CAPITAL GAINS: Definition, Types, Examples & Taxes

Capital Gains
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The wealth and income distributions have gotten more and more unbalanced during the last 40 years. It is also becoming increasingly clear that the United States has a long-term fiscal gap that must be filled, at least in part, by increasing revenues. Although, proposals to boost taxes on wealthy households have drawn more attention in recent years for these and other reasons. Reducing inequality and increasing revenue can both be accomplished by reforming the taxation of capital gains. Hence, to have a full knowledge of what capital gains are all about, this post will explain the kind of tax rate to get in both the long and short term.

Capital Gains 

A capital gain is a rise in an asset’s or investment’s value as a result of the asset’s or investment’s price growth. In other terms, a gain happens when an asset’s current or selling price surpasses its original purchase price. All forms of capital assets, including but not limited to stocks, bonds, goodwill, and real estate, are subject to capital gains. When you sell an asset, you realize CG by deducting the purchase price from the sale price. In certain situations, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) taxes individuals on CG.

Categories of Capital Gains

As was said earlier, capital gains are the growth in an asset’s value. Usually, these gains are realized when the asset is sold. Due to their inherent price volatility, investments like stocks and ETFs are typically associated with CG. Hence, they can also be realized on any asset, such as a house, piece of furniture, or car, that is sold for a price higher than it was originally purchased. CG can be divided into two groups:

  • Short-term capital gains: Gains on possessions you’ve sold after owning them for no more than a year
  • Long-term capital gains:  Gains achieved after selling assets you’ve owned for more than a year

You must claim both short-term and long-term gains on your yearly tax return. For day traders and other investors who benefit from the greater convenience of trading in the online market, it is crucial to comprehend this distinction and take it into account when developing an investing strategy.

Realized CGs are those that are made after an asset is sold and becomes a taxable event. Unrealized gains, also known as paper gains and losses, are increases or decreases in an investment’s value that isn’t deemed CG and isn’t therefore subject to taxation.

Capital Gains Tax Rate

If you are into selling, giving away, trading, or otherwise disposing of an item and making a profit or “gain,” you must pay CGT. The gain you make is what is taxed, not the amount of money you get in exchange for the item. Generally speaking, you compare the selling revenues with the asset’s original cost to determine the gain. 

How Capital Gains Taxes Work

The profit you make from the sale of an asset is subject to taxation. The holding period, or the interval between purchasing the item and selling it, influences how the profit is categorized for taxation. Short-term CGs are profits earned on assets held for a year or less before being sold. Long-term capital gains are earnings on assets held for more than a year.

Your normal taxable income for the year is increased by short-term capital gains, which are then taxed at the applicable federal tax rate. Instead, depending on your taxable income, long-term capital gains are taxed at 0%, 15%, or 20%. Most people pay no more than 15% in taxes on their long-term capital gains, according to the IRS.

CG tax only applies to assets that have been “realized,” or sold for a profit. This implies that you won’t pay taxes on any investments that aren’t sold or that are “unrealized,” like those that are, for instance, inactively held in a brokerage account.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Calculating Capital Gains Tax

Finding the difference between the price you paid for your asset or piece of property and the price you received for it at the sale is the foundation of a capital gain computation. Let’s go step by step to discover the solution to the question, “How do we calculate CG tax?”

A 3-step formula for calculating CG tax:

  • Establish your foundation. The purchase price plus any commissions or fees paid often constitutes this. Dividends on equities that are reinvested, among other things, may also raise the basis.
  • Calculate the amount you realized. The sale price less any commissions or other costs is what is shown here.
  • To calculate the difference, deduct your basis (the price you paid) from the realized amount (the price you received when you sold it).
  1. You get a capital gain if you sold your assets for more money than you bought for them.
  2. You incur a capital loss if you sold your assets for less than you paid for them.

How to Minimize, Avoid, or Eliminate CG Taxes

#1. Hang on.

Holding an asset for a year or more is always preferable in order to qualify for the long-term capital gains tax rate, which is generally much lower than the short-term capital gains rate.

