Tax-managed investing 101

New to the active tax management concept? Explore this page for the highlights.

What is active tax managed investing?

Active tax-managed investing is an investment approach aimed at minimizing tax drag and maximizing after-tax wealth.

This dynamic approach uses real-time, year-round techniques such as tax loss harvesting, minimizing wash sales, and tax-smart yield management to systematically target sources that may erode investment returns, while helping investors keep more of what they earn.

How does tax management help me?

In a world where investors are fixated on a pre-tax investment perspective, after-tax investment value tends to be an afterthought.

Yet, the compounding tax drag nevertheless continues to weigh down portfolios and reduce returns. Fortunately, this perpetual problem has a systematic solution in the form of active tax management. Designed to target actual problems faced by investors, this dynamic approach carries out real-time, year-round measures aimed squarely at minimizing avoidable losses and maximizing after-tax wealth.

Where can I learn more about tax-managed investing?

Tax management blog posts from Russell Investments' experts

Explore our tax managed funds and resources.

Tax-managed funds & tools

Russell Investments can help you oversee your tax-managed investments with an after-tax awareness.

Our approach to tax management


What is tax drag?
Tax drag refers to the negative impact of taxes on an investors’ portfolio, slowing down its potential growth and reducing overall returns. It arises from the tax liability associated with various investment activities such as selling an investment for a profit, receiving dividends, earning interest. Some investment vehicles such as mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) may distribute capital gains or income to investors, which are taxable and can result in a significant tax burden for investors. Managing tax drag is important to maximize after-tax returns and preserve long-term wealth.
How does tax drag impact an investor’s portfolio?
Tax drag slows down a portfolio’s potential growth and represents a drag on returns, similar to how a rock tied to a runner would hinder their performance.
How can advisors help clients mitigate tax drag?
Advisors can help clients by implementing tax-managed investment strategies that aim to minimize taxable distributions and maximize after-tax returns.
What is tax-loss harvesting?
Tax-loss harvesting involves intentionally selling an investment at a loss to offset capital gains taxes on profitable investments, resulting in a reduced tax bill and potentially more money left for investment. If the total capital losses exceed the capital gains in a given year, the investor can carry forward the unused portion of the losses to future tax years (capital loss carryforward). There are specific rules and limitations around capital loss carry forward, such as annual deduction limits and the expiration of unused losses after a certain number of years. Investors should consult with a tax professional.
How does capital loss carry forward work in mutual funds and ETFs?
Capital loss carry forward in mutual funds and ETFs allows investors to offset capital losses incurred in one year against capital gains realized in future years. If a mutual fund or ETF has net capital losses, it cannot distribute those losses to investors but can carry them forward. The fund can use the unused capital losses to offset taxable capital gains in future years, reducing the tax liability. Investors should consult tax professionals or regulations for specific rules and limitations on capital loss carry forward.
How can active tax-loss harvesting help minimize tax liabilities?
Active tax-loss harvesting involves continuously identifying opportunities to realize losses in a portfolio, minimizing short-term and long-term capital gain distributions, managing wash sales and focusing on qualified dividend distributions, which can lower tax liabilities and potentially allow for portfolio growth.
Does tax-loss harvesting only benefit high-income investors?
Although higher-income investors may experience more significant benefits, lower-income investors can likely achieve meaningful reductions in their tax bills by effectively harvesting losses.
When is the ideal timing for tax-loss harvesting, and why?
While many investors wait until the end of the year to consider tax-loss harvesting, it may limit opportunities. Harvesting losses throughout the year, taking advantage of market corrections and volatility, can yield better results and maximize the benefits of the strategy.
What is a wash sale, and why should it be avoided?
A wash sale occurs when a security is sold at a loss and then repurchased within 30 days. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not allow losses on a security sold in a wash sale. Investor should avoid wash sales to preserve losses than can be used to offset future gains.
What are common obstacles that prevent investors from utilizing tax-loss harvesting effectively?
Psychological factors such as aversion to realizing losses and the disposition effect, where investors tend to sell winners and hold onto losers, can hinder the implementation of tax-loss harvesting strategies.
What tool can advisors use to help clients understand the tax implications of dividend distributions on their total wealth return?
Using IRS Form 1099-DIV, advisors can walk a client through the form and discuss the impact of dividend distributions on their income.
What is the significance of the Form 1099-DIV for investors?
The Form 1099-DIV helps investors connect the dots between their investment returns and the impact of distributions on their total wealth return, allowing them to understand the potential tax implications.
Why is it important to understand the different tax rates that affect investment returns?
Different sources of investment return are subject to varying tax rates, and being aware of these rates helps in making informed decision regarding tax planning and investment strategies to help optimize after-tax-returns for investors.
How can reviewing a client’s Form 1040 provide insight into their investment-related income?
Form 1040 provides a comprehensive financial picture, including information on interest, dividends and capital gains, which can help identify tax implications and areas for improvement.
What are some key items to look for on Form 1040 when reviewing a client’s tax return?
It's important to examine tax-exempt interest income, taxable interest, qualified and ordinary dividends, and capital gains to understand the tax impact on the client's investment income.
Why should financial advisors ask to see a client’s Form 1040, despite potential reservations?
Requesting the Form 1040 helps advisors better understand the client's financial situation and provides an opportunity to offer advice to lower their tax bill and improve after-tax income.
What are three ways taxes can be triggered for mutual funds held in non-qualified investment accounts?
Taxes can be triggered through dividend distributions, embedded gains that are distributed each year, and capital gains upon the sale of shares of the fund.
What is the benefit of investing in tax-managed mutual funds?
Tax-managed mutual funds aim to provide returns similar to non-tax managed funds while minimizing taxable transactions within the fund. By eliminating unexpected distributions, investors have more control over the tax year in which capital gains are reported.
What is tax-managed v. tax advantage?
Tax-managed refers to an investment approach that focuses on actively managing investments with the goal of minimizing tax impact and maximizing after-tax returns. It involves strategies such as tax-loss harvesting throughout the year and considering the tax implications of investment decisions. On the other hand, tax advantage generally refers to investments or accounts that provide specific tax benefits, such as tax-free municipal bonds or tax-advantaged retirement accounts such as Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and employer-sponsored plans like 401(k) or 403(b)s. The difference is that tax-managed focuses on actively managing investments to minimize taxes, while tax advantage refers to investments or accounts that inherently provide tax benefits.
Is it worth investing in tax-managed mutual funds?
Tax-managed mutual funds aim to pay zero capital gain distributions, reducing the tax liability for investors. They also strive to minimize dividend income and focus on generating income in the form of qualified dividends, which are subject to more favorable tax rates.
How to invest in a tax-managed fund?
Contact your financial advisor and/or tax professional for advice on how to best invest in tax-managed funds, based on your personal investment objectives and goals.
What are the pros and cons of tax-managed investing?
The pros: Tax-managed investing removes complexity from investing; saves advisors and investors time, effort & money; goes beyond tax loss harvesting with sophisticated investment management strategies; and aims for minimal taxable distributions.

