There’s no question that ETFs are a popular way to gain access to the market. They’re low-cost and tax efficient when compared to mutual funds. But, according to a new research paper, ETFs are not the most profitable after taxes are paid. That distinction belongs to large baskets of individual stocks that aren't found in a fund. The paper, which was posted recently by Roni Israelov, the president and chief investment officer of NDVR, and Jason Lu, a research economist in the economic modeling division of the International Monetary Fund, sought to quantify tax-loss harvesting, the strategy of selling losing assets to offset taxable gains that arise when selling winning ones. The paper found that tax-loss harvesting produced the best results when it's used for groups of individual stocks, not ETFs. In a recent interview, Israelov said "You make more money harvesting single stocks across an entire portfolio than you do in an ETF." The paper adds to a growing body of wealth management firms that have been promoting the merits of tax-loss harvesting and boosting the case for direct indexing, a strategy in which investors chose a basket of securities that mirror an index, but is personalized to their specifications.
Finsum: A new research paper found that tax-loss harvesting produced the best results when it's used for groups of individual stocks, not ETFs, boosting the case for direct indexing.