Ask a Fool: Can I Use Stock Market Losses to Lower My Taxes?

Here are the rules regarding tax treatment of investment losses.

Matthew Frankel, CFP
Matthew Frankel, CFP
Jun 30, 2017 at 12:00PM
Investment Planning

Q: I bought a stock three years ago and my investment is down about $1,000. If I sell it now, can I write off the loss?

The short answer to your question is yes. In fact, many people sell losing stock investments with that specific goal in mind, especially around the end of the year, a concept known as tax-loss selling.

As far as a write-off is concerned, it depends how long you've owned the stock and if you have capital gains from other investments.

If you've owned the stock for more than a year, the loss will be considered a long-term capital loss. If you've owned it for a year or less, it will be considered a short-term capital loss.

If you have any capital gains from the sale of stock or other investments, your loss will be used to offset this income first. Long-term losses will first be used to offset long-term gains, and short-term losses will first be used to offset short-term gains. After that's done, it can be used to offset any remaining capital gains.

If your losses exceed your capital gains, you can use up to $3,000 in net capital losses to offset your other taxable income sources like your salary. Any excess can be carried over to the next tax year.

In this specific case, your $1,000 loss would be classified as a long-term capital loss. It would first be used to offset any long-term capital gains, if you have any. If not, it would then be applied to short-term capital gains, and any excess could then be used to reduce your other taxable income.

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