#2. Use Tax-Advantaged Accounts

These include 401(k) plans, IRAs, and 529 college savings accounts, where assets grow tax-free or with a tax deferral. Thus, if you sell investments held within these accounts, no CG tax is due. Particularly, Roth IRAs and 529 plans offer significant tax benefits. Qualified distributions from those are tax-free, thus investment earnings are not subject to taxation. You must pay taxes when you withdraw money from regular IRAs and 401(k)s in retirement.

#3. Rebalance with Dividends

Dividends should be reinvested in underperforming investments to rebalance your portfolio rather than returning them to the investment that earned them. Rebalancing typically entails selling profitable securities and investing the proceeds in underperforming ones. However, if you use dividends to invest in underperforming assets, you can avoid selling high-performing assets and the CG that would result from doing so.

#4. Exclude Home Sales

You must have owned your house for at least two years and lived in it as your primary residence during the five years prior to selling it in order to be eligible. Additionally, in the two years preceding the home sale, you were not permitted to subtract CG from the sale of another home. You can exclude up to $250,000 in gains on the sale of your home if you’re single and up to $500,000 if you’re married and filing jointly if you meet these requirements.

#5. Carry Losses Over

Your total CG (investments sold for a profit) less your total capital losses (investments sold at a loss) equals your net capital gain, which is subject to taxation by the IRS. This implies that capital losses on investments can be used to offset gains.

#6. Consider a Robo-Advisor

Automated investment management services like robo-advisors sometimes use clever tax planning techniques like tax-loss harvesting, which includes selling lost investments to offset the gains from winning ones.

Capital Gains Tax Long Term

The tax rate known as long-term capital gains tax is levied on assets held for more than a year. Depending on your income, you may be subject to long-term capital gains taxes at a rate of 0%, 15%, or 20%. The ordinary income tax rate is often significantly higher than these rates. Long-term capital gains are any assets that provide profits in time frames between one and three years.

Almost always, when someone invests money, they do so with the intention of making a profit. There are investments that will yield returns quickly and there are investments that will yield returns gradually. These returns, which are often referred to as long-term capital gains, may come through assets such as mutual funds, zero-coupon bonds issued by the government, etc.

What Qualifies as Long-Term Capital Gains?

The guidelines state that investments that generate returns over time periods of between one and three years can be deemed long-term capital gains when calculating what would be considered a long-term capital gain. Accordingly, if someone holds an investment for three years before transferring it, the investment’s returns at the time of the transfer will be regarded as long-term capital gains. Investments that can result in long-term capital gains include the following:

  • Property Sale: The proceeds from the sale of a property that you have owned for at least three years may be regarded as long-term capital gains.
  • Similar to the sale of real estate, the proceeds from the sale of agricultural land held for one to three years are regarded as long-term capital gains.
  • Mutual Fund Investments: If you make an investment in a mutual fund and keep it for a period of around a year, the returns you receive from the investment will be categorized as long-term capital gains.
  • Stocks: Because stocks and bonds can also be kept for long periods of time, the returns from investments in them are also considered long-term capital gains.

Long-Term Capital Gains are Exempt From Taxes.

A person who sells a residential property may qualify for a tax exemption on long-term capital gains under Section 54 of the Income Tax Act of 1961 if they utilize the proceeds to purchase or build another residential property. Only long-term capital assets, or immovable properties owned for longer than two years, are eligible for this exemption.

To qualify for this exemption, you must fulfill the following requirements:

  • One year before or two years after selling the initial property, the seller must buy a residential property.
  • The seller must conclude a CG dwelling three years after selling it.
  • The brand-new residence must be located in India.
  • The exemption will be lost if the newly built or bought property is sold within three years.

What Is Capital Gains and How Does It Work?

When a capital asset is sold, the rise in value is known as a capital gain. All assets, including investments and those bought for personal use, are subject to capital gains.

Is Capital Gains the Same as Income?

The income tax applies to earned income and the capital gains tax to capital asset profits.

What Are the Three Methods of Calculating a Capital Gain?

There are three ways to determine capital gains.

  • the ‘other’ method.
  • the indexing method.
  • The process of discounts.

What Is the Difference Between Capital and Capital Gains

Capital is the sum that was initially invested. Thus, a capital gain occurs when an investment is sold for more than it cost.


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