Buying Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) in Ireland

An Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) is essentially a portfolio of shares managed by an investment professional. Shares in an ETF can be bought and sold through a stockbroker just like shares in a company.

An ETF, sometimes referred to as a tracker, is a product that follows an index, commodity, bond or composition of products. You can think of it as a basket of securities.

Shares in an ETF are listed on stock exchanges, just like shares in individual companies. ETFs provide individual investors with an opportunity to buy a varied portfolio of stocks, in the same way as if they were dealing in a single listed share.

In recent years it seems that investors have flocked to ETFs because they are easily tradeable and usually have low management charges.

ETF s are an easy and cost effecttive way for investors to achieve returns from indices without having to purchase the stocks. They offer a convenient alternative to purchasing all of the underlying securities of a particular index. ETFs generally have lower expense ratio when compared with mutual funds.

For most investors, ETFs offer a lot more diversification than you’d ever hope to achieve by building your own portfolio of shares.
ETFs are also generally much easier and cheaper to manage than a portfolio of self-selected shares.
If you just own a small handful of individual shares, a poor performance from one share will have a much larger impact.

Of course – as with any stock market-based investment there is always a risk of losing money.

  • ETFs typically aim to track a specific stock market or index such as the FTSE 100 , FTSE 250 , ISEQ, S&P 500 etc.
  • ETFs have charges built in to cover the fund manager’s operational costs. These charges tend to be very low, often below 0.2% a year.
  • ETFs are very popular. As of 31 December 2016 there was more than €287 billion in just 688 Irish ETFs.

Some Popular ETFs

Vanguard FTSE AW : This ETF seeks to track the performance of the FTSE All-World Index. This is a market-capitalisation weighted index of stocks of global large and mid-cap companies in developed and emerging countries.

iShares Core FTSE 100 UCITS ETF : This tracker ETF follows the FTSE 100 index – the 100 largest UK companies trading on the London Stock Exchange.

iShares Euro Stoxx 50 UCITS ETF – This tracker aims to reflect the return of the EURO STOXX50 Index. This is the benchmark index that measures the performance of the 50 largest companies in the Eurozone.

Vanguard S&P 500 : This tracker ETF tracks the performance of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index that is comprised of the stocks of 500 large US companies.

Where Can You Buy ETFs in Ireland ?

In our recent article about Buying Shares in Ireland – we compared the share dealing charges of some online stockbrokers available in Ireland. (DEGIRO , Davy , Goodbody, Interactive Brokers )

All of these stockbrokers will allow you to buy ETFs. Trading shares in an ETF will normally have the same costs as trading any other share.

In our stockbroker comparison , the cheapest way to buy shares in Ireland was at DEGIRO

Some stockbrokers offer reduced fees for some ETFs.

DEGIRO, for example, offers commission-free trading in over 150 European ETFs. Every calendar month, your first trade executed in an ETF from their “Free ETF Selection” is free.

What is UCITS ?

Many ETFs will have the letters UCITS mentioned in their name. UCITS stands for “Undertakings for the Collective Investment in Transferable Securities”. This refers to a regulatory framework that allows for the sale of cross-Europe mutual funds.
UCITS funds are perceived as safe and well-regulated investments and are popular among many investors looking to invest across Europe.

Taxation of ETFs

Tax on gains from ETFs is not the same as the taxation of gains on shares of individual companies.
When you buy a single company share you are taxed in 2 ways on any gains.

a) If you get dividends you declare this to Revenue and pay your margin rate of tax on that income.
b) When you sell the shares you will be liable for Capital Gains Tax of 33% on any growth above €1,270 per annum.

Taxation of ETFs is different – and outlined below.


  1. Taxation of Irish domiciled ETFs

If you opt for an Irish domiciled ETF, Irish residents are subject to income tax at a special rate of 41% on all returns (dividends and gains) on a self assessment basis every 8 years either as a sale or “deemed sale“. No (PRSI) or universal social charge (USC) are applicable. Any losses are not available for offset .

  • 2. Taxation of EU (other than Ireland) domiciled ETFs
    • UCITS : Most EU domiciled ETFs will have a UCITS, or EU regulated structure So – according to Revenue, the tax treatment of these investments “mirror” that of Irish domiciled ETFs and will be are subject to exit tax at a rate of 41 % on both dividends and gains.
    • Non UCITS : Some EU ETFs are which are non UCITS may fall outside the 41% income tax regime. Instead, they may be subject to capital gains tax (33%) and marginal rate income tax (up to 40%) plus USC (up to 11%) and PRSI (4%) .
      Revenue will consider submissions on a case by case basis and acknowledge that taxpayers may decide to take such a position in appropriate cases.

3: Taxation of US, EEA and other OECD domiciles

With ETFs domiciled outside the EU  – dividends are taxed at your marginal rate, gains at the CGT rate and loss relief is available.

Note : Irish investors have been restricted from purchasing US-domiciled ETFs since January 3rd 2019.

What is Deemed Disposal?

The Revenue rules on deemed disposal:
If you have money in an investment fund or an ETF, you have to pay tax on the fund every 8 years. I.e. it is “deemed” that you made a disposal.

The tax paid is the tax due on any profit made on the 8th anniversary of the investment. At present, the tax is 41%.

If the fund/ETF subsequently falls in value and you cash in the fund, you can submit a claim to the Revenue for overpaid tax due to deemed disposal.

If there is no profit, no tax is payable.

Investment Trusts

Investment Trusts are funds that are publicly listed as companies on a Stock Exchange, and so are traded like shares. An Investment Trust will have shares in several companies and possibly investments in other assets.

By buying shares in an Investment Trust you are getting exposure to many different assets with just one investment . (In a similar way to Exchange Traded Funds) .
EFTs will typically track an Index (FTSE100 , S&P500 etc) – but Investment Trusts are typically invested in a smaller , handpicked selection of companies. As with all shares – their value can decrease as well as increase and you are at risk of loss.

Some popular Investment trusts include:- Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust, Edinburgh Investment Trust and Allianz Technology Trust

Taxation of Investment Trusts

If you buy shares in Investment Trusts – there are no specific guidelines from Revenue on how they are taxed in Ireland. But we understand that they are treated like any other share and that any dividend income will be taxed at your marginal rate of income tax and any gains will be taxed at the CGT tax rate of 33%. (First €1270 of gain a year is exempt).

Investment Trusts are NOT treated the same way as ETFs for tax purposes.

Comparison of Stockbroker Charges in Ireland