Midstream ETF Helps Investors Avoid MLP Tax Issues | ETF Trends

Due to the high-yield nature of the asset class, master limited partnerships (MLPs) often land in retirement accounts, but with that move comes some potentially thorny tax outcomes. Advisors can help clients avoid those annoyances with the Alerian Energy Infrastructure ETF (ENFR).

ENFR tracks the Alerian Midstream Energy Select Index (CME: AMEI). ENFR acts as a type of hybrid energy infrastructure ETF, which could help investors capture some of the high yields from MLPs but limits the tax hit from solely owning MLPs.

“Many clients have discovered, to their dismay, that holding master limited partnerships (MLP) inside an individual retirement account (IRA) or simplified employee pension individual retirement arrangement (SEP-IRA) can create serious tax liabilities for the supposedly tax-deferred account,” reports Janet Hagy for Tax Insider. “Filing Form 990-T, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return, and paying tax is required when the MLP has unrelated business taxable income (UBTI) over $1,000 from operations or from the sale of units.”

Examining ENFR Tax Benefits

Traditional MLP funds that hold more than 25% of their portfolios in MLPs are structured as C-Corporations and must pay corporate income tax on distributions before passing them on to investors, which incurs additional tax headaches come tax season that translates to lower overall returns.

ETFs structured as a partnership are unincorporated business entities so they are not subject to the double taxation of a corporation. If the partnership does not elect to be taxed as a corporation, then it also benefits from pass-through taxation so any realized gains and losses flow directly to investors in the fund.

Partnerships are flexible in terms of the types of investments they can make. Unlike grantor trusts, partnerships can invest in other types of commodities like oil or natural gas due to their flexibility.

However, ETFs structured as a partnership falls under the regulatory measures of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. As such, these ETFs are subject to reporting and other financial disclosures.

A fund such as ENFR can make for a practical addition to a retirement account because it’s not an individual MLP and it features exposure to common stocks, helping investors avoid burdensome tax issues.

“MLP units held within an IRA are taxed in basically the same manner as MLP units held in a taxable account. The major difference is that only the UBTI, the ordinary income, and possibly a portion of any capital gains are taxable in the IRA. Since the UBTI amount is provided to the partner on Schedule K-1, Partner’s Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, etc., the other line items can be safely ignored,” according to Tax Adviser.

Other MLP funds include the Global X MLP ETF (NYSEArca: MLPA) and the JPMorgan Alerian MLP Index ETN (NYSEArca: AMJ).

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The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.