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Selling stock by year-end? Watch out for the wash sale rule

If you’re thinking about selling stock shares at a loss to offset gains that you’ve realized during 2022, it’s important to watch out for the “wash sale” rule.


The loss could be disallowed


Under this rule, if you sell stock or securities for a loss and buy substantially identical stock or securities back within the 30-day period before or after the sale date, the loss can’t be claimed for tax purposes. The rule is designed to prevent taxpayers from using the tax benefit of a loss without parting with ownership in any significant way. Note that the rule applies to a 30-day period before or after the sale date to prevent “buying the stock back” before it’s even sold. (If you participate in any dividend reinvestment plans, it’s possible the wash sale rule may be inadvertently triggered when dividends are reinvested under the plan, if you’ve separately sold some of the same stock at a loss within the 30-day period.)


The wash sale rule even applies if you repurchase the security in a tax-advantaged retirement account, such as a traditional or Roth IRA.


Although a loss can’t be claimed on a wash sale, the disallowed amount is added to the cost of the new stock. So, the disallowed amount can be claimed when the new stock is finally disposed of in the future (other than in a wash sale).


Let’s look at an example


Say you bought 500 shares of ABC, Inc. for $10,000 and sold them on November 4 for $3,000. On November 29, you buy 500 shares of ABC again for $3,200. Since the shares were “bought back” within 30 days of the sale, the wash sale rule applies. Therefore, you can’t claim a $7,000 loss. Your basis in the new 500 shares is $10,200: the actual cost plus the $7,000 disallowed loss.