The cons: Tax-managed investing cannot guarantee tax-free returns or better performance compared with traditional funds, and may have higher expenses and/or advisor fees.
Why is tax management important in today’s investing environment?
Taxes can be a significant headwind for taxable investors, and actively managing the impact of taxes on investment portfolios can provide potential benefits for both investors and advisors. Advisors have the opportunity to assist clients in maximizing their after-tax wealth and potentially stand out in the industry by incorporating tax-smart strategies, including tax-loss harvesting, into their services.
What are some sources of assets that could benefit from a tax-managed approach?
The sale of real estate, the sale of a business, deferred compensation, inheritance, insurance proceeds, trusts, and current taxable assets.
What is unique about Russell Investments’ tax-managed funds?
Russell Investments’ tax-managed funds are unique because we’ve had 35+ years of experience in tax management to highly refine our approach. This approach includes active money management, centralized trading & implementation, tax loss harvesting, wash sale minimization, tax-smart turnover, holding period management, and fund yield management.
How does Russell Investments approach tax-managed investing?
Russell Investments employs various principles of tax-managed investing, including year-round tax loss harvesting, reducing turnover, deferring realized gains, and strategically managing tax lots. We also use an internal overlay management team to coordinate trading activity across underlying money managers, enhancing tax efficiency.
What sets Russell Investments apart in tax-managed investing?
Russell Investments has a disciplined tax-managed investment approach with 35+ years' experience. We have been continuously evolving our tax-managed investment expertise. Our active tax-managed investment approach goes beyond tax-loss harvesting, seeking to further increase tax efficiency to help generate the best possible returns.