Practical and Helpful Tips: Returns

Tips for Decreasing Your Capital Gains Tax

On top of paying income tax and payroll tax, people buying and selling personal and investment assets also need to deal with the capital gains tax system. Capital gain rates can be about as much 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 a year (at least) before selling.

For capital gains to be qualified for long-term status (and less tax), wait a year before you sell the property. Depending on your tax rate, you may save from 10% to 20%. If you sell stock with a $2,000 capital gain, for instance, and you are in the 28% income tax bracket and have owned the stock for longer than a year, you need to pay 15% on the transaction. If you’ve held the stock for shorter than one year, you’ll pay 28% of $2,000, which is $560, on the transaction.

Sell when you’re earning low income.

Your income level changes the amount of long-term capital gains tax you have 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. Rather than buying corporate bonds, get bonds issued by municipalities, local governments and states, as the income they produce is non-taxable. There’s an entire range of possible tax breaks, so study the IRS’s Credits & Deductions database so you know what you can qualify for.

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

One important feature of capital gains is that they’re diminished by any capital losses you incur within a specific year. To lower your tax, use up your capital losses in the years you have capital gains. 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, however, carry extra capital losses into future tax years, but if you’ve had a particularly substantial loss, it may take a while for you to use those up.

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