The exchange traded funds however, have a much lower expense ration ETFs have a lower expense ratio than comparable mutual funds. Not only does an ETF have lower shareholder-related expenses, but because it does not have to invest cash contributions or fund cash redemptions, an ETF does not have to maintain a cash reserve for redemptions and saves on brokerage expenses.
Mutual funds can charge 1% to 3%, or more; index fund expense ratios are generally lower, while ETFs are almost always in the 0.1% to 1% range. Over the long term, these cost differences can compound into a noticeable difference.
The cost difference is more evident when compared with mutual funds that charge a front-end or back-end load as ETFs do not have loads at all. The redemption fee and short-term trading fees are examples of other fees associated with mutual funds that do not exist with ETFs. Traders should be cautious if they plan to trade inverse and leveraged ETFs for short periods of time. Close attention should be paid to transaction costs and daily performance rates as the potential combined compound loss can sometimes go unrecognized and offset potential gains over a longer period of time.
ETFs are structured for tax efficiency and can be more attractive than mutual funds. In the U.S., whenever a mutual fund realizes a capital gain that is not balanced by a realized loss, the mutual fund must distribute the capital gains to its shareholders. This can happen whenever the mutual fund sells portfolio securities, whether to reallocate its investments or to fund shareholder redemptions. These gains are taxable to all shareholders, even those who reinvest the gains distributions in more shares of the fund. In contrast, ETFs are not redeemed by holders (instead, holders simply sell their ETF shares on the stock market, as they would a stock, or effect a non-taxable redemption of a creation unit for portfolio securities), so that investors generally only realize capital gains when they sell their own shares or when the ETF trades to reflect changes in the underlying index.
In most cases, ETFs are more tax-efficient than conventional mutual funds in the same asset classes or categories. Since Vanguard's ETFs are a share-class of their mutual funds, they don't get all the tax advantages if there are net redemptions on the mutual fund shares. Although they do not get all the tax advantages, they get an additional advantage from tax loss harvesting any capital losses from net redemptions.
In the U.K., ETFs can be shielded from capital gains tax by placing them in an Individual Savings Accountt or self-invested personal pension, in the same manner as many other shares.
Perhaps the most important benefit of an ETF is the stock-like features offered. Since ETFs trade on the market, investors can carry out the same types of trades that they can with a stock. For instance, investors can sell short, use a limit order, use a stop-loss order, buy on margin, and invest as much or as little money as they wish (there is no minimum investment requirement). Also, many ETFs have the capability for options (puts and calls) to be written against them. Covered call strategies allow investors and traders to potentially increase their returns on their ETF purchases by collecting premiums (the proceeds of a call sale or write) on calls written against them. Mutual funds do not offer those features.