Can IRA Transactions Trigger the No-Wash Rule?
If you sell stock at a loss, you should be able to use the loss to offset gains on your income taxes, right? Right, except if you violate the wash-sale rule, which states that if you bought and sold the same investment for a loss within a 30-day period, then the loss cannot be used to offset gains.
However, you are allowed to add the loss to the cost of the securities that you repurchase, thereby increasing the basis. This issue becomes more complicated if you repurchased the securities in your IRA. Does that also increase the basis in your IRA? In 2008, the Internal Revenue Service addressed this long-unanswered question.
Let's start by defining a wash sale, which occurs when you sell shares of a stock and repurchase or acquire the same stock within 30 days (before or after) of the sale. Wash sales create the illusion of a change in holdings. As such, the IRS enforces the rule to prevent investors from claiming a tax deduction on a loss on property that they still own.
This is a wash sale and you cannot deduct the loss of $1,000. However, you can add the loss of $1,000 to the new purchase price of $600, creating a basis of $1,600.
This is not a wash sale because the purchase did not occur within 30 days of the sale.
A wash sale can occur with other securities, such as bonds, mutual funds, and options. For example, options are considered substantially identical to the stock they reflect, so selling options on a stock you own could trigger a wash sale. Because a mutual fund exchange is technically a sell and a buy, if you exchanged into the same fund you previously sold within 30 days, that's also a wash sale.
In 2008, the IRS issued Revenue Ruling 2008-5, in which it addressed the question of whether the wash-sale rules apply to IRAs. In the ruling, the IRS explained that when shares are sold in a non-retirement account and substantially identical shares are purchased in an IRA within 30 days, the investor cannot claim tax losses for the sale, and the basis in the individual's IRA is not increased.
Suppose that you own 100 shares of YYY stock with a basis of $1,000 in your brokerage account. You sell the 100 shares of YYY at a loss, for $400 on Oct. 10. On Nov. 1, you buy 100 shares of YYY stock in your IRA account for $800. According to Revenue Ruling 2008-5, you cannot deduct the $600 loss on the sale, and you cannot increase the basis of the stock purchased in your IRA by the $200 difference between the sell and repurchase.
IRS Revenue Ruling 2008-5 prevents investors from using the cloak of a tax-deferred account type such as an IRA to circumvent the wash-sale rule. It applies to traditional and Roth IRAs, regardless of whether the IRAs are held at different financial institutions.
You may have executed the wash sale to decrease your current taxes, but by breaking the rule, you've only deferred the taxes and you may have to pay the early distribution penalty on the amount.
For example, let's say you're ready to take a distribution from your traditional IRA. You sell stocks previously purchased in a wash sale and withdraw the proceeds. Normally, the portion of the distribution considered part of your basis is not taxable. Since your purchase in the wash sale did not increase your basis, the total value of the proceeds from those shares is taxable when distributed from your IRA. The same rule applies to non-qualified distributions from a Roth IRA in that the wash sale does not increase the basis in the Roth IRA.
Suppose that you own 100 shares of stock with a basis of $3,000. You sell the shares for $1,500, for a loss of $1,500. Within 30 days, you purchase 100 shares of the same stock for $1,000 (a wash sale) in your traditional IRA (basis = $0).
You sell those 100 shares for $2,000 and withdraw the proceeds (taxable amount = $2,000.) If you had sold the shares for $800, the taxable amount would be $800.
You can ensure that you do not violate the wash-sale rule by following some simple guidelines:
The wash-sale rule applies to all investment accounts you own or control, including your spouse's account. Be sure to keep the lines of communication open between you and your spouse about trades in your portfolios for this exact reason. When in doubt, consult with a competent tax professional to ensure that the proper and most effective tax strategies are applied to your investments.
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