Earn $10 when you view your rate on a personal loan *
Bonus deposited into a SoFi Money® account. See terms.

Taxes, Fees, Commissions, and Your Investments

By Colin Dodds · March 19, 2021 · 4 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Taxes, Fees, Commissions, and Your Investments

Earning high returns can be exhilarating. But it’s important to remember that they don’t necessarily represent the money that goes in the bank. Commissions, taxes, and other fees impact the returns any investor makes on their investment.

Just how big a bite these investment expenses take out of an investor’s assets isn’t always instantly clear. But by understanding the fees they pay, and the taxes they’re likely to owe, investors can better plan for the money they’ll actually receive from their investments. And they can also take concrete steps to minimize the effects of fees and taxes.

Investment Expenses 101

There are a few different types of investment expenses an investor may come across as they buy and sell assets. Here are the most common ones.

Fund Fees

Mutual funds are a very popular way for investors to get into the market. They’re the vehicles that most 401(k), 403(b), and IRAs offer investors to save for retirement. But these funds charge fees, starting with a management fee, which pays the fund’s staff to buy and trade investments.

Investors pay this fee as a portion of their assets, whether the investments go up or down. (With employer-sponsored retirement accounts, the employer may cover the fees as long as the account holder is employed by the company.) Management fees vary widely, with some index funds charging as little as .10% of an investor’s assets. But other mutual funds may charge more than 2%.

In addition to the management fee, the fund may also charge for advertising and promotion expenses, known as the 12b-1 fee. Plus, mutual fund investors may have to pay sales charges, especially if they buy funds through a financial planner, or an investment advisor. While the maximum legal sales charge for a mutual fund is 8.5%, the common range is between 3% and 6%.

One way to understand how much of a bite these mutual fund fees take out of an investment on an annual basis is to look at the expense ratio.

Advisor Fees

Investors may also face fees when they hire a professional to help manage their money. Some advisors charge a percentage of invested assets per year. More recently, some advisors have simplified the cost by simply charging an hourly fee.

Broker Fees and Commissions

Even investors who want to manage their own portfolios typically pay a broker for their services in the form of fees and commissions. These fees and commissions may be based on a percentage of the transaction’s value, or they may be rolled into a flat fee. Another factor that may influence the fee: whether an investor uses a full-service broker or a discount broker.

How to Minimize the Cost of Investing

No matter how an investor approaches the market, they can expect to pay some fees. It’s up to each individual to decide whether or not those fees are worth it. For some, paying a professional for hands-on advice is worth the extra annual 1% fee (or more) of their invested assets. For others, minimizing costs may be a priority. Among many options, there are a few investing opportunities that stand out as relatively low-cost.

Index Funds

When investing in mutual funds, one type of fund has established itself as the least expensive in terms of fees: Index funds. That’s because these funds track an index instead of paying analysts and managers to research and trade securities. When it comes to index funds vs. managed funds, proponents typically cite the lower fees.

Automated Investing Platforms

People seeking investing advice or guidance who don’t want to pay typical fees might want to explore automated investing platforms, also known as “robo-advisors.” Some of these platforms charge annual advisory fees as low as .25%. That said, these platforms often use mutual funds, which charge their own fees on top of the platform fees.

Discount Brokerage

Investors who manage their own portfolio may opt for a discount or online brokerage. These brokers tend to charge flat fees per trade as low as $5, with account maintenance fees also often as low $0 to $50 per account.

How Taxes Eat into Investing Profits

There are typically two kinds of taxes that investors have to worry about. The first is income tax, and the second is capital gains tax. In general, income taxes apply to investment earnings in the form of interest payments, dividends, or bond yields. Capital gains, on the other hand, apply to the returns an investor realizes when they sell a stock, bond, or other investment. (The exception: The IRS taxes short-term investments, which an investor has held for less than a year, at that investor’s marginal income tax rate.)

By and large, capital gains tax rates are lower than income tax rates. Income tax rates for high-earners can be as high as 37%, plus a 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT). That means the taxes on those quick gains can be as high as 40.8%—and that’s not including any state or local taxes.

The taxes on long-term capital gains are lower across the board. According to 2021 IRS rules , for investors earning less than $80,000, the capital gains tax rate may be 0%. It goes up depending on income, with couples making between $80,000 and $496,600 paying 15%, and those with income above that level paying 20%.

Strategies to Minimize Taxes

There are a few ways an investor can minimize the impact of taxes on their investments. One popular way to take advantage of the tax code is by investing through a retirement plan, such as a 401(k), 403(b), or IRA. All of these plans encourage people to save for retirement by offering attractive tax breaks.

For tax-deferred accounts like a 401(k) or traditional IRA, the tax break comes on the front end. Retirees will have to pay income taxes on their withdrawals from these plans—at a time when many retirees are on a fixed income. On the other hand, retirement accounts like a Roth 401(k) or Roth IRA are funded with after-tax dollars, and money is not taxed upon withdrawal in retirement.

Another approach some investors may want to consider is tax-loss harvesting. This strategy allows investors to take advantage of investments that lost money by selling them and taking a capital loss (as opposed to a capital gain). That capital loss can help investors reduce their annual tax bill. It can even be used to offset as much as $3,000 in non-investment income.

The Takeaway

Fees and taxes typically do have an impact on an investor’s returns on investments. How much they eat into profit varies, and is largely dependent on what the investments are, how they are being managed, and how long an investor has had them. Other factors include the investor’s income level, and whether they’ve also lost money on other investments.

For investors looking for lower-fee options, the SoFi Invest® online brokerage platform offers an active investing solution that allows you to choose your stocks and ETFs as well as an automated investing solution that invests your money for you based on your goals and risk.

Find out how to get started with SoFi Invest.


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
Stock Bits
Stock Bits is a brand name of the fractional trading program offered by SoFi Securities LLC. When making a fractional trade, you are granting SoFi Securities discretion to determine the time and price of the trade. Fractional trades will be executed in our next trading window, which may be several hours or days after placing an order. The execution price may be higher or lower than it was at the time the order was placed.

SOCO21013

All your finances.
All in one app.

SoFi QR code, Download now, scan this with your phone’s camera

All your finances.
All in one app.

App Store rating

SoFi iOS App, Download on the App Store
SoFi Android App, Get it on Google Play

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender