What Exactly Is the Tax on Capital Gains?

What Exactly Is the Tax on Capital Gains?


A portion of the profit produced from the sale of specific categories of assets is subject to a tax known as the capital gains tax. Among these are investments in stocks and properties in the real estate market. The total sale price for an asset is subtracted from that item’s initial purchase price to arrive at its capital gain.

An explanation of the Capital Gains Tax along with some examples

After you have sold your investment and made a profit, you will be required to pay the tax on capital gains. For instance, you won’t have to pay any more tax as long as you have the stock in your portfolio, even if it appreciates. On the other hand, after you have sold your shares, you are required to disclose the profit on your tax return. Because of this, you will have to pay tax on your profit at the rate that applies to capital gains.

All capital gains are subject to taxation by the federal government. When you have owned an asset for less than a year, you are considered to have made short-term capital gains or losses. When you sell an asset that you have owned for more than a year, you will have either long-term capital gains or long-term capital losses.

Gains on investments held for a shorter period of time are subject to a higher tax rate than those held for a longer period of time.

This distinction was purposefully made to prevent trading over short time periods. Frequent buying and selling of stocks and other assets can increase the risk and volatility of the market. Transaction fees for individual investors are also increased as a result of this.

When you sell an asset for less than what you paid for it initially, you have made a capital loss. You might be able to pay less in taxes if you subtract some capital losses from your taxable income to offset capital gains.

How the Tax on Capital Gains Is Calculated

The standard capital tax rates for the long-term investment market and the short-term investment market are as follows:

The rate at which you are taxed on any short-term capital gains is the same as the rate at which you are taxed on the rest of your income. Keeping assets for more than a year typically makes financial sense, especially when considering tax implications. 

The tax rate on earnings from long-term investments:

The tax rate that is applied to the majority of capital gains is determined by the income tax band that the taxpayer is in. Those who have an annual taxable income of less than $80,801 (married filing jointly) or $40,401 (married filing separately, single) often pay a low or nonexistent amount of capital gains tax.

Possible Substitutes for the Tax on Capital Gains

Taxpayers have the option to report capital losses on a variety of financial assets, including mutual funds, stocks, bonds, and other investments. They are also able to claim losses on tangible assets if such items were not purchased for their own personal use. Real estate, precious metals, or collectibles can fall within this category. Both short-term and long-term gains in capital can be canceled out by losses in either the short or long term.

You will have a net capital gain if the sum of your long-term profits is greater than the sum of your long-term losses. On the other hand, if you have a net long-term capital gain but it is lower than your net short-term capital loss, you can deduct the short-term loss from your long-term gain. This is because the net long-term capital gain is lower than the net short-term capital loss.

You are able to utilize losses from net capital gains to offset gains from other sources, such as salaries. However, this is only up to a yearly maximum of $3,000, or $1,500 for individuals who are married but file their taxes separately. What are the repercussions of a total net capital loss that is more than the annual maximum on deductions for capital losses? If you can’t use all of your losses in the current tax year, you can carry them over to the next year.

What It Implies for the State of the Economy

According to Tax Policy Center research published in 2019, individuals in the top 1% of income earners are responsible for paying 75% of capital gains tax.

Those who make their living off of investment income may end up paying taxes at a rate as high as 23.8 percent, and that’s assuming they aren’t taking income from assets that have been held for less than a year. This is true even if you include the Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT), which applies to certain high income earners and is set at 3.8 percent. Even those individuals working on Wall Street, such as managers of hedge funds and others, who make their entire living from the profits of their investments, are subject to this levy.

In other words, the rate of income tax paid by these people is lower than the rate paid by those in the tax bracket of 24 percent, which covers taxable incomes ranging from $86,375 to $164,925 for single filers.

This tax loophole results in two different outcomes:

It encourages people to invest in the stock market, real estate, and a wide range of other assets, all of which help businesses grow.

It results in a greater disparity between incomes. People who make their living off of the revenue from investments are automatically considered rich. They have reached a point in their lives where they have sufficient spare income to set money aside for investments that produce a healthy return. To put it another way, they did not need to spend all of their money on necessities such as food, shelter, and medical care.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) moved a greater number of individuals into the tax band that applies to long-term capital gains at the rate of 20%. When the Internal Revenue Service makes its annual adjustment to the income tax brackets to account for inflation, such individuals are moved into the appropriate section. On the other hand, these thresholds will be increased at a more gradual pace than in the past. The chained consumer price index became the standard after the Act was passed. This will, over time, cause a greater number of individuals to fall into higher tax brackets. 

Key Takeaways

  • You will be required to pay a tax on the profit made from the sale of certain types of assets, such as stocks or investment property, when you sell such assets.
  • If you have owned the asset for less than a year, you will be responsible for paying taxes on the asset’s short-term capital gains. Gains on investments held for less than a year are subject to a higher rate of taxation.
  • If you have owned the asset for more than a year, you will be required to pay taxes on the long-term capital gains. Gains on investments held for more than a year are subject to a reduced rate of taxation.
  • A capital loss occurs when an asset results in a financial loss for its owner. It is possible to apply it as a reduction to a capital gain on your income tax return.
  • The top one percent of income is almost entirely comprised of people who are responsible for paying taxes on capital gains.

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