As the year draws to close, it’s time to take stock of what you are doing to increase your overall tax efficiency. If you are looking to get a few more tax deductions, this is the time to do so, whether you are paying points for a mortgage or donating to charity. And another way you can increase your tax efficiency is to sell some of your losing investments. Do a financial checkup, and see what you can do to get ready for tax time. The deduction you get for selling your losing investments can dull some of the pain associated with a less than stellar year for your portfolio.
Photo by matze ott via Flickr
Here are some of the basics of selling your losing investments:
Things to watch out for during this process include the IRS “wash sale rule” and transaction fees. Be aware that the IRS will disallow deductions on losses if you sell your stock and then buy something that is “substantially identical” within 30 days. If you plan to sell losing investments as a tax play, you have to be careful of what you buy for a month afterward. Additionally, you want to double check the transaction costs associated with the sale. In some cases, the cost of the transaction can reduce the overall value of your tax deduction.
One important concept that you won’t hear too much about is to tax loss harvest throughout the year and not just at the end of the year.
If you have an investment the lost a substantial amount of value, it is a good idea to lock in your loss now and replace it with another investment. There are so many investment options out there that it is not that difficult to avoid the wash sale rule, and by locking in your loss now, you are guaranteed to capture some tax savings.
Another reason you may want to take your losses before the end of the year is to make sure that you have short-term losses to offset short-term capital gains (which is taxed at a higher rate). On the other hand, if you wait until the end of the year, you may lose the opportunity to sell your losing investments.
Overall, this is no brainer move because you can capture your losses while keeping your money fully invested.
It is a good idea to talk to a trusted tax professional about your options as you contemplate how you can dull the pain of an investment loss. At the very least, you should formulate a plan that allows you to take best advantage by getting rid of investments that are unlikely to succeed going forward and matching them up with some of your capital gains. Tax efficiency is a bit of an art, but with some research and/or professional help, you should be able to streamline things so that you owe less than you thought.