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I am a trustee responsible for the investments of an aged aunt whose memory is failing and whose records are incomplete

I am trying to reconstruct a reasonable basis for an investment in the Puritan fund that was begun in 1965. For most of the investment the dividends and capital gains were reinvested in the fund.

Fidelity claims that they cannot provide a table of the dividends and capital gains they paid back that far. I'm disappointed in that response and I am looking for alternative sources.

Am I likely to find this information in old back issues of Barron's or the Wall Street Journal? I did a quick on-line check of the New York Times. With patience I found the right page of the financial section (each pdf copy of a page takes a while to load and then magnify so that it is readable.) All they provided in 1965 was the trading range for the day and an 'x' to show if the fund was ex-dividend.

Can anyone think of other places to look?


Hi,

I can't claim to be a tax specialist, CPA or attorney -- so take this for what it's worth.

I assume that you are trying to establish a cost basis to determine capital gains in 2005, or for the future. As far as I know, the biggest reason to do that would be accurate tax reporting.

So my first stop would be the IRS website, where every conceivable form, schedule, instruction book, and various guidebooks are all available for download. I suspect that they mention this somewhere in the instructions for Schedule D, or some such place.

And here's what I'd expect to find: I suspect that your best-guess, good-faith efforts would be satisfactory.

If you do not have actual transaction records to go by, and if the fund company will tell you in writing that they don't have the information, then what are you supposed to do? To put it in even more practical terms, how on earth would the IRS dispute your figures, since they'd be stuck with the same blank wall and missing data? Every year, people lose records to fire or other unexpected reasons. Life goes on, and the IRS does not require us to be magicians.

I'm a little surprised that Fidelity claims not to have the information. As for searching through Barron's or the WSJ... I don't know if I'd bother looking. Could such a publication report every distribution from every security being traded in the USA, day in and day out? Perhaps others can say for sure, but I find it hard to imagine.

And perhaps there are other sources for such data, and if so, perhaps somebody here can tell you where to find them. If not, my suggestion would be to find the oldest reliable data, figure out a five or ten year average of the total annual distributions from that point forward, and just apply that average to each of the years before that point. I'd think that you'd be safe using either a percentage of the price, or perhaps even an absolute dollar figure, from that averaging process. Either way, figure out the number of shares "theoretically" purchased by using the closing price 30 days after the X-dividend date (or whatever kind of time lag that fund uses; most of mine are 30 days).

That's a heck of a lot of work, but if you hang onto the calculations to demonstrate the effort to be fair, accurate and honest, I don't think anybody is going to squawk. You are clearly trying to do it right.

The Schedule D also offers the opportunity to add other data to explain what is being reported. So, mark any related transactions with an asterisk, and add an explanatory page describing how you got the figure.

You may want to run this idea by a tax attorney or other specialist before proceeding, but it's the most sensible thing that comes to mind. Still, an awful lot of work -- I hope she had a ton of that fund. :-)

Good luck!
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