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Reducing Your Capital Gains Tax

Besides paying income tax and payroll tax, persons who buy and sell personal and investment assets also have to work with the capital gains tax system. Capital gain rates can be about as much as regular income taxes. The good news is there are techniques to drive them down.

The following are useful tips that help you minimize your capital gains tax:

Wait a year (at least) before selling.

For capital gains to be qualified for long-term status (and less tax), wait a year before you sell the property. Depending on your tax rate, you may save from 10% to 20%. For instance, if you sell stock where the capital gain is $2,000, belong to the 28% income tax bracket, and have held the stock for over a year, you’ll have to pay 15% of $2,000 on the transaction. If you’ve owned the stock for barely a year, you’ll pay $560, which is 28% of $2,000, on the transaction.

Sell when you’re receiving a low income.

Your income level affects the amount of long-term capital gains tax you are obliged to pay. Individuals falling under the 10% and 15% brackets don’t even need to pay any long-term capital gains tax at all. If your income level is about to drop – let’s say your spouse is almost retiring or you’re about to lose your job – selling during this low income year will decrease your capital gains tax rate.

Bring down your taxable income.

As your capital gain tax rate depends on your taxable income, general tax-savings methods can help you grab a nice rate. For example, increase your deductions by donating to charity, contributing more to your traditional IRA or 401k, or completing expensive medical procedures before the end of the year.

Also look for vague or not-so-known deductions, like the moving expense deduction for those who have to move for a job. Instead of buying corporate bonds, go for government-issued bonds (states, local or municipal), income from which is non-taxable. There’s a whole bunch of potential tax breaks, so take time to check the IRS’s Credits & Deductions database to know which ones you may be qualified for.

When possible, time your capital losses with your capital gains.

One remarkable feature of capital gains is that they’re moderated by any capital losses incurred on a particular year. If you use up your capital losses during the years you have capital gains, you can reduce your tax. There’s no cap on the amount of capital gains you can report, but you may only take $3,000 of net capital losses every tax year. You can, however, carry extra capital losses into future tax years, but if you’ve had a particularly substantial loss, it may take a while for you to use those up.

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