Thursday, June 9, 2016

Selling Mutual Funds - Choices in Figuring Gain or Loss

To figure your gain or loss when you dispose of mutual fund shares, you need to determine which shares were sold and the basis of those shares. If your shares in a mutual fund were acquired all on the same day and for the same price, figuring their basis is not difficult. However, shares are generally acquired at various times, in various quantities, and at various prices. Therefore, figuring your basis can be more difficult. But you have two options. You can choose to use either a cost basis or an average basis to figure your gain or loss.

Cost Basis

You can figure your gain or loss using a cost basis only if you did not previously use an average basis for a sale, exchange, or redemption of other shares in the same mutual fund.

To figure cost basis, you can choose one of the following methods.
  • Specific share identification.
  • First-in first-out (FIFO).

Specific share identification. If you adequately identify the shares you sold, you can use the adjusted basis of those particular shares to figure your gain or loss.

You are presumed to adequately identify your mutual fund shares, even if you bought the shares in different lots at various prices and times, if you:
  1. Specify to your broker or other agent the particular shares to be sold or transferred at the time of the sale or transfer, and
  2. Receive confirmation in writing from your broker or other agent within a reasonable time of your specification of the particular shares sold or transferred.
You continue to have the burden of proving your basis in the specified shares at the time of sale or transfer.

First-in first-out (FIFO). If your shares were acquired at different times or at different prices and you cannot identify which shares you sold, use the basis of the shares you acquired first as the basis of the shares sold. In other words, the oldest shares you own are considered sold first. You should keep a separate record of each purchase and any dispositions of the shares until all shares purchased at the same time have been disposed of completely.

Average Basis

You can use the average basis method to determine the basis of shares of stock if the shares are identical to each other, you acquired them at different times and different prices and left them in an account with a custodian or agent, and either:
  • They are shares in a mutual fund (or other regulated investment company);
  • They are shares you hold in connection with a dividend reinvestment plan (DRP), and all the shares you hold in connection with the DRP are treated as covered securities (defined later); or
  • You acquired them after 2011 in connection with a DRP.
Average basis is determined by averaging the basis of all shares of identical stock in an account regardless of how long you have held the stock. However, shares of stock in a dividend reinvestment plan are not identical to shares of stock with the same CUSIP number that are not in a dividend reinvestment plan. The basis of each share of identical stock in the account is the aggregate basis of all shares of that stock in the account divided by the aggregate number of shares.

Transition rule from double-category method. You may no longer use the double-category method for figuring your average basis. If you were using the double-category method for stock you acquired before April 1, 2011 and you sell, exchange or otherwise dispose of that stock on or after April 1, 2011, you must figure the average basis of this stock by averaging together all identical shares of stock in the account on April 1, 2011, regardless of the holding period.

Election of average basis method for covered securities. To make the election to use the average basis method for your covered securities, you must send written notice to the custodian or agent who keeps the account. The written notice can be made electronically. You must also notify your broker that you have made the election.

Generally, a covered security is a security you acquired after 2010, with certain exceptions.

You can make the election to use the average basis method at any time. The election will be effective for sales or other dispositions of stocks that occur after you notify the custodian or agent of your election. Your election must identify each account with that custodian or agent and each stock in that account to which the election applies. The election can also indicate that it applies to all accounts with a custodian or agent, including accounts you later establish with the custodian or agent.

Election of average basis method for non-covered securities. For noncovered securities, you elect to use the average basis method on your income tax return for the first tax year that the election applies. You make the election by showing on your return that you used the average basis method in reporting gain or loss on the sale or other disposition.

Revoking the average basis method election. You can revoke an election to use the average basis method for your covered securities by sending written notice to the custodian or agent holding the stock for which you want to revoke the election. The election must generally be revoked by the earlier of 1 year after you make the election or the date of the first sale, transfer, or disposition of the stock following the election. The revocation applies to all the stock you hold in an account that is identical to the shares of stock for which you are revoking the election. After revoking your election, your basis in the shares of stock to which the revocation applies is the basis before averaging.

You may be able to find the average basis of your shares from information provided by the fund.

It is important to maintain your records as evidence of your basis for tax purposes. Please feel free to contact us if your have any questions about these rules or about any other tax rules regarding sales of investment property.

Reproduced with permission from CCH’s Client Letter, published and copyrighted by CCH Incorporated, 2700 Lake Cook Road, Riverwoods, IL 60015.

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