In keeping with tradition, I am today posting my annual blog on tax gain/loss selling. I write this blog annually because every year around this time, people get busy with holiday shopping (or at least online shopping these days) and forget to sell the “dogs” in their portfolio and consequently, they pay unnecessary income tax on their capital gains in April. Alternatively, selling stocks with unrealized gains may be beneficial for tax purposes in certain situations.
As I am sure you are more than acutely aware, the stock markets in 2022 have been very weak. Consequently, you may have realized capital losses in 2022 or have unrealized capital losses starring back at your from your investment statement.
The goods news at this point in time is; if you reported capital gains in 2019-2021, you may be able to carryback any realized 2022 capital losses and/or possibly trigger capital losses on securities with unrealized losses to carryback.
In any event, if you have an advisor, ensure you are in contact to discuss your realized capital gain/loss situation and other planning options in the next week or two and if you are a DIY investor set aside some time this weekend or next to review your 2022 capital gain/loss situation in a calm, methodical manner. You can then execute any trades you decide are investment and tax effective on a timely basis knowing you have considered all the variables associated with your tax gain/loss selling.
I am going to exclude the detailed step by step capital gain/loss methodology I have included in some prior years blog posts. If you wish the detail, please refer to my 2020 tax loss selling post post and update the years (i.e., use 2021, 2020 & 2019 in lieu of 2019, 2018 and 2017).
You have three options in respect of capital losses realized in 2022:
1. You can use your 2022 capital losses to offset your 2022 realized capital gains
2. If you still have capital losses after offsetting your capital gains, you can carry back your 2022 net capital loss to offset any net taxable capital gains incurred in any of the three preceding years
3. If you cannot fully utilize the losses in either of the two above ways, your can carry your remaining capital loss forward indefinitely to use against future capital gains (or in the year of death, possibly against other income)
I would like to provide one caution about tax-loss selling. You should be very careful if you plan to repurchase the stocks you sell (see superficial loss discussion below). The reason for this is that you are subject to market vagaries for 30 days. I have seen people sell stocks for tax-loss purposes with the intention of re-purchasing those stocks, and one or two of the stocks take off during the 30-day wait period—raising the cost to repurchase far in excess of their tax savings.
Many people buy the same company's shares (say Bell Canada for this example) in different non-registered accounts or have employer stock purchase plans. I often see people claim a gain or loss on the sale of their Bell Canada shares from one of their non-registered accounts but ignore the shares they own of Bell Canada in another account. Be aware, you must calculate your adjusted cost base over on all the identical shares you own in all your non-registered accounts and average the total cost of your Bell Canada shares over the shares in all your accounts. If the cost of your shares in Bell is higher in one of your accounts, you cannot pick and choose to realize a gain or loss on that account; you must report the gain or loss based on the average adjusted cost base of all your Bell shares.
One must always be cognizant of the superficial loss rules. Essentially, if you or your spouse (either directly or through an RRSP) purchases an identical share 30 calendar days before or 30 days after a sale of shares, the capital loss is denied and is added to the cost base of the new shares acquired.
Transferring Losses to a Spouse who has Capital Gains
In certain cases you can use the superficial loss rules to transfer a capital loss you cannot use to your spouse. This is complicated and should not be undertaken without first obtaining professional advice.
While most people are typically looking at tax-loss selling at this time of year, you may also want to consider selling stocks with gains to net-off against capital losses, for marginal tax rate planning, charitable purposes (see below) or other reasons.
Donation of Marketable Securities
If you wish to make a charitable donation, a great way to be altruistic and save tax is to donate a non-registered marketable security that has gone up in value. As discussed in this blog post, when you donate qualifying securities, the capital gain is not taxable and you get the charitable tax credit. Please read the blog post for more details.
It is important to ensure that any 2022 tax planning trade is executed by the settlement date, which my understanding is the trade date plus two days (U.S. exchanges may be different). See this excellent summary for a discussion of the difference between what is the trade date and what is the settlement date. The summary also includes the 2022 settlement dates for Canada and the U.S. which are both December 28th this year.
Corporations - Passive Income Rules
If you intend to tax gain/loss sell in your corporation, keep in mind the passive income rules. This will likely require you to speak to your accountant to determine whether a realized gain or loss would be more effective in a future year (to reduce the potential small business deduction clawback) than in the current year.
As discussed above, there are a multitude of factors to consider when tax gain/loss selling. It would therefore be prudent to start planning now with your advisors, so that you can consider all your options rather than frantically selling at the last minute.