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What Is The Capital Gains Tax?

Written By: MB Group

We get it — tax season can be intimidating and confusing, even for a basic 1040 EZ return. But when you add capital gains tax rates and other complexities, it can make your tax situation seem almost impossible. Fortunately, calculating capital gains tax isn't as complex as it may seem. Let's explore capital gains tax, how to calculate it, and other considerations. 

What is the Capital Gains Tax?

Capital gains tax is levied on the profits you earn from the sale of an asset, such as:United States dollar bills and pennies

  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Real estate
  • Other capital assets

Your capital gains tax rate will be the difference between the purchase price and selling price of the asset. When you sell an asset for more than its purchase price, you'll realize a capital gain. Capital gains tax is assessed on the amount of the gain. 

Unfortunately, the capital gains tax rate isn't a single, flat-rate. The tax rate on capital gains can vary depending on several factors, including the 

  • Type of asset
  • Length of time you held the asset
  • Your income level and tax bracket

In the U.S., your capital gains tax rates may be lower than ordinary income tax rates. This is designed to incentivize investment and encourage economic growth. 

Capital Gains Tax Rates for 2022 and 2023 

In general, there are two different classifications for capital gains tax rates. The capital gains rate you pay will hinge greatly on how long you've held the assets. 

What Is Long-Term Capital Gains Tax?

Long-term capital gains are taxes you pay on profits from the sale of an asset you have held for longer than a year. Your actual long-term capital gains tax rate can range from 0%, 15%, or 20% — based on your filing status and taxable income. The long-term capital gains tax rates are typically lower than the short-term capital gains tax rate. 

short term capital gains printed on paper next to penWhat is the Short-Term Capital Gains Tax Rate? 

The short-term rate represents the taxes you will pay on the profits from the sale of an asset you have owned for one year or less. Your short-term capital gains tax rate will equal the tax rate in your tax bracket or your ordinary tax rate. As a result, your short-term capital gains tax rate can be as high as 37%. 


How Capital Gains are Calculated? 

Capital gains are calculated by subtracting the cost basis of an asset from its sale price. The cost basis is the original purchase price of the asset, plus any associated expenses, such as commissions or fees. When calculating capital gains taxes, it's vital to consider the cost basis of your asset. This can reduce the amount you would potentially have to pay. 

For example, suppose you purchased a stock for $1,000 and paid a $10 commission to your advisor. Instead of saying your purchase price was $1,000, the cost basis of the stock would actually be $1,010. If you were to sell the stock in three years at a price of $1,500, your capital gain would be calculated as follows:

  • The sale price of the stock: $1,500 
  • The cost basis of the stock: $1,010 
  • Your capital gains would be $490. This is calculated by subtracting your sales price of the stock ($1,500) from the cost basis of the stock ($1,010). 

Once you've calculated your capital gains, you would multiply the appropriate tax rate by this amount to figure out the capital gains tax you would owe. For example, if you are in the 15% long-term capital gains tax bracket, the taxes due on the sale of the stock would be $73.50 ($490 x 15%)

When Do I Owe Capital Gains Tax? 

The exact timing and amount of capital gains tax owed will depend on a variety of factors. However, you only pay capital gains tax after you sell the asset. For example, if you purchased a home three years ago and it has increased by $70,000, you would only need to pay capital gains tax if you sold the home and realized the gain of $70,000. 

It's important to keep accurate records of your investments, including purchase dates, purchase prices, and sale prices. Doing so can help ensure you're calculating your capital gains tax correctly. You may also want to consult with a tax professional to understand the tax laws in your jurisdiction and minimize your tax liability.

Can I Minimize My Capital Gains Taxes?

There are several strategies you can use to minimize your capital gains tax:

  1. Hold your assets for over a year: Holding assets for more than one year will qualify for long-term capital gains treatment. Long-term capital gains tax rates are generally lower than short-term capital gains tax rates.
  2. Sell assets in a year with low income: If you expect your income to be lower in a particular year, you can consider selling your assets in that year to take advantage of the lower tax rate.
  3. Harvest losses: If you have investments that have lost value, you can sell them to offset capital gains from other investments. This strategy is called tax-loss harvesting.
  4. Consider tax-advantaged accounts: You can consider investing in tax-advantaged accounts such as Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and 401(k) plans, which offer tax-deferred or tax-free growth.
  5. Give to charity: If you donate appreciated assets to a qualified charity, you can avoid paying capital gains tax on the appreciation.

Navigate The Capital Gains Tax with the MB Group

Having a tax professional by your side can make navigating the ins and outs of the capital gains tax easier. The team at the MB Group can help you implement the above strategies so you can minimize your tax burden. Contact our team today to get started. 

Tags: Taxes

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