Tax Drag

DEFINITION of 'Tax Drag'

The reduction of potential income due to taxes. Drag describes the loss in returns owing to taxation, usually on an investment. Tax drag is commonly used when describing the difference between an investment vehicle that is tax-sheltered and one that is not. For many individuals, tax drag can have a significant effect on overall investment performance.


Tax-efficient investing techniques are very important for recognizing capital gains, transferring wealth and estate planning.

For example, suppose that an individual can invest $1 million in two securities in either Country A (with a 25% withholding tax) or Country B (with a 15% withholding tax). Both securities pay a 2.5% dividend. Security A would return $25,000 minus $6,250 in taxes, for a total of $18,750. Investment B would return $25,000 minus $3,750 in taxes, for a total of $21,250. Therefore, returns would be 1.875% for Security A and 2.125% for Security B, equating to a tax drag of 25 basis points (the difference in returns between the two securities).

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