Can I get a tax refund for a capital loss?August 29, 2012: 6:30 AM ET
I want to deduct a capital loss of $1,000, but I don't think I owe income taxes because my income is very low. Could I still get a tax refund for a capital loss? — Aaron R.
You can deduct a capital loss on your tax return regardless of your income. A capital loss is defined as the sale of a security for less than its original purchase price that results in a financial loss for the seller. The loss can be used to offset any capital gains you've realized, or, in the absence of realized gains, to offset up to $3,000 in ordinary income.
So can your loss generate a refund? "Yes," says Abe Schneier, senior technical manager for the American Institute of CPAs, "but only if you have taxable income to offset." If you don't have any taxable income, you can roll the capital loss into the following year. Then you can apply it against capital gains or ordinary income in 2013.
"It's important to make an informed decision about when you want to deduct your loss," says Schneier. If you have taxable income in 2012 and you need the refund money, go ahead and take it this year. But if you haven't yet made the transaction creating the $1,000 loss, you don't need the funds immediately, and you plan to trade more in the future (possibly generating taxable gains), then you may want to wait.
— Austin Kilham
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