The sixth edition of "The Individual Investor's Guide to No-Load Mutual Funds" was recently issued by the American Association of Individual Investors, an an independent, nonprofit association dedicated to educating individuals in the effective management of their financial assets.
The new edition of the guide contains a full page of information -- as of the end of 1986 -- on each of the 316 true no-load funds, including things like investment policy, dividends, portfolio turnover, expense ratios and total annual return. Funds are ranked in eight categories according to investment objectives, such as aggressive growth, tax-exempt bond or international.
The listings are preceded by chapters that explain some basic concepts of investing, tax strategies and record-keeping, all oriented to mutual fund investing. The guide is free to members of the association; it is available to others for $19.95 in some bookstores or by mail from the American Association of Individual Investors, 612 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 317, Chicago, Ill. 60611.
If you're willing to settle for a lot less information while spending a lot less money, try the "Guide to Mutual Funds," an 80-page booklet published by the Investment Company Institute. This guide contains some explanatory material, then lists (in categories similar to those used in the AAII book) a large number of funds, including the phone number for each (a toll-free number in most cases).
There is no information on performance, and no data on fees -- the list doesn't distinguish between load and no-load. The booklet costs $1 for postage and handling, and is useful for looking up addresses and phone numbers of nearly 1,500 funds. Write to the Investment Company Institute, P.O. Box 66140, Washington, 20035-6140.
In 1979 I bought 150 shares of a utility company. From that time until June 1986 I reinvested dividends in additional shares, and accumulated about 500 shares. During that time I took advantage of the $750 annual tax deferment. For tax purposes, how do I figure the cost of 350 shares I would like to sell?
You have two choices. If you can identify the 350 shares you sell, then you use the basis of those 350 shares for figuring gain or loss. For example, if you choose to sell the 350 shares that have accumulated in the reinvestment account, the cost basis is zero for those shares on which tax was deferred, plus the actual cost (as reported on your tax return) for all other shares.
If you don't specify the shares to be sold, then you must use FIFO -- first-in-first-out. That is, the 150 shares you bought originally are considered sold, plus the first 200 of the shares in the dividend reinvestment plan. Average cost basis -- a third method -- may be used only for calculating capital gain or loss on the disposition of mutual fund shares.
qa Having qualified for the support requirements for federal and D.C. taxes, I have claimed my mother as a dependent and head-of-household status for more than 20 years. Mother died Jan. 28. Can I claim her as a dependent and file as head of household for 1987 taxes?
Yes. A dependent who dies at any time during the year may be claimed as a dependent for the full year, as long as she continued to meet the tests during the period before her death. That dependent status, in turn, qualifies you to file for 1987 as head of household.
qa In the past the IRS allowed recipients of pensions and annuities to elect to have zero withholding from their monthly checks, and instead make quarterly estimated payments. Has there been any change as a result of the new tax law? Is military retirement pay included in the category of "pensions and annuities?"
Yes, military retirement pay is considered a pension for this purpose. And you may still elect not to have tax withheld from your retirement pay, normally by checking that choice on the Form W-4P you file with your retirement pay office.
Abramson is a family financial counselor and tax adviser. Questions of general interest on tax matters, insurance, investments, estate planning and other aspects of family finances will be answered in this column. Advice cannot be given on an individual basis. Address all questions to E.M. Abramson, The Washington Post, Business & Finance News, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.