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Can I treat retirement account distributions as capital gains?

November 16, 2012: 6:30 AM ET

I am 65, and every year I take distributions from my defined contribution plan and 403(b) account. Meanwhile, I still have long-term capital losses from the 2000 high-tech stock crash, and I deduct $3,000 a year against ordinary income. Can I take my long-term capital losses to offset any portion of the DCP and 403(b) distribution as long-term gains? – Franklin S.

The short answer is no, says Cynthia M. Jeanguenat, owner of Horizons Unlimited, a tax accountancy firm in Virginia Beach, Va. From a tax standpoint, any distributions from your defined contribution plan and 403(b) are treated as income, not capital gains. As a result, you can't offset any of the growth in your plans with your capital losses. All you can do is to continue what you are already doing, which is using your losses from the dot-com crash to reduce up to $3,000 a year in taxable income.

— Marc Mewshaw

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