ETF Tax Tutorial: Complete List Of ETFs That Issue A K-1

by on February 13, 2012 | Updated January 8, 2015

ETFs have become so popular in part because of the tax efficiencies that they offer relative to traditional mutual funds. Due to the nuances of the creation / redemption mechanism, ETFs are generally able to give investors more control over their tax situation–instead of pinning them with capital gains obligations due to the activities of other investors.

Unfortunately, however, the tax treatment of exchange-traded products cannot be summed up simply as being more efficient than mutual funds. There are various complexities across the different product structures that impact the effective tax liabilities that will be incurred on gains. And there are also some nuances that impact how taxes on various ETP positions must be reported that are of major importance to some financial advisors.

As a general rule, gains and losses for a typical ETP are reported on Form 1099, but there are a number of ETPs that are structured as partnerships and as such, will issue a K-1. Exchange traded funds that utilize futures contracts, whether that be commodity, currency, or volatility, or any other product that is structured as a partnership will send out K-1s. As taxes are such an important part of investing, we outline the complete list of ETFs that issue a K-1 for anyone looking to avoid a more complex tax filing, or simply to educate those on who may be unaware of how their investment is treated from a tax perspective [see also The Ten Commandments of Commodity Investing].

What is a K-1?

There is a fair amount of confusion over what exactly a K-1 is and what receiving one of these statements means. A K-1 is a tax document used to report share of profits and losses from interests in limited partnerships. These documents become relevant because many exchange-traded products are technically structured as partnerships, meaning that investors are actually limited partners. Partnerships are typically not required to pay taxes directly, instead passing through those obligations to individual partners. They do that by sending a K-1 to partners each year detailing their interest in the operations of the partnership [see also Analyzing Five High Yielding Oil & Gas Pipeline Stocks].

Many investors wish to avoid K-1s primarily because of the inconvenience caused. Schedule K-1 tends to be one of the last documents provided to taxpayers, potentially delaying the timing of their filings. For advisors with hundreds of clients, the administrative burden associated with K-1s can be less-than-optimal. But it should also be noted that receipt of a K-1 generally means a taxable event–even if the related position has not been liquidated. In other words, securities that issue a K-1 may require investors to report and pay taxes on gains annually, even if the security has not been sold.

For some, K-1s are not a significant issue–simply a minor inconvenience. Others try to avoid these schedules at all costs, preferring to use exchange-traded products that can be reported on a Form 1099. Below, we break down the complete list of ETFs that issue a K-1 by their respective asset classes.

Commodity ETPs

Commodity ETPs make up the majority of the K-1 issuing space, as many of these products are structured as partnerships that utilize futures contracts to offer exposure. It should be noted that physically-backed ETPs such as GLD do not issue K-1s, nor do commodity ETNs. The following table is a list of all commodity ETPs as of May 2014 that issue a K-1 [see also 12 High-Yielding Commodities For 2012].

Ticker ETF Expense Ratio
 AGQ Ultra Silver  0.95%
 BNO United States Brent Oil Fund  0.75%
 BOIL Ultra DJ-UBS Natural Gas  0.95%
 CANE Sugar Fund  1.00%
 CMD UltraShort DJ-UBS Commodity  0.95%
 CORN Corn Fund  1.42%
 CPER United States Copper Index Fund  0.95%
 CRUD WTI Crude Oil Fund  1.54%
 DBA DB Agriculture Fund  0.75%
 DBB DB Base Metals Fund  0.75%
 DBC DB Commodity Index Tracking Fund  0.75%
 DBE DB Energy Fund  0.75%
 DBO DB Oil Fund  0.75%
 DBP DB Precious Metals Fund  0.75%
 DBS DB Silver Fund  0.50%
 DGL DB Gold Fund  0.50%
 DNO United States Short Oil Fund  0.60%
 GCC Continuous Commodity Index Fund  0.85%
 GLL UltraShort Gold  0.95%
 GSG GSCI Commodity-Indexed Trust Fund  0.75%
 KOLD UltraShort DJ-UBS Natural Gas  0.95%
 NAGS Natural Gas Fund  1.50%
 SCO UltraShort DJ-UBS Crude Oil  0.95%
 SOYB Soybean Fund  1.00%
 UCD Ultra DJ-UBS Commodity  0.95%
 UCO Ultra DJ-UBS Crude Oil  0.95%
 UGA United States Gasoline Fund LP  0.60%
 UGL Ultra Gold  0.95%
 UHN United States Heating Oil Fund LP  0.60%
 UNG United States Natural Gas Fund LP  0.60%
 UNL United States 12 Month Natural Gas Fund  0.75%
 USCI United States Commodity Index Fund  0.95%
 USL United States 12 Month Oil  0.60%
 USO United States Oil Fund  0.45%
 WEAT Wheat Fund  1.00%
 ZSL UltraShort Silver  0.95%

Currency ETPs

Currency products also have a strong representation in the K-1 space, as a number utilize futures contracts to fulfill their methodologies. Again, not all currency ETPs issue a K-1; the actively-managed currency ETFs from WisdomTree, ETNs from iPath, and grantor trusts from Rydex allow for avoidance of these documents. The following table is a list of all currency ETPs that issue a K-1 as of May 2014.

Ticker ETF Expense Ratio
 EUO UltraShort Euro  0.95%
 DBV DB G10 Currency Harvest  0.75%
 UDN DB USD Index Bearish  0.50%
 ULE Ultra Euro  0.95%
 UUP DB USD Index Bullish  0.50%
 YCL Ultra Yen  0.95%
 YCS UltraShort Yen  0.95%

Alternative ETPs

The following five ETFs employ unique strategies that put them into the alternatives category. As a rule of thumb, you should always do careful research before investing in a fund with a complex strategy. The following table is a list of all alternative ETPs that issue a K-1 as of May 2014:

Ticker ETF Expense Ratio
 SVXY Short VIX Short-Term Futures ETF  0.95%
 UVXY Ultra VIX Short-Term Futures ETF  0.95%
 VIXM VIX Mid-Term Futures ETF  0.85%
 VIXY VIX Short-Term Futures ETF  0.85%

Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.