Many taxpayers lose out on advantageous tax breaks because they are unaware that many things they own qualify for lower capital gain tax rates. Almost everything you own and use for personal or investment purposes is considered a “capital asset.” Some examples of things you may own that are capital assets are:
1. stocks and bonds held as investments;
2. personal residence owned and occupied by you and your family;
3. personal automobile used for pleasure or commuting;
4. personal jewelry and gems;
5. gold, silver and other metals;
6. timber grown on your home property or investment property; and
7. coin or stamp collections.
When a capital asset is sold or otherwise disposed of, it results in either a capital gain or a capital loss. If you sell a capital asset for more than the basis in the asset – usually the purchase price – you have a capital gain. If you sell a capital asset for less than the basis in the asset – usually the purchase price – then you have a capital loss. While personal-use capital losses are generally NOT deductible in contrast to business-use capital losses, personal-use capital gains are generally taxed at lower capital gains rates, which are laid out below.
Capital gains and losses must be reported on Form 1040, Schedule D. The disposition of capital assets held for more than one year are considered long-term capital gains (or losses). The disposition of capital assets held for one year or less are considered short-term capital gains (or losses).
The tax rates that apply to capital gains are generally lower than the tax rates that apply to other income. The lower rates are called the maximum capital gains rates. For Tax Year 2010, the maximum tax rates for individuals are 0%, 15%, 25% and 28%. To figure the capital gains tax rate that will apply to your personal-use capital gains, use the Form 1040, Schedule and its accompanying worksheets and instructions.
For more information regarding capital gains and losses, see IRS Publication 544: Sales and Other Dispositions of Assets.