Tax Breaks for Your Investment Losses

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

My girlfriend called me up last night. “So,” she told me, “I was seconds away from selling these bonds I have so that at least I’d get a tax write-off, when I realized that’s not how it works with bonds. If I hold them until maturity, I will get my money back, won’t I?” I was so proud of her! She remembered! A major difference between stocks and bonds is just that – bonds have a maturity date, while stocks don’t. This is part of the reason bonds are considered “safer” investments. 

If my friend had owned stocks, her thinking would have been very strategic. Many investors sell stocks that are down just before the end of the year, and use the capital loss to lower their tax bills. This is a great idea for stocks, but does not work as well with bonds. 

In the case of mutual funds, things get a tad bit more complicated - or complex, perhaps. The fund managers buy and sell securities now and then, and unless you keep a very close eye on the fund, you will be notified via mail whether you are entitled to a tax write-off or owe the IRS money. Since the fund managers may have bought securities several years ago and sold them during the past year, it is possible that you will have a taxable capital gain even when your fund is down. Conversely, it is also possible that you will be able to do a tax write-off even though your fund is up.

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Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.