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Dividends would normally be taxed at 15%, I think, whereas distributions will be taxed at the usual income tax rates.

Kinda, sorta......If they are 'qualified' dividends (not all dividends are) and you meet holding period requirements, for 2013, the tax rates outside of a tax-advantaged account will be 0%, 15% or 20%, depending on your marginal tax bracket. If they are not 'qualified', or you do not meet the holding period requirements, then they will be taxed at your marginal (ordinary income) rates if held outside of a tax-advantaged account. If they are held within a tax-advantaged account, they will be taxed based on how that account is taxed - for instance, a non-penalized Roth withdrawal is taxed at 0%, while a non-penalized pre-tax IRA withdrawal is taxed at your ordinary income rate. However, they will not be taxed until they are actually withdrawn, so you can defer the taxes on any type of dividend in a tax-advantaged account.

So, the first big issue is that you need to understand if the dividends that you will be recieving will be qualified. You can find a definition of qualified dividend in IRS Pub 550

Is there a way to keep the lower rate?

Don't use a tax-advantaged account that is taxed at your ordinary income rates to invest in stocks that provide qualified dividends.

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