Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

The wash-sale rule has been in place since the inception of the Internal Revenue Service in 1913, and it is still in effect today. The rule itself is fairly simple to understand, but as you’ll see below, there are some confusing quirks to it that can lead to mistakes and penalties if you’re not careful.

The basic premise of the wash-sale rule states that if you sell any security at a loss and then buy that same security within 30 days, that loss cannot be claimed on your taxes.


In a perfect world, you’d buy shares in a company that goes up in value. You sell your shares at a profit, and you’re happy. But what if you bought back those shares right after? This is known as the wash-sale rule; it says that when you buy back any security that you’ve sold within 30 days of selling it, then the loss on your original sale will be disallowed.

You bought a security for $100. You sold it four days later at a $10 loss, making your adjusted cost basis $90. You then repurchase that same security three days after selling it.

Because you’ve repurchased it within 30 days of selling it in what’s known as a wash sale, you can no longer claim that loss from your original sale. The adjusted cost basis would instead be $110 ($110 = $90 + 10).

This rule applies to stocks, bonds, mutual funds or anything else held long term. It doesn’t apply to short-term trading like buying and selling stock or stock options positions in one day or less.

However, short term traders should still consider the impact of this law because they may also have long-term gains or losses during their tax year due to market volatility.

Some investors might not understand the effects of this rule. They might think it’s an advantageous loophole to use in order to circumvent taxes. However, there are significant penalties if someone tries to use the wash-sale rule improperly.

If somebody violates this IRS regulation then they could face a civil penalty of up to $25,000 or 50% of their gain (whichever is more) and criminal penalties of fines between $50,000 and $250,000 and jail time of up to 5 years.

That’s enough motivation for most people not go try circumventing taxes with a dirty trick like washing sales.

What is the wash-sale rule?


If you sell an investment at a loss and buy the same investment back within 30 days of the sale, the IRS will treat it as a wash sale. This means that they will disallow any losses on the sale of this security.

So if you bought an asset for $1,000 but sold it for $500 then repurchased it for $600 within 30 days of the date of the sale, your net cost basis in this asset is only $100.

If you eventually sell this asset at a profit, you must report all or part of your gain as ordinary income to compensate for what would have been a long-term capital gain. The wash-sale rule does not apply to personal residence or property used in business such as stocks or bonds.

How does the wash-sale rule work?


The wash-sale rule is the name given to a rule in the IRS tax code that prohibits taxpayers from claiming losses on certain securities if they purchase substantially identical securities within 30 days before or after the sale.

If you sell securities at a loss, you cannot buy back the same securities until more than 31 days have passed (this number can be changed depending on your circumstances). If you want to purchase those same stocks again within this time frame, you are required to claim them as cost basis.

In addition to being forced to pay taxes on any profits from your original sale, there are penalties associated with failing to follow the rules. For example, if someone violates the wash-sale rule by purchasing stock when they’ve had an open position for less than 31 days before their previous trade date and then goes into a long position of that stock, it may result in a wash-out penalty of $50 per security for each transaction date that was violated.

What are the penalties for violating the wash-sale rule?


Violating the wash-sale rule can lead to big penalties. The IRS may fine you $100 for each transaction that violates the rule and up to $25,000 for all violations in a single year. If you don’t correct the violation within 30 days of the date it occurred then the IRS will assess additional tax on top of the penalties. You could also be fined up to 50% of the amount realized from non-qualified trades.

The IRS may impose penalties if you violate certain rules. For example, it’s possible to be penalized for violating what’s known as the wash-sale rule. The wash-sale rule can make it challenging to minimize losses when you sell shares that have dropped in value over a short period of time.

While there are plenty of ways for investors to avoid triggering tax code violations when selling stocks and securities, some mistakes are very easy to make because they simply aren’t well understood by most people. One such mistake is failing to abide by what’s known as the wash-sale rule.

Example of Wash-Sale Rule


For example, a taxpayer has a security that was purchased on January 1 for $100. On December 31 of the same year, it is sold at $105. The taxpayer is eligible for an $5 loss ($105-100) on this sale.

However, if this same security is bought back by the taxpayer before December 31 of the following year (i.e., within 30 days), then no deduction can be taken because it would be considered a wash sale. This rule does not apply to securities that are publicly traded on an established securities market (with some exceptions).

If you are not sure if a security you are planning to sell is subject to wash sale rules, check with your tax professional. Taxpayers often forget that they have several sales during a given year. A loss might be incurred on one sale while gains on another portion of their portfolio still hold up as qualified investments.

For example, if a taxpayer has $5,000 in capital losses from selling securities and $10,000 in gains from qualifying securities he bought within 30 days before or after selling stocks or bonds (so long as those stocks or bonds weren’t themselves stocks or bonds), then only half of those gains will be taxable for federal income tax purposes — regardless of how much over $5,000 the investor sells at once!

But if you own more than one brokerage account, these time limitations are very tricky because transfers between different accounts owned by a taxpayer may result in wash sales even though no actual securities were sold! For example, if you own $3,000 worth of stock at Broker 1 and purchase $1,000 worth of stock at Broker 2.

After owning both stocks for more than 30 days you decide to transfer ownership to your spouse because one brokerage account will be easier to manage (i.e., consolidate your portfolio). This is a sale so each trade is subject to wash-sale rules. To avoid triggering them on both trades would require an exception.

Enhance your understanding of the intricate world of financial regulations with this insightful video. Delving into the often-misunderstood concept of the Wash-Sale Rule, the video sheds light on its intricacies, operation, and potential consequences.

While the blog has provided you with a comprehensive overview, this video acts as a visual aid, simplifying the complexities and providing real-world examples.

By incorporating expert perspectives and detailed explanations, it ensures you’re well-equipped to grasp the implications and intricacies of the Wash-Sale Rule. Watch and learn, as this visual companion takes your comprehension to a higher level.


In conclusion, the wash-sale rule is a tax rule that prevents taxpayers from claiming losses when they sell stocks or securities at a loss. The IRS does allow for some exceptions to this rule including when a taxpayer sells a security for a loss but repurchases it within 30 days.

However, even with this exception, these trades are still subject to being taxed as either short term or long term based on how long you held it before you sold it. While there are many ways around this rule that you can use to avoid any penalties associated with selling something at a loss due to the wash sale rule (for example, gifting securities), it is always important to consult your tax preparer before making any decisions.