Hey everyone, I’m Bette Hochberger, CPA, CGMA. Welcome to our beginner’s guide to capital gains! If you’re new to investing or just starting to dip your toes into the world of finance, understanding capital gains is essential. Don’t worry if terms like “capital gains tax” or “cost basis” sound like a foreign language right now – we’re here to break it all down for you in simple terms.

What Are Capital Gains?

Let’s start with the basics. Capital gains are the profits you earn from selling an investment or asset for more than you paid for it. These investments can include stocks, bonds, real estate, and even artwork. When you sell an investment for a profit, that profit is considered a gain.

The Two Types

There are two main types: short-term and long-term.

Short-Term: If you sell an asset that you’ve owned for one year or less, any profit you make is considered a short-term capital gain. These are typically taxed at a higher rate than long-term gains.

Long-Term: On the other hand, if you sell an asset that you’ve owned for more than one year, any profit you make is considered a long-term gain. Long-term gains are usually taxed at a lower rate than short-term gains, which can make them more attractive to investors.

Capital Gains Tax

Now, let’s talk about everyone’s favorite topic – taxes. When you make a gain, you may be subject to capital gains tax. The amount of tax you owe depends on several factors, including your income level and how long you’ve held the investment.

Short-Term: As mentioned earlier, short-term gains are taxed at your ordinary income tax rate. This means you’ll pay the same rate on your short-term gains as you do on your salary or wages.

Long-Term: Long-term gains are generally taxed at a lower rate than short-term gains. The tax rates for long-term gains vary depending on your income level and filing status, but they are typically more favorable compared to short-term gains tax rates.

Calculating Gains

It isn’t as complicated as it might seem. Here’s a simple formula:

Gains = Selling Price – Cost Basis

– Selling Price: The amount of money you receive when you sell an investment.

– Cost Basis: The original purchase price of the investment, plus any additional costs such as commissions or fees.

Strategies to Minimize Tax

While paying taxes on your gains is unavoidable, there are strategies you can use to minimize your tax liability:

Hold Investments for the Long Term: As mentioned earlier, long-term gains are taxed at a lower rate than short-term gains. By holding onto your investments for more than one year, you may qualify for these lower tax rates.

Offset Gains with Losses: If you have investments that have lost value, you can use those losses to offset your gains. This strategy, known as tax-loss harvesting, can help reduce your overall tax bill.

Consider Tax-Advantaged Accounts: Investing in retirement accounts such as 401(k)s or IRAs can provide tax benefits, allowing your investments to grow tax-free or tax-deferred until you withdraw the funds in retirement.

Understanding capital gains is essential for anyone looking to build wealth through investing. By knowing the basics of them, including how they’re taxed and strategies to minimize taxes, you can make informed decisions about your investments and keep more of your hard-earned money in your pocket.

Remember, investing always carries some level of risk, so it’s essential to do your research and consider seeking advice from a financial professional before making any investment decisions.

I hope you learned something new today. As always, stay safe, and I will see you all next time.