How Does Taxes Work on Stocks? [Gains & Losses]

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If you are thinking about investing in stocks, it is essential to be aware of the tax implications. Here is a brief overview of how taxes work on stocks so that you can make the best decision for your situation.

When you buy stocks, you will pay taxes on any gains you make when you sell them. The tax rate on capital gains is usually lower than that on ordinary income, so this can be an excellent way to reduce your overall tax bill. 

However, if you lose money on your stocks, you can deduct those losses from your taxes. This can help offset any gains you made elsewhere, and it can also help lower your overall tax bill. In this blog, you’ll explore taxes on stock gains and losses and how to calculate and lower your capital gains tax. So, let’s get started!

Taxes on Your Stock Gains

As an investor, you’re likely aware that you must pay your profits taxes. But you might not know that there are different tax rates for different types of investments, including stocks. Here’s a rundown of the taxes you may owe on your stock gains.

Capital Gains Taxes

Capital gains taxes are levied on the profit you make when you sell an asset/stock that has increased in value. The tax is levied on the gain, not the amount of money you receive from the sale. 

For example, if you purchase a painting for $5,000 and sell it later for $25,000, you have gained $20,000 ($25,000-$5,000). Some assets are exempt from capital gains taxes. You also do not have to pay capital gains taxes if all your gains in a year are below your tax-free allowance.

Short Term

When you sell an investment, such as a stock, for more than you paid for it, you may have to pay taxes on your “capital gain.” If you held the investment for a year or less before selling it, your capital gain is considered a “short-term” gain and is taxed at the same rate as your ordinary income. Short-term capital gains are taxed at rates from 10% to 37%, depending on your tax bracket.

Long Term

If you held the stock for longer than a year, your gain is considered “long-term” and is taxed at a lower rate: 0%, 15%, or 20%, depending on your tax bracket. In general, short-term capital gains are taxed at the same rate as your ordinary income, while long-term capital gains are taxed at a lower rate.  

However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if you sell a stock for a loss, you may be able to deduct that loss on your taxes.

The tax rate you pay on your capital gains depends on several factors, including:

  • Your tax bracket
  • The type of investment you sold (long-term or short-term)
  • How long you held the investment before selling it

Taxes on Dividends

Dividends are payments made by companies to their shareholders. If you own stocks that pay dividends, you’ll owe taxes on those dividends at either the qualified or unqualified rate. The new dividend tax rates will result in a reduction of 1.25% dividend tax across the board for both primary and higher rate taxpayers. 

The additional income tax rate has been abolished, so dividend income previously charged at this rate (39.35% in 2022/23) will now be taxed at the same rate as other income.

There are some critical changes to the way dividends are taxed that you need to be aware of. Here’s a quick summary:

    • The new tax rates apply to both individuals and companies
    • Dividends will now be taxed at the same rate as other income (marginal rate)
    • There is no longer a separate dividend tax allowance
    • There is no longer a higher rate of tax on dividends

Qualified Dividends

As the name suggests, qualified dividends meet specific criteria to be taxed at the lower capital gains rate rather than, the higher income tax rate. To qualify, the dividends must be issued by a domestic or qualified foreign company, and the shareholder must have held the shares for a specific time. 

In addition, the shares cannot have been hedged with calls, puts, or short sales. The tax rate on qualified dividends depends on your income and filing status. If you’re in the 10% or 15% marginal tax bracket, you’ll pay 0% in taxes on qualified dividends. If you’re in the 25%, 28%, 33%, or 35% marginal tax bracket, you’ll pay 15% in taxes on qualified dividends.

Unqualified or Ordinary Dividends

Unqualified or ordinary dividends are taxed at your marginal tax rate. The primary drawback of these dividends is that the IRS taxes them at higher rates than qualified dividends.

For the tax year 2022, the IRS taxes nonqualified dividends at the same rate as an investor’s ordinary income tax rate. So if you are in the 22% marginal tax bracket, you will owe $22 in taxes for every $100 of unqualified dividends.

If you hold these stocks in a taxable account, you should know the higher tax rates on unqualified dividends. You may consider holding them in a tax-advantaged account such as a 401(k) or IRA to avoid the higher taxes.

Calculating Your Capital Gains Tax

When you sell stocks, you may have to pay capital gains tax. This tax is based on the difference between the sale price of the stock and its original purchase price. To calculate your capital gains tax, you will need to know your marginal tax rate and the amount of your gain or loss.

  • Your marginal tax rate is the highest rate of tax that you will pay on your income. There are seven marginal tax brackets in the United States, ranging from 10% to 37%. The rate that you will pay depends on your taxable income.
  • To calculate your gain or loss, subtract the stock’s original purchase price from the sale price. If the result is positive, you have a gain. If the result is negative, you have a loss.
  • Once you have your marginal tax rate and the amount of your gain or loss, you can calculate your capital gains tax. To do this, multiply your gain or loss by your marginal tax rate. For example, if you are in the 24% marginal tax bracket and have a $1,000 gain, your capital gains tax would be $240.
  • If you have a loss, you can use it to offset any gains that you may have. For example, if you have a $1,000 loss and a $500 gain, your net gain would be $500, and your capital gains tax would be $120.
  • You can also carry forward losses to offset gains in future years. This can be helpful if you have a year where you have significant gains and want to minimize your tax liability.

Capital gains taxes are complex, so you must talk to a tax professional if you have questions or concerns. They can help you ensure you are taking all the deductions and credits you are eligible for.

How to Lower Your Capital Gains Tax?

When it comes to taxes, capital gains can be a big headache. But there are ways to minimize the taxes you’ll owe on your investment earnings. By understanding how capital gains are taxed and taking advantage of available tax breaks, you can keep more money in your pocket.

There are a few different ways to reduce the taxes you’ll owe on your capital gains. 

  • One is to take advantage of tax-advantaged investments like 401(k)s and IRAs, which can help you shelter your earnings from taxes.
  • Another way to reduce your capital gains tax bill is to invest in assets that are eligible for special treatment. For example, qualified dividends and long-term capital gains are taxed lower than ordinary income. And if you hold certain assets, such as collectables or small business stock, for more than a year before selling them, you may be eligible for an even lower tax rate.
  • You can reduce your capital gains taxes by taking advantage of tax-loss harvesting. This strategy involves selling lost value investments and using the losses to offset your capital gains. Doing this can lower your overall tax bill and keep more of your money.

Capital gains taxes can take a big bite out of your investment earnings. But by understanding how they work and taking advantage of available tax breaks, you can minimize the amount of taxes you’ll owe. This will help you keep more money in your pocket and reach your financial goals.


When it comes to taxes and stocks, the bottom line is that you may have to pay taxes on capital gains if you sell stocks for a profit. However, if you sell stocks at a loss, you may be able to claim a tax deduction.

So, if you’re considering selling stocks, keeping track of your investment history and being aware of the tax implications is essential. Although, the best advice is to speak with a tax professional to get the most accurate information for your specific situation.