The more you learn about personal finance, the more complicated your questions are likely to get. But never fear: Hosts Robert Brokamp and Alison Southwick named their podcast Motley Fool Answers for a reason, and the Oct. 29 episode -- the monthly mailbag show -- the co hosts will tackle a whole bunch of money conundrums with a bit of help from Motley Fool Wealth Management Director of Financial Planning Megan Brinsfield, CPA, CFP, and all-around fine human being.
In this segment, they address an email from Sean, who recently spotted in an old brokerage account shares of a company that has joined the choir invisible -- it is, in short, no more. But that doesn't mean he can't extract a bit of value from those worthless shares, and the Fools will help him figure out how best to do that.
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This video was recorded on Oct. 29, 2019.
Alison Southwick: The next question comes from Sean. "I was going through my old Scottrade account that has since turned into a TD Ameritrade and noticed that one of my positions is no longer being traded, EFFC, but I still have some shares of them. What are the options available to me? Can I write off the loss of my investment and do some tax-loss harvesting?"
Megan Brinsfield: Yes. One interesting thing is what we deem worthless. The IRS says you can write off the value of worthless securities, but there are a few ways that you have to determine that something is worthless. One way is the company goes out of business. Being delisted is not the same as the company going out of business. It's kind of in limbo where it's like no one's going to buy these shares, but there's also nowhere to dispose of them if you want to.
One interesting thing that I learned is that aside from stocks actually having a value of zero, you can also abandon your stocks. Just walk away in the night and say, "I don't want you anymore," to those stocks and that allows you to claim the worthless securities deduction eventually on your tax return. You treat it as if you sold the security for zero on the last day of the tax year.
And if you're holding one of these securities at a place like an online brokerage, they actually have a process for buying back your worthless securities and they charge you a fee for it. They're like, "I'll buy them back for zero, but you have to pay me ten dollars for the privilege of that transaction taking place." It just depends on the size of the loss you're talking about. If you invested in penny stocks, or whatever, it might be that the cost of the transaction is going to be more, especially if you have to put in that transaction over the phone. You get charged with a phone transaction fee. Transaction fees are totally in flux right now.
E*Trade actually has an online form called "Worthless Securities Liquidation Request," which I thought was fascinating.
Brinsfield: Yes, and you actually get to write that on your tax return when you file, which I thought was fun. Worthless! It relates to that line item, not like a big red watermark across the thing, but...