A number of people jumped into the stock market for the first time in 2020. But tax experts warn these investing newbies may not be fully aware of their tax obligation.
The most important thing to understand is you only pay taxes on investments when you "realize" their gains. So if you bought a stock in 2020 and its value went up — you won't pay taxes on those gains until you sell. And if it sank in value, the same rules of "realizing" apply. It hurts to have a loss but you can use those to offset your gains, up to a limit.
It's also important to understand that gains are taxed differently depending on how long you held on to the investment. If you sell a stock you held for less than a year, they are taxed at the higher short term capital gains rate, versus the lower long term capital gains rate for investments held for more than a year. And if you are a higher income household, you may also face a net investment income tax on capital games and other investment income.
Made a killing at GameStop or another short squeeze? That won't come up until 2021 taxes, which aren't due until next year. But it would be wise start making plans or anticipated payments on those taxes now.
Some types of trading activity can be complicated, so it may be wise to seek professional help in preparing your taxes.