How Taxes Kill Your Investment Returns
I am often asked why I invest for the long-term. Trading, folks argue argue, is the most logical way to invest your money.
Isn’t it smart to follow trends instead of wait for them?
Well yes….and no. Their are many reasons I don’t trade. Perhaps the biggest are a) I do not like to pay taxes, b) it fits my emotional disposition and c) I think it’s the most profitable way to invest for the long-term.
Over the next few articles I write, I’m going to discuss why I am a long-term value investor and why I never pay attention to short-term trends.
And today I’m going to focus on my desire to avoid paying short-term capital gains taxes.
How Taxes Kill Investment Returns
Paying taxes has a devastating effect on the power of compounding returns in your portfolio.
To show you just how devastating trading stocks (and by default paying taxes) can be on your portfolio I’ve prepared a table below to illustrate.
The Power of Compounding Returns
(or my alternative title “How Taxes Kill Investment Returns”)
Let’s say that both Portfolio A and Portfolio B each begin with a $10,000 investment. In addition, each earns 20 percent each year. But while Portfolio A holds onto the same stock each and every single year for 10 years, Portfolio B does one trade annually (I won’t even show how devastating multiple trades can be).
Portfolio A – Long-Term Holding with Trades Each Year and No Taxes Paid
Year Beginning Value % Return Taxes Paid Yr. End Value
1 $10,000 20 N/A $12,000
2 $12,000 20 N/A $14,400
3 $14,400 20 N/A $17,280
4 $17,280 20 N/A $20,736
5 $20,736 20 N/A $24,883
6 $24,883 20 N/A $29,859
7 $29,859 20 N/A $35,831
8 $35,831 20 N/A $42,998
9 $42,998 20 N/A $51,597
10 $51,597 20 N/A $61,917
As you can see, at the end of year 10, the initial investment of $10,000 is worth $61,917, for a net gain of $51,917.
Now let’s take a look at Portfolio B, where one trade is executed each year creating a single taxable event at a short-term tax rate of 40 percent.
Portfolio B –Account with One Trade Each Year and Taxes Paid
Yr. Beg. Value % Return Pre-Tax Amount Taxes Paid Yr. End Value
1 $10,000 20 $12,000 $800 $11,200
2 $11,200 20 $13,440 $896 $12,544
3 $12,544 20 $15,052 $1,003 $14,049
4 $14,049 20 $16,858 $1,123 $15,734
5 $15,734 20 $18,880 $1,258 $17,541
6 $17,541 20 $21,049 $1,403 $19,646
7 $19,646 20 $23,575 $1,571 $22,003
8 $22,003 20 $26,403 $1,760 $24,642
9 $24,642 20 $29,571 $1,971 $27,600
10 $27,600 20 $33,120 $2,208 $30,912
As you can see, at the end of year 10, the initial investment of $10,000 is worth $30,912 for a net gain of $20,912.
As you can see clearly here, taxes have a devastating effect on the compounding effects of returns on your portfolio. At the end of the ten year period Portfolio A has a total of $61,917. This is in stark contrast to the $30,912 in Portfolio B. The difference? One trade each year and the taxes associated with that.
It’s no secret then why investing greats such as John Templeton, Warren Buffett and Ed Lampert have always preached the importance of finding great companies and holding them for as long as you can.
Having been fortunate enough to have “seen the light” (and the facts) at an early age I’ve been practicing the same philosophy for years. That’s why, much to the astonishment of many of my friends, I’m not glued to the screen each day waiting for news to hit the tape. Oftentimes, their the ones that know about the news of one of my portfolio companies earlier in the day then I do.
To sum up my philosophy in one sentence, my goal is to buy a piece of a company that has great “natural” economics and receive returns commiserate with the economics of the company over a long period of time.
If I never have to sell the company and never have to pay taxes I will be a very happy man.
— By Dylan P. Jovine