Does a Trump Presidency Put Municipal Bond Tax Exemption At Risk?

President-elect Trump has called for increased spending to rebuild infrastructure. This, coupled with calls for tax reform, has municipal bondholders nervous that the federal government will limit or end the tax exemption on their bonds as a way to partially pay for this program. Although possible, we do not believe this is probable for the following reasons.

Municipal bonds have long been the primary financing vehicle for infrastructure spending in the United States. The federal government has stayed largely out of the process, allowing states to price their own deals. The belief has been that this lowers net interest cost as it is more efficient to finance on the local level. Although the federal government could use the revenue, we think that ending the municipal bond tax exemption could lead to court challenges. While tied up in court, new projects might be delayed or canceled, leading to pressure on politicians. This, coupled with the increased borrowing costs as investors demand more yield for the volatility, would diminish the benefit of new revenues collected from municipal bonds.

Another reason we do not see this as probable is the negative impact on the largest buyer, the retail investor. According to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), more than 40% of municipal bonds, totaling more than $1.6 trillion, are held by individuals. This number increases to 70%, or more than $2.6 trillion, when mutual fund holders (including money market mutual funds) are included. Many holders are elderly and rely on tax-exempt income for retirement. They constitute an active voting group that would be very unhappy with changes to its fixed income payments. In addition, they could seek legal recourse because bond deals were marketed and sold to them as tax-free.


In conclusion, the increased costs associated with restructuring the bonds would likely be prohibitive. And even if a change occurred, the process would take years and the bonds that have already been issued would more than likely be grandfathered. In other words, all bonds issued before the tax changes would likely remain tax exempt, increasing the value of existing municipal portfolios. We will continue to watch this issue as more certainty around the incoming Trump administration’s plan of action emerges.






Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The economic forecasts set forth in the presentation may not develop as predicted. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide or be construed as providing specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual security. Investing in stock includes numerous specific risks including: the fluctuation of dividend, loss of principal and potential illiquidity of the investment in a falling market. Bonds are subject to market and interest rate risk if sold prior to maturity. Bond and bond mutual fund values and yields will decline as interest rates rise and bonds are subject to availability and change in price. Municipal bonds are subject to availability, price, and to market and interest rate risk if sold prior to maturity. Bond values will decline as interest rate rise. Interest income may be subject to the alternative minimum tax. Federally tax-free but other state and local taxes may apply. Indices are unmanaged index and cannot be invested into directly. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment. This research material has been prepared by LPL Financial LLC.

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