Tax-Aware Migration Strategies

Betterment for Advisors allows advisors to specify trading migration strategies to easily transition their clients’ portfolios or investment allocations.

  • Advisors have three options when migrating a client to a different portfolio or changing their allocation -- each with its own tax-optimization strategy.
  • Advisors can preview the tax-impact effects of their elections before submitting the change. 

Three options are available, each with its own approach to managing the transition.

Minimize short-term capital gains and wash sales

When this strategy is selected, the client’s goal will be migrated in a tax-optimized way. For taxable accounts, we’ll seek to sell tax lots that are at a loss or have experienced long-term capital gains, but will continue to hold, when possible, tax lots with short-term gains until they either become long-term gains or become losses. For tax-deferred accounts, we will migrate without regard to embedded capital gains. Regardless of account type, we will prioritize avoiding wash sales that could lead to permanently disallowed losses for securities held at Betterment.

For this strategy, it is important to remember that the account may weather high drift in the short run, but Betterment’s algorithms will typically rebalance available losses or long-term gains as they arise, as long as the security sales involved will not cause any permanently disallowed losses.

Drift goal to target portfolio

For this migration strategy, the client’s goal will be gradually drifted to the target portfolio by buying underweight securities with inflows / deposits through dividend reinvestments, and selling overweight securities to fund withdrawals. No securities will be sold as a result of this change.  This election will often result in high drift, especially if the portfolio or allocation change involves a significant change in composition of the portfolio’s holdings.

When “Drift goal to target portfolio” is selected, an additional election must be made to choose whether or not to turn off automated rebalancing. This is necessary because Betterment’s standard rebalancing algorithms operate independently of the migration strategy election. Choosing to disable automated rebalancing for the goals will ensure that a rebalance will not be triggered due to high drift that can be caused by selecting “Drift goal to target portfolio.”

If the advisor elects to leave rebalancing on, Betterment’s automated rebalancing algorithm may take the opportunity to rebalance the goal shortly after the portfolio or allocation change is complete. The rebalancing algorithm avoids sales that realize short-term capital gains or would result in permanently disallowed losses for securities held at Betterment.

Rebalance with no tax-impact constraints

For this migration strategy, the client’s goal will be rebalanced as soon as possible to the target portfolio. Betterment will perform this rebalance in a tax-optimized way to the extent possible, but we will not delay selling shares even if doing so could lead to a more optimal tax outcome. Choosing this option could lead to the realization of wash sales for securities that have been recently sold. After trading is complete on the change, the account will typically be 100% in balance with the target portfolio.

After any of these changes are applied, the strategy election remains active until a subsequent change is made.

For each of these migration strategy options, Betterment’s Tax-Impact Preview feature is available so that the advisor may see an estimation of the effects of the selection.