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How to Lessen Your Capital Gains Tax

Aside from paying income tax and payroll tax, individuals who buy and sell personal and investment assets should also deal with the capital gains tax system. Capital gain rates are usually as high as regular income taxes. The good news is there are ways to keep them as low as possible.

Below are helpful tips for minimizing your capital gains tax:

Wait at least one year before selling.

For capital gains to qualify for long-term status (and a tax rate cut), wait for at least one calendar year before you sell your property. Depending on your tax rate, you may save from 10% to 20%. For instance, if you sell stock leading to a capital gain of $2,000, and you fall under the 28% income tax bracket and have held the stock for over 12 months, you are to pay 15% of $2,000, which is $300. If you’ve held the stock for hardly 12 month, you’ll pay $560 or 28% of $2,000 in taxes on the transaction.

Sell when you’re earning low income.

Your income level affects the amount of long-term capital gains tax you are obliged to pay. Those within the 10% and 15% brackets need not even pay long-term capital gains tax at all. If your income level is about to drop – let’s say your spouse is almost retiring or you’re about to lose your job – selling during this low income year will decrease your capital gains tax rate.

Lower your taxable income.

Because your capital gain tax rate is dependent on your taxable income, general tax-savings tricks can help you grab a favorable rate. Maximize your deductions, for example, by completing expensive medical procedures before yearend, donating to charity, or maximizing your traditional IRA or 401k contributions.

Also look for vague or not-so-known deductions, like the moving expense deduction for those who have to move for a job. Instead of buying corporate bonds, go for government-issued bonds (states, local or municipal), income from which is non-taxable. There’s a whole range of potential tax breaks out there, so refer to the IRS’s Credits & Deductions database to know what you may qualify for.

When possible, sync your capital losses with your capital gains.

One remarkable feature of capital gains is that they’re moderated by any capital losses incurred on a particular year. Using up your capital losses in the years you have capital gains, will lessen your tax. There’s no cap on the amount of capital gains you can report, but you may only take $3,000 of net capital losses every tax year. You can carry additional capital losses into future tax years, however, although it may take a while before you can use those up if you’ve absorbed a substantial loss.