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Beware of “Wash Sales”
When Selling Securities

If you’re planning to sell stock or other securities at a loss to offset gains you realized earlier in the year, beware of the “wash sale” rule. It comes into play when an investor wants to realize a loss on a security for tax purposes while continuing to invest in the security. Under the wash rule, selling securities for a loss and buying back substantially identical securities within 30 days before or after the sale date means the loss can’t be claimed for tax purposes.

The Rule

The wash sale rule is designed to prevent taxpayers from benefiting from a loss without actually parting with ownership. Note that the rule applies not only to buying back stock within 30 days after selling it but also to a 30-day period before the sale date to prevent “buying the stock back” before it’s even sold.

Although the loss can’t be claimed on a wash sale, the disallowed amount is added to the cost of the new stock to increase its tax basis. So, the disallowed amount can be claimed when the new stock is finally sold at some point in the future (other than in a wash sale).

An Example

Assume you buy 500 shares of XYZ Inc. for $10,000 and sell them on November 1 for $3,000. On November 15, you buy 500 shares of XYZ again for $3,200. Because the shares were “bought back” within 30 days of the sale, the wash sale rule applies. Therefore, you can’t claim a $7,000 loss. Your basis in the new 500 shares is $10,200: the actual cost plus the $7,000 disallowed loss.

If only a portion of the stock sold is repurchased, only that portion of the loss is disallowed. In the example above, if 60% of the shares sold were bought back, you’d be able to claim 40% of the loss on the sale. The remaining loss would be disallowed and added to your cost basis of the repurchased shares.

No surprises

Editor’s Note: The wash sale rule can deliver a nasty surprise at tax time. Contact HHCBR, a CPA firm, located in Altamonte Springs, FL, (407) 260-9101, www.hhcbr.com, with questions as you’re contemplating year-end tax planning strategies for your investment portfolio.

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