If you sold some shares of stock and want to invest in the stock again, you should be aware of the wash sale rules. Wash sale is a term used by the IRS to describe the sale of an investment and immediate repurchase of the same investment. The wash sale rules affect the taxable gains or losses on the stock you sold.
Selling for Tax Losses
The typical reason to sell stock with the intent to buy it back is to sell at a loss and use the loss as a tax write-off. The losses from selling assets held for investment such as stocks are called capital losses. The losses can be used to offset capital gains or even ordinary income on an investor's income tax return. To claim a capital loss on her taxes, the investor must avoid having the sale classified as a wash sale.
Wash Sale Time Limit
To avoid having the sale of stock classified as a wash sale, the investor cannot buy the same shares during the period 60 days before or 60 days after the stock shares were sold. If you have sold your stocks shares for a loss and want to use the loss as a tax write-off, you must wait at least 60 days before buying the stock again. If the shares are purchased before the 60 days have passed, the loss will be disallowed as a tax loss.
Wash Sale Considerations
A wash sale can be triggered by other investor actions as well as buying the stock. Buying a substantially equal investment within the 60 days will be ruled a wash sale. For example, an investor sold shares of the SPDR S&P 500 ETF and bought shares shares of the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF within 60 days. This action would be classified as a wash sale. Buying the shares in the name of a family member or purchasing stock options on the sold stock will trigger a wash sale loss exclusion.
Stock Sold for a Profit
The wash sale rule does not apply to shares of stock sold at a profit. The IRS wants the capital gains taxes paid on sold, profitable investments. You can buy the shares back the next day if you want and it will not change the tax consequences of selling the shares. An investor can always sell stocks and buy them back at any time. The 60-day waiting period is imposed by the tax rules and only applies to stocks sold for a loss.