For most of the last 20 years mutual fund buyers seldom got their money's worth.
They would buy shares in a fund and, at year-end, have to pay taxes on capital gains that were in the fund long before their shares had been purchased.
They had bought a tax liability. The only thing they didn't know was when it would be realized. Here, for example, is what happened to new shareholders in a major fund. This was a common experience for fund investors--- it was in no way unique to Merrill Lynch funds.
On January 1, 2000 an investor buys 269.76 shares of Merrill Lynch Value "C" shares for $37.07 a share. He writes a check for $10,000. Eight months later he receives his first capital gains distribution of 24.18 shares at $34.95 a share. That's a taxable distribution of $845. At the end of December he gets a second capital gains distribution of 24.46 shares at $31.71. That's $775.76 of taxable distribution. During the same period the investor also received $74.46 in dividend distributions.
So what happened?
The investor has to redeem 15.24 shares at $31.71 a share to pay taxes of $483.29. He ends the year with an investment worth $9,684.56. The same thing happens in 2001 when they receive another $932.72 in capital gains distribution and $36.80 in dividend distributions even though the share price has plunged to $28.
It even happens this year when they receive an August capital gains distribution of 9.72 shares at $22.75 a share or $221.03--- although the value of their original investment is less than $8,000.
Today that won't happen. It won't happen because the average domestic equity fund now has an unrealized loss or loss carry forward equal to 55 percent of its net asset value. Many, according to the Morningstar database, have losses equal to 100 percent of their current portfolio value or more.
As a result, you and I have an opportunity--- if we dare exercise it--- to make new investments with sublime confidence that our fund can double or triple in value with virtually no tax liability.
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