Double boost for Malaysian unit trusts: Capital gains tax and foreign income exemptions

The exemption on foreign-sourced income is effective immediately and will last until December 31, 2026.

In a move aimed at bolstering investment in unit trusts, Malaysia has announced a double exemption – scrapping capital gains tax on these instruments and temporarily suspending taxes on foreign-sourced income they generate. This announcement from the country’s second finance minister on Tuesday represents a significant policy shift and is expected to make unit trusts a more attractive option for investors.

The exemption on foreign-sourced income is effective immediately and will last until December 31, 2026. This means that any income generated by a unit trust from investments outside Malaysia will not be subject to Malaysian income tax. This temporary measure provides a window for unit trusts to expand their global investment reach without immediate tax burdens.

The capital gains tax exemption, effective from January 1, 2024, and lasting until December 31, 2028, offers an even greater incentive for domestic investors. Gains made from selling units within a unit trust will no longer be subject to capital gains tax, potentially encouraging increased trading and liquidity within the sector.

This double exemption comes at a crucial time for Malaysia’s financial sector. The global economic slowdown and recent market volatility have impacted investor confidence. The government hopes that these tax breaks will incentivize individuals to channel their investments into unit trusts, diversifying their portfolios and supporting the growth of the capital markets.

The move has been met with positive reactions from industry experts. The Malaysian Investment Institute (MII) lauded the decision, stating it will “significantly enhance the attractiveness of unit trusts as a viable investment option for Malaysians.”

However, some analysts remain cautious, urging investors to carefully consider the risks involved in unit trusts before making any decisions. They stress the importance of understanding the underlying investments and associated fees before jumping into the market.

Overall, the Malaysian government’s decision to exempt capital gains tax and temporarily suspend taxes on foreign-sourced income for unit trusts marks a significant step towards promoting investment in this sector. While the long-term effects remain to be seen, the policy change has the potential to boost Malaysia’s capital markets and provide attractive investment opportunities for its citizens.

Positive Impacts:

  • Increased investment in unit trusts: The exemptions could make unit trusts more attractive to investors, leading to increased inflows. This could boost the overall size and liquidity of the Malaysian capital markets.
  • Portfolio diversification: By encouraging investment in unit trusts, which typically offer diversified portfolios, investors may be more likely to spread their risk and exposure to different asset classes.
  • Growth of the fund management industry: Increased demand for unit trusts could lead to greater demand for the services of fund managers, potentially creating jobs and stimulating the financial services sector.
  • Enhanced economic activity: Higher investment activity could potentially contribute to economic growth through increased corporate earnings, tax revenue, and job creation.


Challenges and Concerns:

  • Potential revenue loss for the government: The exemptions will undoubtedly lead to a loss of tax revenue for the government in the short term. This could impact public finances and necessitate adjustments to fiscal policies.
  • Market volatility: Increased capital flows into unit trusts could lead to greater market volatility, especially if investors react herd-like to market movements.
  • Concentration of wealth: Unit trusts are primarily used by wealthier individuals and institutions. The exemptions could exacerbate wealth inequality if their benefits disproportionately accrue to this segment of the population.
  • Regulatory challenges: Managing the exemptions and ensuring tax compliance while preventing potential loopholes and abuse will require careful implementation and oversight by the authorities.



  • The long-term sustainability of the exemptions: The government has only committed to these exemptions for a limited period. Their eventual expiration or potential modification could create uncertainty for investors.
  • The future performance of the capital markets: The success of the policy ultimately depends on factors like the overall performance of the Malaysian and global economies and investor confidence.
  • Changes in investor behaviour: How investors respond to the exemptions and whether they utilize them for long-term investment strategies remains to be seen.