Capital gains and losses defined
Capital gains and losses result from the taxable realized sale or exchange of capital assets. In general, capital assets include investments (such as stocks and real estate) and fixed assets, as opposed to personal-use property.
Capital gains result when the sale or exchange price is greater than the adjusted basis of the capital asset. Conversely, capital losses occur when the adjusted basis is higher than the sale or exchange price, and certain expenses associated with the sale may be added to the loss. The holding period of the capital asset being sold or exchanged will determine whether the capital gain or loss is long-term (held for more than a year) or short-term (held for less than a year).
Netting Capital Gains and Losses (Individual taxpayers)
Each taxable year, capital gains and losses are aggregated or “netted” on Schedule D. First, long-term capital gains and losses are netted. Second, short-term capital gains and losses are netted. Four possible scenarios will result from this two-step process:
Scenario A: A long-term gain and short-term gain
Scenario B: A long-term gain and short-term loss
Scenario C: A long-term loss and short-term gain
Scenario D: A long-term loss and short-term loss
In scenario A, the short-term gain will be taxed with the taxpayer’s ordinary income at his or her marginal rate. For the long-term capital gain, the favorable long-term capital gains tax rate will apply, depending upon the taxpayer’s tax bracket.
In scenario B, there are two possible outcomes depending upon which result is larger, the loss or the gain. If the short-term loss is greater than the long-term gain, a net short-term loss will result, and up to $3,000 can be used to offset other income, with additional amounts can be carried forward to subsequent tax years. Alternatively, if the long-term gain is larger than the short-term loss, then a net long-term gain will result, and the favorable long-term capital gains tax rates will apply.
In scenario C, there are two possible outcomes depending upon which result is larger, the loss or the gain. If the long-term loss is larger than the short-term gain, then a net long-term loss will result, and (as with scenario B) up to $3,000 can be used to offset ordinary income. Any unused amount above $3,000 can be carried forward to subsequent years as long-term loss. Alternatively, if the short-term gain is larger than the long-term loss, then a net short-term gain will result, and it will be taxed at the taxpayer’s marginal rate.
In scenario D, there are several possible outcomes. First, if the total long-term and short-term losses combined total $3,000 or less, then the amount may be used to offset ordinary income. However, if the total amount of short-term losses exceed $3,000, then the first $3,000 of short-term loss will be applied to offset other income, and any remainder will be carried forward to subsequent years as a long-term loss. If the short-term loss is less than $3,000, then that amount will be applied to offset ordinary income, and any amount of available long-term loss making up the difference between the short-term loss applied and $3,000 will also be used to offset ordinary income (with the additional, unused amounts carried forward).
Capital Gains and Losses (C Corporations)
C corporations, unlike individuals, do not receive favorable tax rate on capital gains. Capital gains must be included as part of ordinary income, in their entirety.
Further, capital losses must be used only to offset capital gains, and are non-deductible against ordinary income for C corporations. Net capital losses can be carried back to the three preceding years (and are applied in chronological order, beginning with the earliest tax year) provided the corporation has capital gains to offset. Additionally, corporate taxpayers may carry forward the capital loss five years from the year of loss, again provided that there are capital gains to offset. Carryforwards expire after the fifth year. Importantly, all losses carried back or forward are considered to be short-term.
Offsetting Capital Gains and Losses
Are you a taxpayer interested in benefiting from the capital gains and losses tax rules? Do you have questions about selling capital assets such as stocks or real estate for tax purposes, and how to best time your transactions in order to pay less taxes? Are you concerned about how new capital gains and loss tax changes may affect your situation?
Sherayzen Law Office can guide you with all of your capital gains and losses questions, and help you plan ahead so that you pay less taxes.
Call NOW to discuss your case with an experienced tax attorney!