On our Discount Brokers discussion board, Fool Community member Mcreilly recently expressed frustration with the cost-basis tracking offered by his brokerage, TD AMERITRADE (NASDAQ:AMTD). (I use the same brokerage, and I've noticed that my cost basis is included on my monthly statements for many, but not all, of my holdings.)

As often happens, fellow board denizens chimed in with their own perspectives. Some mentioned a software product called Gainskeeper, which you can buy and use to track your investments. (The most basic version costs $69 per year; learn more at www.gainskeeper.com.) Others described their experiences with their own brokerages and how they work with their tracking software.

The big picture
Yet as one Fool Community member pointed out, brokers aren't required to track cost-basis information. They do have to report to the IRS the amount you received in proceeds from sales of securities. It's then up to you to keep track of your cost basis, and the gains and losses that result from those sales.

Of course, there's nothing stopping brokers from providing more information to their customers. Some people may choose full-service brokerages like Merrill Lynch (NYSE:MER) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) expecting to receive more detailed cost-basis information than discount brokers like Charles Schwab (NASDAQ:SCHW) or E*Trade (NASDAQ:ETFC).

But I doubt that distinction exists. As one poster pointed out, Schwab does provide that information. And if cost-basis reporting is a feature customers will appreciate, even discount brokerages will offer it to distinguish themselves from their competition. (If you transfer holdings from one brokerage to another, don't expect the new one to know the price you paid for the transferred assets -- it didn't process that trade.)

At the Gainskeeper site's blog, I learned that legislation has been proposed to require more cost-basis reporting. If some form of that becomes law, we may see all brokerages giving us the info we'd like to see.

Meanwhile, learn more about brokerages, and how to find the best one for yourself in our Broker Center.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. Schwab is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Try any of our investing services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.