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Cost Basis: Gains, Losses and Mythical Beings

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January 27, 2017
Cost Basis: Gains, Losses and Mythical Beings

So, what exactly is a cost basis? It's that ever morphing figure that may elude even the best of us. By definition, cost basis is the original value of a stock investment; adjusted for stock splits, certain type of dividends, return of capital distributions and other adjustments. Bottom line, it’s important. As an investor, you need to know the cost basis of your positions. Long ago touted as a proposed IRS slogan, “We got what it takes to take what you got,” you don’t want this mantra haunting you as you walk yourself to the poorhouse. 

Computing your taxable gains and loss hinges on adjusted cost basis and holding periods. Cost basis values shouldn’t be as difficult as locating the Loch Ness monster. And, you shouldn’t have to wait for your 1099 to start figuring out your taxes and liabilities. To make the process more efficient, TD Ameritrade offers an easy-to-use platform on their Gain/Loss page powered by GainsKeeper. To access the platform just log into your account at tdameritrade.com, go to "My Account" and then click "Gain/Loss."

What is the Gain/Loss Page?

From Realized events—new and old—to Unrealized positions and their holding periods, the Gain/Loss page has what you need for tax reporting information and can help you make educated decisions about your trading. 

FIGURE 1: TAX REPORTING.

The gain/loss page has important tax reporting and trading information. These printable reports are available in PDF, XLS, TXF, and TXT formats. Source: TD Ameritrade. For illustrative purposes only. Not a recommendation of a specific security.

Lucky for you, you don’t need to be Merlin the Magician and cast a spell to see what you need. The Realized Gain/Loss tab allows you to filter for a specific time period and shows you sells and corporate action events, such as mergers and spin-offs. It also shows wash sale information and the adjustments to cost basis when applicable. You can also view whether your positions were categorized as long-term or short-term.

FIGURE 2: CORPORATE ACTION EVENTS.

The realized gain/loss tab shows sells, corporate action events and more. You are able to view by an entire tax year or by a specific date range. Source: TD Ameritrade. For illustrative purposes only. Not a recommendation of a specific security.

The Unrealized Gain/Loss tab shows your open positions and their current market value.  This feature allows you to easily view how long you’ve held the positions (aka ”the term”) to help you make tax-efficient investing decisions.

FIGURE 3: CURRENT MARKET VALUE.

The unrealized gain/loss tab shows your open positions and their current market value. If multiple lots are held, you are able to drill down by clicking the + to the left of the security. Source: TD Ameritrade. For illustrative purposes only. Not a recommendation of a specific security.

Another notable feature of the Gain/Loss page is that it allows you to select specific lots, as long as your realized event is still unsettled. You are able to select specific lots from the Unsettled Closed Positions tab. Within Unsettled Close Positions tab, you can select the unsettled sale and then select exactly which open lot or lots you would like that applied to. Upon settlement, you’ll be able to see what you wanted applied to the Realized Gain/Loss tab, and we’ll send your selection on to the IRS once tax reporting time rolls around.

FIGURE 4: SPECIFIC LOTS.

The gain/loss page even lets you select specific lots, as long as your realized event is still unsettled. Click on the green box to the right to assign the event to a specific lot(s). Source: TD Ameritrade. For illustrative purposes only. Not a recommendation of a specific security.

Because we realize this data is sometimes cumbersome when served in large quantity, we have included an export feature to transfer data from the Realized and Unrealized Gain/Loss tabs into excel or to a printer-friendly page for your convenience.

When applicable, you can drill into adjustments made on Fixed Income securities. This interactive data allows you to see how your cost basis is being affected on either realized or unrealized holdings.

How Can We Help

If you have any questions client services are always available 24/7. To speak with a Tax Services Representative, call 800-669-3900 Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET.

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