New Tax Time Strategy: Tax-Loss Harvesting

Tax-loss harvesting available to TD Ameritrade Investment Management, LLC clients with taxable accounts invested in ETF Model portfolios.
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Tax-loss harvesting looks to sell an investment that’s lost value to generate a tax loss and purchase a new investment in its place. This strategy provides an opportunity to potentially reduce your tax bill all while staying fully invested and working toward your long-term investment goals. Sound complicated? Executing on this strategy is something that’s automated and done at no extra cost to TD Ameritrade Investment Management (TDAIM) existing clients with taxable accounts who are invested in a managed ETF portfolio. 

How it Works

If you are enrolled in our tax-loss harvesting service, TD Ameritrade Investment Management reviews your portfolio on a daily basis to look for tax-loss harvesting opportunities, which means you can realize losses throughout the year that might not necessarily be available at year-end. This may further help you to offset capital gains.

If you don’t have any capital gains or if you have more losses than gains, you can use the losses to offset up to $3,000 of other taxable income per year. After using your losses to offset capital gains and income, you can use any remaining losses to offset gains or income in later years. 

One Potential Scenario

To better understand how tax-loss harvesting works, imagine a scenario in which someone invests $100,000, putting $60,000 in “ETF A” and $40,000 in “ETF B.”

At the end of one year, ETF A has declined by $7,000 and is now worth $53,000. But ETF B has risen by $10,000 and is now worth $50,000.

Without tax-loss harvesting, the client has a realized gain of $10,000 from ETF B, and has a potential tax bill of $1,500 (assuming he or she sells the shares and pays the 15% capital gains tax on the profit).

On the other hand, with tax-loss harvesting, TD Ameritrade’s service has been monitoring the two ETFs daily all year, selling ETF A to offset gains from ETF B. At the end of the year, instead of paying a $1,500 tax, the investor only has a potential tax bill of $450, for a potential tax savings of $1,050.

With the investor’s tax liability reduced by $1,050, that savings becomes money that can be invested back in the portfolio, used to maximize IRA contributions, pay off debt, or spend as one pleases. See the example in figure 1.

Tax-Loss Harvesting Example


Infographic showing the potential benefits of Tax-loss harvesting. For illustrative purposes only.

Beware of the Wash Sale Rule

Investors should educate themselves about the IRS’ wash sale rule, which prohibits you from claiming a tax loss if you repurchase the same security (or a substantially similar security) either 30 days before or 30 days after selling a security for a loss. To evaluate whether you violated the wash sale rule, the IRS reviews the trading activity for all of your accounts. In other words, the IRS looks at trades you place in other accounts at TD Ameritrade, at other brokerage firms, and in IRA or Roth IRA accounts, as well as transactions your spouse made and transactions by a business entity you control to determine if you violated the wash sale rule. 

TD Ameritrade Investment Management’s tax-loss harvesting service only scans your TDAIM portfolio on an individual account level (not all of your portfolios collectively) to reduce the chance of violating the wash sale rule in that particular account, and TDAIM does not have any transparency into your trading activity in brokerage accounts that you may have at TD Ameritrade or at other financial institutions. Therefore,  a trade that TDAIM places in one account may inadvertently create a wash sale in another account. You should be aware of investments in all your investment accounts to determine if you run the risk of violating the wash sale rule.

Other Key Considerations

TD Ameritrade Investment Management does not provide tax advice. We suggest you consult with a tax-planning professional with regard to your personal circumstances as to whether the TDAIM tax-loss harvesting feature is appropriate for you. This feature generally would be more beneficial to investors in higher tax brackets and high-tax states. 

TDAIM goes through a rigorous due diligence process to select securities to replace those sold for tax-loss harvesting purposes. We seek replacement securities that meet TDAIM’s high standards and keep your portfolio in line with its target allocation.


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All investments involve risk, including loss of principal. Past performance does not guarantee future results. There is no assurance that the investment process will consistently lead to successful investing. Asset allocation and diversification do not eliminate the risk of experiencing investment losses.

The tax-loss harvesting feature is currently only available with the TDAIM ETF-based portfolios in taxable TD Ameritrade Investing Accounts.  Tax-loss harvesting is not appropriate for all investors.  Investing in securities involves risk of loss that the client should be prepared to bear. TDAIM does not represent or guarantee that the objectives of the tax-loss harvesting feature will be met.  The performance of the replacement securities purchased through the TDAIM tax-loss harvesting feature may be better or worse than the performance of the securities that are sold for tax-loss harvesting purposes.  TDAIM only reviews each  account that is managed by it individually to help ensure that your account does not violate the “wash sale” rule.  When you enroll in the tax-loss harvesting feature, the enrollment is on an account basis and does not apply to other TDAIM portfolios you may have.  Each eligible TDAIM portfolio must be enrolled separately in the TLH feature.  Accordingly, you are responsible for monitoring your brokerage accounts and your spouse’s brokerage accounts at TD Ameritrade or elsewhere to ensure that transactions in the same security or a substantially similar security do not create a wash sale. The wash sale rule postpones losses on a sale, if replacement shares are bought around the same time.


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