The 411 on Distributions

2 min read

Brought to you by Sound Choices - AGF Education for Investors and Advisors

Distributions are payments from a fund to the investor and can derive from multiple sources, such as income and capital gains realized from securities held within the underlying funds as well as return of capital.

Components of a distribution may consist of:

  • Dividends. Income earned on Canadian and foreign equities.
  • Interest. Income derived primarily from fixed-income products such as bonds, GICs and cash equivalents.
  • Realized Capital Gains. The gain received when an investment is sold at a higher price than purchased at.
  • Return of Capital. Occurs when a mutual fund “returns” a portion of the money you invested in the fund, typically resulting from the fund paying a higher amount of distribution compared to the net income and gains earned by the fund.

What You Need to Know

1. Distributions do not create wealth

Wealth gets created when a fund receives dividends and interest from the underlying holdings, and through realized capital gains when holdings are sold at a profit. A distribution, when reinvested, creates units without changing the total value of the investment.

Here is an example to illustrate how it works:

Units Price Total
Day 1 Pre-distribution 1,000 $10.00 $10,000
Declared Distribution: $0.10/unit 10 $9.90 $100
Day 2 Ex-distribution 1,000 $9.90 $9,900
Post-distribution reinvestment 1,010 $10,000

When the fund declares a distribution of $0.10 per unit and reinvests it, there are two results:

  1. The unit price drops by the amount of the distribution paid ($0.10) presuming the market is steady.
  2. The number of units owned increases when the value of the distribution is used to buy additional units of the fund at the post-distribution price ($100 distribution buys 10 units of the fund at $9.90/unit).

Although you now own additional units of the fund, the distribution does not affect the total dollar value of the investment as you own more units valued at a lower price.

2. ‘Distributions’ and ‘Dividends’ are not the same

A fund distribution can be comprised of dividends, earned interest, realized net capital gains and return of capital.

Dividends are only a component of distribution. They can be earned by a fund holding Canadian or foreign companies paying a dividend per share.

3. The higher the distribution amount does not mean the better the fund

All funds have different objectives and may have different distribution policies. One series of a mutual fund, for example, may target a 3% payout while another series of the same fund may target a 5% payout, despite holding the same investments.

If a fund cannot cover its target distribution from earned income (interest, dividends and realized capital gains), it will return capital to the investor, depleting the principal available to grow.

4. Distributions are not an indicator of a fund’s performance

Distribution is often misconstrued as positive performance of a fund. However, a distribution may include a combination of earnings and/or return of capital. The portion of the distribution relating to earnings only represents a part of the fund’s total return.

Overall appreciation in market value is a better indication of how well a fund is performing.

5. Distributions can either be reinvested in additional units of the fund or paid out as cash.

Deciding which is best for you will be determined by account type and preference for income or to maximize growth.

The best ways to maximize compound growth is to:

  • Reinvest all distributions in additional units to grow your principal, rather than getting paid out in cash.
  • Take advantage of tax sheltered plans such as a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) which defers any tax on distributions as long as the funds remain registered and/or in a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) where all investment income is tax-free.

Which tax reporting slips are provided in order to report distributions paid?

Funds or portfolios

If the trust funds or portfolios paid a distribution in 2023, a “consolidated” T3/RL-16 slip:

  • Will be mailed (usually with the annual statement, aggregating the reporting of distributions from funds or portfolios.)
  • Would be issued unless the income consists solely of “other income” (usually interest) and is less than $1.


Corporate class mutual funds are “classes” of a mutual fund corporation. A corporate class structure does not distribute interest or foreign income to its investors and is able to offset any income or gains earned within the corporate class structure against expenses from anywhere within the mutual fund corporation.

If the classes invested in paid a dividend and/or a distribution in 2023, a “consolidated” T5/RL-3 slip:

  • Will be mailed (usually with the annual statement, aggregating the reporting of the dividends and/or distributions from the classes in each account).
  • Would be issued unless the dividend and/or distribution per account in the year was less than $1 (refer to the annual statement).
NOTE: Distributions received on funds held within a tax-deferred plan, such as an RRSP, are not required to be reported as taxable income as long as they stay within the plan.

What about ETFs? Are they taxed like mutual funds or like securities?

If an ETF is set up like a mutual fund trust, it would pass through both income and capital gains earned within the fund to unitholders in the form it was received by the fund – for example, income earned is passed through as income. ETFs generally pay capital gains at year-end in the year they are earned and pay income in the first few weeks following year-end. As with mutual funds, this is only applicable to investors holding ETFs in non-registered accounts.

NOTE: Because AGF doesn’t maintain records of ETF unitholders, brokers are responsible for providing all tax reporting for investors, including preparing T3 forms.

To better understand your investment, please contact your financial advisor. Don’t have a financial advisor? Before you start your search, read about working with a financial advisor.

AGF ETFs are ETFs offered by AGF Investments Inc. ETFs are listed and traded on organized Canadian exchanges and may only be bought and sold through licensed dealers.
The payment of distributions should not be confused with a fund’s performance, rate of return or yield. If distributions paid by the fund are greater than the performance of the fund, your original investment will shrink. Distributions paid as a result of capital gains realized by a fund, and income and dividends earned by a fund, are taxable in your hands in the year they are paid. Your adjusted cost base will be reduced by the amount of any returns of capital. If your adjusted cost base falls below zero, you will have to pay capital gains tax on the amount below zero.
Commissions, trailing commissions, management fees and expenses all may be associated with investment fund investments. Please read the prospectus before investing. Investment funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated

This material is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not a recommendation of any specific investment product, strategy, or decision, and is not intended to suggest taking or refraining from any course of action. It is not intended to address the needs, circumstances, and objectives of any specific investor. This information is not meant as tax or legal advice. Investors should consult a financial advisor and/or tax professional before making investment, financial and/or tax-related decisions.

AGF Investments is a group of wholly owned subsidiaries of AGF Management Limited, a Canadian reporting issuer. The subsidiaries included in AGF Investments are AGF Investments Inc. (AGFI), AGF Investments America Inc. (AGFA), AGF Investments LLC (AGFUS) and AGF International Advisors Company Limited (AGFIA). AGFA and AGFUS are registered advisors in the U.S. AGFI is registered as a portfolio manager across Canadian securities commissions. AGFIA is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland and registered with the Australian Securities & Investments Commission. The subsidiaries that form AGF Investments manage a variety of mandates comprised of equity, fixed income and balanced assets.

All World Tax Advantage Group is a mutual fund corporation that currently offers approximately 20 different classes of securities. In addition to fund diversification by investment style, geography and market capitalization, a key benefit of investing in any of the classes within the group is the possibility of sharing incurred expenses (and losses) of the combined structure, potentially offsetting income earnings to minimize chance of a dividend declaration. While the articles of AGF All World Tax Advantage Group Limited provide authority to make distributions out of capital and AGF All World Tax Advantage Group Limited intends both to calculate capital in the manner contemplated by the corporate statute for corporations that are not mutual fund corporations and only to declare distributions out of capital if there is sufficient capital attributable to a series, no definitive case law exists to confirm that a mutual fund corporation may make distributions of capital and how they are to be calculated. Further, no advance income tax ruling has been requested or obtained from Canada Revenue Agency, nor is AGF aware of any published advance income tax ruling or the possibility of obtaining such a ruling regarding the characterization of such distributions or the calculation of capital for such purposes.

® ™ The “AGF” logo and all associated trademarks are registered trademarks or trademarks of AGF Management Limited and used under licence.

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November 27, 2023