Is Vanguard a Billion Dollar Tax-Dodger?
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Monday, July 28, 2014

Is Vanguard a Billion Dollar Tax-Dodger?

You know what they say about death and taxes.

It looks like Vanguard is facing its own taxation grim reaper via a complaint filed in New York State Supreme Court under the whistleblower False Claims Act, as first reported by the the Wall Street Journal.

The complaint, filed by former Vanguard associate counsel David Danon, alleges that the low cost giant evaded $1 billion in federal incomes taxes and at least $20 million in New York state taxes during the past ten years, according to the Journal.

According to the complaint, Vanguard violated tax laws by making its fees "artificially low," and that it made false filings claiming that it paid taxes. However, Danon alleges in the complaint, Vanguard made no filings between 2004 and 2011.

To be sure, the news caught like fire in the financial press, catching the attention of outlets such as InvestmentNews; Reuters, and the the Philadelphia Daily News. It also caught the attention of noted tax academic Paul Caron.

A second Philadelphia Daily News article quoted Daniel Wiener, editor of the Independent Advisor for Vanguard Investors, about the possible implications of the suit -- should Vanguard lose:

Letís start by saying Iím not a tax attorney. I canít debate the merits of the lawsuit or some of the allegations presented in it.

But from a broader perspective, this assault on Vanguardís ďat costĒ operating principle could, if successfully challenged, have seismic implications for the fund industry and possibly put competitors on a more level playing field with Vanguard as far as costs are concerned...

A Vanguard spokesperson told InvestmentNews that the case was without merit.

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