors.

 

Chris Cuffe is Founder and Portfolio Manager of the charitable trust, Third Link Growth Fund and Chairman of Australian Philanthropic Services. The views expressed are his own.

 

RELATED ARTICLES

Two of the best-kept secrets for the EOFY

Warning about timing of investments in ETFs and trusts

Warning about investing in unit trusts in June

banner

Most viewed in recent weeks

A tonic for turbulent times: my nine tips for investing

Investing is often portrayed as unapproachably complex. Can it be distilled into nine tips? An economist with 35 years of experience through numerous market cycles and events has given it a shot.

Rival standard for savings and incomes in retirement

A new standard argues the majority of Australians will never achieve the ASFA 'comfortable' level of retirement savings and it amounts to 'fearmongering' by vested interests. If comfortable is aspirational, so be it.

Dalio v Marks is common sense v uncommon sense

Billionaire fund manager standoff: Ray Dalio thinks investing is common sense and markets are simple, while Howard Marks says complex and convoluted 'second-level' thinking is needed for superior returns.

Welcome to Firstlinks Edition 467

Fund manager reports for last financial year are drifting into client mailboxes, and many of the results are disappointing. With some funds giving back their 2021 gains, why did they not reduce their exposure to hot stocks when faced with rising inflation and rates?

  • 21 July 2022

Welcome to Firstlinks Edition 466 with weekend update

Heard the word, cakeism? As in, 'having your cake and eating it too'. The Reserve Bank wants to simultaneously fight inflation by taking away spending power, while not driving the economy into a recession. If you want to help, stop buying stuff.

  • 14 July 2022

Welcome to Firstlinks Edition 465 with weekend update

Many thanks for the thousands of revealing comments in our survey on retirement experiences. We discuss the full results. And with the ASX200 down 10%, the US S&P500 off 20% and bond prices tanking, each investor faces the new financial year deciding whether to sit, sell or invest more.

  • 7 July 2022

Latest Updates

Economy

The paradox of investment cycles

Now we're captivated by inflation and higher rates but only a year ago, investors were certain of the supremacy of US companies, the benign nature of inflation and the remoteness of tighter monetary policy.

Shares

Reporting Season will show cost control and pricing power

Companies have been slow to update guidance and we have yet to see the impact of inflation expectations in earnings and outlooks. Companies need to insulate costs from inflation while enjoying an uptick in revenue.

Shares

The early signals for August company earnings

Weaker share prices may have already discounted some bad news, but cost inflation is creating wide divergences inside and across sectors. Early results show some companies are strong enough to resist sector falls.

Property

The compelling 20-year flight of SYD into private hands

In 2002, the share price of the company that became Sydney Airport (SYD) hit 80 cents from the $2 IPO price. After 20 years of astute investment driving revenue increases, it sold to private hands for $8.75 in 2022.

Investment strategies

Ethical investing responding to some short-term challenges

There are significant differences in the sector weightings of an ethical fund versus an index, and while this has caused some short-term headwinds recently, the tailwinds are expected to blow over the long term.

Investment strategies

If you are new to investing, avoid these 10 common mistakes

Many new investors make common mistakes while learning about markets. Losses are inevitable. Newbies should read more and develop a long-term focus while avoiding big mistakes and not aiming to be brilliant.

Investment strategies

RMBS today: rising rate-linked income with capital preservation

Lenders use Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities to finance mortgages and RMBS are available to retail investors through fund structures. They come with many layers of protection beyond movements in house prices. 

Sponsors

Alliances

© 2022 Morningstar, Inc. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer
The data, research and opinions provided here are for information purposes; are not an offer to buy or sell a security; and are not warranted to be correct, complete or accurate. Morningstar, its affiliates, and third-party content providers are not responsible for any investment decisions, damages or losses resulting from, or related to, the data and analyses or their use. Any general advice or ‘regulated financial advice’ under New Zealand law has been prepared by Morningstar Australasia Pty Ltd (ABN: 95 090 665 544, AFSL: 240892) and/or Morningstar Research Ltd, subsidiaries of Morningstar, Inc, without reference to your objectives, financial situation or needs. For more information refer to our Financial Services Guide (AU) and Financial Advice Provider Disclosure Statement (NZ). You should consider the advice in light of these matters and if applicable, the relevant Product Disclosure Statement before making any decision to invest. Past performance does not necessarily indicate a financial product’s future performance. To obtain advice tailored to your situation, contact a professional financial adviser. Articles are current as at date of publication.
This website contains information and opinions provided by third parties. Inclusion of this information does not necessarily represent Morningstar’s positions, strategies or opinions and should not be considered an endorsement by Morningstar.