Site Menu

Capital Gains Tax and Capital Loss Deductions

You hear the phrase capital gains a lot when people talk about selling a home, or selling stocks, or other investments - so what is it?  When you sell a piece of property or stocks and bonds, and you make a profit from the sale, the profit income that you make is called a capital gain, and it is considered taxable income by the IRS. The IRS taxes income from capital gains differently than regular income. How the capital gains are calculated and how much it is taxed can be confusing and difficult to understand.  Efile.com makes it easy for you. When you start a free tax return on efile.com, you don't have to guess how to report your capital gains or whether or not you need to pay capital gains tax. Simply answer a few questions during the tax interview and we will prepare and complete the correct tax forms to calculate and report any capital gains tax (or losses) that is appropriate for you.

Capital Gains and Selling Your Home

If you owned and lived in the home for two of the five years before you sold it and your filing status is Single, then up to $250,000 of the profit is tax-free, in other words no capital gains taxes. If you are married and file a joint return, the tax-free amount doubles to $500,000. You can exclude this amount from your taxable income. You cannot exclude the income if you already excluded income from another home sale in the 2 years before the sale of this home.

In summary, this will help you determine if you will pay taxes on the sale of your home:

Exclusion Amount Owned Your Home Lived In Your Home During the Last 2 Years Can You Exclude as Taxable Income?
Single - $250,000 At least 2 years At least 2 years in the last 5 years You did NOT exclude capital gains from the sale of any other home Yes
Married Filing Joint - $500,000 At least 2 years

At least 2 years in the last 5 years

You did NOT exclude capital gains from the sale of any other home Yes

Capital gains can be Short-Term or Long-Term:

  • Short-term: If an asset is held (or owned) for a year or less before it is sold, then any capital gain is considered short-term. Short-term capital gains are taxed differently than a long-term capital gain. Short-term capital gains are taxed at your ordinary tax rate, or in other words, your tax bracket.
  • Long-Term: If an asset is held (or owned) for more than one year, then any profit from the sale of the asset is considered a long-term capital gain. Long-term capital gains tax rates are 0%, 15% or 20% depending on your taxable income and filing status. They are generally lower than short-term capital gains tax rates.

To determine if the capital gain is Short-Term or Long-Term you count the number of days from the date you purchased the asset through and including the date you sold the asset.

Capital Loss Deduction

If a capital gain is the money that you make on the sale of your home or investments, then the money you lose is called a capital loss, in other words, you made no profit from selling your asset. The capital loss can be deducted from your income, however there are some limits to this. You can deduct capital losses on investment property only, not on property that was owned for personal use. Losses on your investments are first used to offset capital gains of the same type. For example short-term losses are first deducted against short-term gains, and long-term losses are deducted against long-term gains. If your losses exceed your gains, you can deduct the difference on your tax return, up to $3,000 per year ($1,500 for those married filing separately) but they are not considered a regular itemized deduction. If your net loss is greater than the maximum allowed amount, you can carry the excess amount over to future tax years.

Reporting Capital Gains and Losses on Your Tax Return

All capital gains and any capital losses are required to be reported on your tax return. Capital gains and losses are reported on Schedule D and the amounts are then reported on your Form 1040. Capital loss carryovers are reported using the Capital Gains Carryover Worksheet. When you prepare your return on efile.com, we will calculate the gains and losses and prepare the Schedule D for you and it will be efiled with the rest of your return.

For more information on capital gains and losses see IRS Publication - Investment Income and Expenses (Including Capital Gains and Losses).

Related Information