ETF avoiding dividend

I wanted to run through someone else an idea on how to avoid dividends on ETFs.

Let’s assume I invest 100k USD in ETF that pays dividend twice a year of 1% (each). So twice a year I get 1000 USD. That is obviously taxable. Let’s assume 20% - so taxman wants 200 USD.

But usually ETF’s drop by that 1k on dividend ex-date.

What if I sell that ETF day before ex-date and immediately buy another one (let’s assume ideal replacement, TER and so on). And on ex-date I switch back (or not to save on transaction cost).

Now there was no dividend payment to me, so no taxable income.

Is there a hole in my thinking? Or perhaps that is already foreseen in tax law and illegal?

The biggest issue is that you would likely have to sell all your shares every 3 months.

You may then be considered as a professional trader and therefore be taxed on your capital gains as well. And if you portfolio is small, you may lose more than what you gain.

Moreover, most ETFs of the same index may be on the same ex-dividend date. In which case, you would have to be out of the market and therefore may losing money if the stock market goes up more than you think.

I really don’t think it’s worth it.


Thanks, just checked and Vanguard and iShares are off by one day or more. So that is fine. Transaction cost in US with IB is also enough.

So I guess professional trader only, that might be the problem.

It is however completely legal to optimize the buying time of an ETF. For ETF reinvesting the dividend there is a day where the dividend is considered paid (even if you do not see any money on that day) by the tax office. It is good to know which day it is in order to avoid buying the ETF few weeks before the dividend fiscal day.

1 Like

Someone on this forum said it’s illegal to do that.

1 Like

Not if you are only buying.

bullshit. worst case they just slap you with more taxes

That’s the opposite :slight_smile:

He was confusing it with cumex files case, where the fraudulent thing was that people were asking for refunds of same withholding taxes multiples times

As far as I know, the best you can do is trade an Accumulating Fund (Thesaurierungsfond) vs. a Distributing Fund (Ausschüttungsfond). For the Accumulating Fund there is a day that for tax reason is considered the day when you earn income (e.g. 31-Jul). So you only need 4 trades (sell Acc buy Distr and then back) per year around this date, and there is usually plenty of time to do this trades (not days, but weeks/months).
You need to be careful with trading the 2 ETFs at relative good prices (check ratio of NAVs).
You might not be able to avoid all taxes, because if you use Irish ETFs for example they suffer 15% withholding tax and that wold go in the NAV calculation and should be reflected in market prices.

check out these for example: and

What you’ve described is a premeditated tax avoidance* scheme. If tax authorities find out - which might not be a given but certainly is a risk - they could still tax you on the avoided income.
Beyond that, it is reasonable to assume that subsequent tax declarations will be put under higher scrutiny and/or you’d be considered a professional trader.

“Steuerumgehung” would be the (german) word to google for. While it does not seem to have been defined explicitly, it is established in case law (as an abuse of law).

1 Like

If you fill out your tax statement correctly they will know because you have to state both buy and sell dates.

They will of course able to see the transactions- Question is if (or when) they are going to notice the pattern though, and do anything about it.

Like everywhere, even their staffing levels, resources and attention will be limited. And there probably will be higher-profile cases to go after (though also lower-profile ones).

My tax office has accepted taxable income numbers on accumulating mutual funds that I calculated myself, without ever asking for further documentation or anything. Though maybe as I was a small fish and the bank wouldn’t have exchanged information at all before AEIO in 2018.
On the other hand, they also point-blank miscorrected my figures in the tax return for an investment account once (that is, the numbers on the tax return I sent them were correct, their attempt at correcting went wrong), only for a couple of thousands of CHF (less than 10k), which I then paid a few francs of wealth tax for.

I missed the professional trader thing so not going to do that. Just wondering do they publish dividend ex-date for accumulating funds for 2019? I see only 2018.

I just started this year so never had to go through the process - question - if you buy normal company stock do you also have to state everything? If you do more transactions per year that might be a bit of red-tape overhead.

Also what is currency conversion rate if you get EUR dividend? Dividend ex-date, average rate for year or 31st Dec?

On ex-div dates for accumulating funds, looking back a few years it seems it is always 31.07 for this s&p fund.
For the distributing funds I think the ETF provider publishes the schedule.
On the prof trader thing: there are some guidelines and different cantons take different approaches, but it is not that easy to be classified as a professional trader. I don’t know of any case personally, would be interested if someone on the forum knows of anybody that has been classified as professional trader and what have they done.
For 4 trades, involving 2 different funds, not selling and buying the same before and after ex date, it seems to be quite a stretch to make a case that you are a trader.
Anyway there are other reasons not to do it, like being able and knowledgeable enough to trade the 2 ETFs at the right relative price.

The trading itself wouldn’t be my top concern. Just sell the one ETF and buy back the other at a (lower) limit such that it will cover your trading costs. Sounds pretty simple and straightforward to me. And at 100k USD your order should easily get filled, due to normal volatility, and the ex-dividend effect.

Being classified as a professional trader? Also seems a strecht to me, if you’re not trading much more.

I had an ETF with an ex date 31.07. so I always had to extend my tax declaration until september because only then the data appeared in ictax

There’s no need to wait for that reason, you can just leave income field empty and they will fill it in for you when they process your forms


Isn’t tax declaration always made for the previous calendar year?
Or was this a new ETF not present in ICTAX beforehand?
I don’t understand why would you need to wait for this year’s dividend data to claim past year’s tax.
(disclaimer: I never did a full tax declaration so far, asking for my better understanding)

Yes. Here in Vaud we have until June 2019 (even if they say March, read the fine print) to send our declaration for 2018.

Sometimes ICTax doesn’t know about a certain security. Sometimes it does but taxable income is calculated later on.

What might happen is that the deadline to file your tax return may arrive and the value is not on ICTax yet. This is particularly cumbersome for accumulation funds because you have no way of knowing what to declare.

So what I’ve done when that has happened is what @hedgehog suggested: you leave income empty and then I added a note saying that the data was not yet available at the date of filing.

1 Like