The VanEck Bitcoin Strategy Fund (XBTF) launched earlier this week, becoming the third bitcoin futures ETF. It joins the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO) and the Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BTF) in using futures contracts to gain exposure to bitcoin, as the SEC has yet to approve an ETF that can own bitcoin directly.
XBTF distinguishes itself from the other bitcoin futures ETFs on the block in that it is structured as a C-corporation rather than as a registered investment company. It has a lower expense ratio — 0.65% compared to 0.95% for ProShares and Valkyrie — and the C-corp structure gives it certain tax advantages.
Registered investment companies pass all income through to investors. C-corps, meanwhile, have to pay taxes at the corporate rate, which will be 22.15% for XBTF. That tax comes directly out of XBTF’s daily net asset value, which will make returns “look worse than the competitors in the near term,” said VanEck’s director of digital asset products, Kyle DaCruz, in an interview with Barron’s.
DaCruz is quick to point out how investors can end up coming out ahead in all of this. ETFs structured as RIC’s distribute 100% of their income, which can be taxed at ordinary income rates. That can be as high as 37%. The C-corp meanwhile, can distribute 40% of its income as qualified dividend income. The taxes here are similar to long-term capital gains taxes, meaning that instead of potentially taking a 37% tax hit, investors instead will only have to pay 15–20%.
The other compelling advantage a C-corp structure has is that it can accrue tax losses and become even more tax efficient in the event that the price of bitcoin falls. “Our fund is appropriate for taxable long-term investors,” said DaCruz.
After a scorching hot November, the digital currency has taken some hits of late, dipping as low as $59,000. Some reasons for the sell-off could be skittishness about China’s crackdown on cryptocurrency and the new tax rules in the infrastructure bill signed into law earlier this week. A new bipartisan bill, however, may allay some of those fears.
In the press release announcing the launch of XBTF, DaCruz said, “Cost and tax treatment are two essential considerations for investors, and we have made both front and center in the design of XBTF. Investors deserve lower cost, transparent, regulated bitcoin exposures, and we’re pleased to be leading that charge with the launch of XBTF and all of our ongoing efforts in the bitcoin and digital assets space.”
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