The term "capital asset" for tax purposes applies to almost everything you own and use for personal or investment purposes. A capital gain or loss occurs when you sell a capital asset.

Here are 10 facts from the IRS on capital gains and losses:

  1. Almost everything you own and use for personal purposes, pleasure or investment is a capital asset. Capital assets include your home, household furnishings, and stocks and bonds that you hold as investments.
  2. A capital gain or loss is the difference between your basis of an asset and the amount you receive when you sell it. Your basis is usually what you paid for the asset.
  3. You must include all capital gains in your income.
  4. You may deduct capital losses on the sale of investment property. You cannot deduct losses on the sale of personal-use property.
  5. Capital gains and losses are long-term or short-term, depending on how long you hold on to the property. If you hold the property more than one year, your capital gain or loss is long-term. If you hold it one year or less, the gain or loss is short-term.
  6. If your long-term gains exceed your long-term losses, the difference between the two is a net long-term capital gain. If your net long-term capital gain is more than your net short-term capital loss, you have a 'net capital gain.'
  7. The tax rates that apply to net capital gains are generally lower than the tax rates that apply to other types of income. The maximum capital gains rate for most people in 2012 is 15 percent. For lower-income individuals, the rate may be 0 percent on some or all of their net capital gains. Rates of 25 or 28 percent can also apply to special types of net capital gains.
  8. If your capital losses are greater than your capital gains, you can deduct the difference between the two on your tax return. The annual limit on this deduction is $3,000, or $1,500 if you are married filing separately.
  9. If your total net capital loss is more than the limit you can deduct, you can carry over the losses you are not able to deduct to next year's tax return. You will treat those losses as if they occurred that year.
  10. Form 8949, Sales and Other Dispositions of Capital Assets, will help you calculate capital gains and losses. You will carry over the subtotals from this form to Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses. If you e-file your tax return, the software will do this for you.

For more information about capital gains and losses, see the Schedule D instructions or Publication 550, Investment Income and Expenses. They are both available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

As you answer simple questions about capital gains and losses, TaxACT completes Form 8949 and Schedule D for you. If you need it, help is available every step of the way. Start your return now.

Additional IRS Resources:

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Upcoming Tax Dates

July 1 Occupational excise taxes
File Form 11C to register and pay the annual tax if you are in the business of accepting wagers.

July 4 Everyone
Federal Holiday (Independence Day) - Details

July 10 Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during June, report them to your employer - Details

July 10 Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the first 15 days of June.

July 14 Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the last 15 days of June.

July 15 Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in June.

July 15 Nonpayroll withholding
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in June.

July 27 Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the last 15 days of June.

July 29 Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the first 15 days of July.

July 31 Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the second quarter of 2015. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules.

July 31 Certain small employers
Deposit any undeposited tax if your tax liability is $2,500 or more for 2015 but less than $2,500 for the second quarter.

July 31 Federal unemployment tax
Deposit the tax owed through June if more than $500.

July 31 All employers
If you maintain an employee benefit plan, such as a pension, profitsharing, or stock bonus plan, file Form 5500 or 5500EZ for calendar year 2014. If you use a fiscal year as your plan year, file the form by the last day of the seventh month after the plan year ends.

July 31 Form 720 taxes
File Form 720 for the second quarter of 2015.

July 31 Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during June.

July 31 Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in June.

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