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.
The following are useful tips that help you minimize 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 be able to save 10% to 20%. For instance, if you sell stock where the capital gain is $2,000, belong to the 28% income tax bracket, and have held the stock for over a year, you’ll have to pay 15% of $2,000 on the transaction. 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 your earnings are low.
Your income level influences the amount of long-term capital gains tax you need 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.
Since your capital gain tax rate relies on your taxable income, general tax-savings techniques can help you get a good 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. Pick bonds issued by states, local governments, or municipalities – whose income is non-taxable – over corporate bonds. There’s a whole bunch of potential tax breaks, so take time to check the IRS’s Credits & Deductions database to know which ones you may be qualified 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 restriction on how much in capital gains you should report, but you can only take $3,000 of net capital losses for 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.