Finding silver linings with tax-loss harvesting

Daniel Prince, CFA Oct 12, 2023


  • Tax-loss harvesting strategies can be used to realize losses in single stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and ETFs in a taxable account. Investors can sell assets at a loss, then use realized losses to offset realized capital gains as well as ordinary income.1
  • You can’t control investment returns but you can help control how much your clients’ are paying in taxes. With 100% of Core and Core-Plus Bond funds facing an average negative price return of over 20% for the 3-year period,2 the biggest opportunity this Q4 could be tax-loss harvesting in fixed income.
  • BlackRock offers the tools to keep your clients invested. The Tax Evaluator can help you identify tax-loss harvesting opportunities, monitor taxable distributions and find replacement investment ideas.


Markets have been roiled over the past few years, as persistent inflation and rising rates have spooked investors. The pain has been widespread - since the beginning of 2022, U.S. stocks and bonds have posted losses, with bonds down double digits.3 Since 2005, there have only been 10 instances where both stocks and bonds have posted losses over a 20-month period – and all have occurred in the past year.4

Line chart showing the growth of hypothetical $100 invested in US equities vs. US Bonds from Jan. 1, 2022 to August 31st, 2023. US Equities, represented by the S&P U.S. TMI Index, lost 5.0% while US Bonds, represented by Bloomberg US Aggregate Index, lost 11.8%.

Source: Morningstar Direct as of 8/31/23. U.S. equites and U.S. bonds are represented by the S&P U.S. TMI Index and Bloomberg US Aggregate Index respectively. Index performance does not reflect any management fees, transaction costs or expenses. Indexes are unmanaged and one cannot invest directly in an index. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Chart description: Line chart showing the growth of hypothetical $100 invested in U.S. equities vs. U.S. bonds from 1/1/22 – 8/31/23. U.S. equities lost 5.0% while U.S. bonds lost 11.8%.


It can be difficult for clients to want to stay invested while markets whipsaw, and to learn the bitter truth that markets don’t always deliver outsized, orderly returns. Today 100% of Core and Core-Plus Bond fund price returns are negative for the 3- and 5-year periods, with the average fund down over 20%.2 But it’s not all doom and gloom. Taxes are one of the few factors in a portfolio that advisors can seek control over, whereas pretax returns are among the hardest to predict. This year presents a huge opportunity to tax-loss harvest those losses and offset gains today to help lower clients’ 2023 taxes. Advisors can help clients keep their short-term goals in sight, while taking steps to mitigate some of the short-term pain of declining investments.

managing market whipsaws chart

Disclosure: Source: Morningstar, BlackRock as of 9/30/23. For illustrative purposes only. This material is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute investment advice. The information contained herein is based on current tax laws, which may change in the future. BlackRock cannot be held responsible for any direct or incidental loss resulting from applying any of the information provided in this publication or from any other source mentioned. The information provided in this material does not constitute any specific legal, tax or accounting advice. Please consult with qualified professionals for this type of advice. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

* Muni National Bond is represented by the Muni National Interim and Muni National Long Morningstar Categories made up of 245 and 222 funds over the 1- and 3-year periods respectively. MUB is in the Muni National Long Category and MANLX is in the Muni National Interim Category.


Tax-loss harvesting is a strategy in which investors can sell investments at a loss to offset capital gains elsewhere, potentially reducing taxes owed, or help offset up to $3k per year in ordinary income. Investors may use sales proceeds to either buy similar investments to maintain current portfolio objectives, or they can use the opportunity to shift to an investment with a different goal.

The critical insight that can unlock tax-loss harvesting opportunities is that gains and losses are based on the investment’s price return, not its total return. In the case of bond funds, they tend to distribute the bulk of their return in income distributions, pushing their price return usually well below their total return.

Fund standardized performance usually reports only total return, but BlackRock's Tax Evaluator shows the price returns of all of the positions in your portfolio. Given the drawdowns in both bonds and stocks this year, investors have an unprecedented opportunity to reset and modernize portfolios with potentially higher conviction investments.

Be aware that rules preclude investors from recognizing losses and then quickly buying back their original investment or a substantially identical one. These “wash sale” restrictions mandate that an investor cannot realize a loss on the sale of an investment and then buy a “substantially identical” security, beginning 30 days before and ending 30 days after a security sale.5 Depending on the specific securities involved, executing a tax-loss harvesting strategy and reinvesting can be accomplished with ETFs or mutual funds.

tax benefit chart

For illustrative purposes only.

Chart description: Illustration showing an equation and a hypothetical way to tax-loss harvest. The three components of the first side of the equation are: 1) Sell investments that have declined in value, 2) realized losses offset gains on income tax returns, and, 3) reinvest in a similar exposure, or in a new investment objective. The sum of these three parts provide a tax benefit and help you stay invested.


BlackRock can help you identify areas to tax-loss harvest across your client’s portfolio. Upload your portfolio to BlackRock’s Tax Evaluator tool to see price return data for your funds, uncover potential tax-loss harvesting opportunities and discover replacement ideas. The Tax Evaluator tool also allows you to keep track of estimated capital gains and analyze performance and fees for your investments, helping you maintain good portfolio hygiene while keeping your clients invested. While current market volatility may get your clients’ portfolios down, tax-loss harvesting can add value back to potentially finish 2023 strong.

Daniel Prince headshot

Daniel Prince, CFA

Head of iShares product consulting for BlackRock’s U.S. Wealth Advisory Business and U.S. Head of iShares Core ETFs

Kaitlin Arciaga, CFA

Product Consultant


Subscribe for the latest market insights and trends

Get the latest on markets from BlackRock thought leaders including our models strategist, delivered weekly.
Please try again
First Name *
Please enter a valid first name
Last Name *
Please enter a valid last name
Email Address *
Please enter a valid email
Country *
This field is mandatory
Thank you
Thank you
Thank you for your subscription


Explore My Hub, your new personalized dashboard, for portfolio tools, market insights, and practice resources.