Wealthfront’s US Direct Indexing
US Direct Indexing , formerly known as Stock-level Tax-Loss Harvesting, is an enhanced form of Tax-Loss Harvesting that looks for movements in individual stocks to harvest more tax losses and lower your tax bill even more. US Direct Indexing is available for taxable accounts of at least $100,000, and once your account balance reaches $500,000, we will automatically weight your investments more intelligently with Smart Beta. If you add US Direct Indexing to your portfolio and your account balance is under $100,000, you’ll hold VTI (or SCHB) until your account balance reaches the minimum.
How does it work?
Instead of using a single ETF (such as VTI) or index fund to invest in US stocks, US Direct Indexing purchases up to 100 or 600 (depending on your account size) of the individual stocks with the largest market capitalizations in the US equity market on a market-weighted basis, along with a completion ETF of smaller companies, to match the behavior of an ETF that seeks to represent the total market of US stocks (VTI). This allows us to take advantage of the countless opportunities for tax-loss harvesting presented by the movement of individual stocks, to further improve your investment performance.
What does it cost?
US Direct Indexing and Smart Beta are available at no additional cost.
Why is US Direct Indexing only available for taxable accounts?
The primary benefit of US Direct Indexing is the ability to harvest losses on individual stocks that can be used to reduce your tax liability. Because IRAs are tax-deferred accounts, you don’t owe taxes on gains and aren’t allowed to apply realized losses to reduce your taxes. This means Tax-Loss Harvesting and US Direct Indexing are of no value in IRA accounts. The same goes for Smart Beta, which is built on top of our US Direct Indexing service.
Why can’t I gain the benefits of US Direct Indexing from holding a broad US market ETF?
Low-cost ETFs and index funds are very good investments and form the core of every Wealthfront recommended portfolio. However, ETF and index funds have one disadvantage — legally, they can’t pass on tax losses to their investors.
So while an ETF such as VTI is able to use the movements of individual component stocks and its own cash inflows and outflows to minimize or eliminate any taxable gain passed on to you, it is never able to pass on any tax losses that you’re able to write off against gains in other assets or your regular income.
Thus, an ETF or index fund investment is never able to generate a tax-loss harvesting benefit from the movement of its individual component stocks.
What other automated investment services offer US Direct Indexing and Smart Beta?
To learn more, watch this video or read our US Direct Indexing white paper.
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When Wealthfront replaces investments with “similar” investments as part of the tax-loss harvesting strategy, it is a reference to investments that are expected, but are not guaranteed, to perform similarly and that might lower an investor’s tax bill while maintaining a similar expected risk and return on the investor’s portfolio. Wealthfront assumes no responsibility to any investor for the tax consequences of any transaction.
Tax loss harvesting may generate a higher number of trades due to attempts to capture losses. There is a chance that Wealthfront trading attributed to tax loss harvesting may create capital gains and wash sales and could be subject to higher transaction costs and market impacts. In addition, tax loss harvesting strategies may produce losses, which may not be offset by sufficient gains in the account and may be limited to a $3,000 deduction against income. The utilization of losses harvested through the strategy will depend upon the recognition of capital gains in the same or a future tax period, and in addition may be subject to limitations under applicable tax laws, e.g., if there are insufficient realized gains in the tax period, the use of harvested losses may be limited to a $3,000 deduction against income and distributions. Losses harvested through the strategy that are not utilized in the tax period when recognized (e.g., because of insufficient capital gains and/or significant capital loss carryforwards), generally may be carried forward to offset future capital gains, if any.
Wealthfront’s investment strategies, including portfolio rebalancing and tax loss harvesting, can lead to high levels of trading. High levels of trading could result in (a) bid-ask spread expense; (b) trade executions that may occur at prices beyond the bid ask spread (if quantity demanded exceeds quantity available at the bid or ask); (c) trading that may adversely move prices, such that subsequent transactions occur at worse prices; (d) trading that may disqualify some dividends from qualified dividend treatment; (e) unfulfilled orders or portfolio drift, in the event that markets are disorderly or trading halts altogether; and (f) unforeseen trading errors. The performance of the new securities purchased through the tax-loss harvesting service may be better or worse than the performance of the securities that are sold for tax-loss harvesting purposes.
Wealthfront only monitors for tax-loss harvesting for accounts within Wealthfront. The client is responsible for monitoring their and their spouse's accounts outside of Wealthfront to ensure that transactions in the same security or a substantially similar security do not create a “wash sale.” A wash sale is the sale at a loss and purchase of the same security or substantially similar security within 30 days of each other. If a wash sale transaction occurs, the IRS may disallow or defer the loss for current tax reporting purposes. More specifically, the wash sale period for any sale at a loss consists of 61 calendar days: the day of the sale, the 30 days before the sale, and the 30 days after the sale. The wash sale rule postpones losses on a sale, if replacement shares are bought around the same time.
The effectiveness of the tax-loss harvesting strategy to reduce the tax liability of the client will depend on the client’s entire tax and investment profile, including purchases and dispositions in a client’s (or client’s spouse’s) accounts outside of Wealthfront and type of investments (e.g., taxable or nontaxable) or holding period (e.g., short- term or long-term). Except as set forth below, Wealthfront will monitor only a client’s (or client’s spouse’s) Wealthfront accounts to determine if there are unrealized losses for purposes of determining whether to harvest such losses. Transactions outside of Wealthfront accounts may affect whether a loss is successfully harvested and, if so, whether that loss is usable by the client in the most efficient manner.
A client may also request that Wealthfront monitor the client’s spouse’s accounts or their IRA accounts at Wealthfront to avoid the wash sale disallowance rule. A client may request spousal monitoring online or by calling Wealthfront at 844-995-8437. If Wealthfront is monitoring multiple accounts to avoid the wash sale disallowance rule, the first taxable account to trade a security will block the other account(s) from trading in that same security for 30 days.
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