Do you Have to Pay Taxes on Stocks? All You Need to Know

To you, Stocks are an investment and you shouldn’t pay taxes on them, right? Owning stocks, mutual funds, and other investments can make tax time a bit more complicated.

You may be aware of taxes related to selling stocks, you may not know the other tax implications of an investment portfolio, such as what you may owe on dividends or interest earned.

If you own stocks, it is only wise that you figure out how best to handle taxes, what is required of you for the stocks taxes amongst others.

This article answers the question of if you have to pay taxes on stocks. 

What are Stocks

A stock (also known as equity) is a security that represents the ownership of a fraction of a corporation.

This entitles the owner of the stock to a proportion of the corporation’s assets and profits equal to how much stock they own. Units of stock are called “shares.”

Investing in stocks can be a great way to build wealth and financial security, but it’s important to understand how taxes on stocks could affect your tax bill.

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When Do You Pay Taxes on Stocks?

Since stock holdings can earn income, any action that you earn money from could have tax implications.

Some times when you could pay taxes on stocks are:

  • When you buy or sell your investments, you will have to pay taxes on the profits you made. This is called a capital gain. Capital gains are taxed at different rates, depending on whether they are considered a short-term or long-term holding. If you lose money in your investments, this is called a capital loss. This also plays into your taxes, potentially to your benefit. If your losses exceed your gains, you can use it to lower your amount of taxable income, up to a certain yearly limit. 
  • When you earn interest or dividends on your stocks: Even if you don’t sell any of your investments for profit, you may still owe some taxes on them for the money you earn passively. This means that for any periodic payments you receive from the company, you would be required to pay taxes. 
  • If you own bonds and earn interest on them, you will also have to pay taxes on the interest earned: These vary based on the type of bond you own. If you own mutual funds, you will pay tax on any dividends earned. You will also have to pay taxes if you sold any mutual fund shares. However, you don’t have to pay taxes on any transactions performed by the mutual fund’s manager.

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Do you have to Pay Taxes on Stocks?

Basically, yes. You would have to pay taxes on stocks.

If you are holding shares of stock in a regular brokerage account, you may need to pay capital gains taxes when you sell the shares for a profit.

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There are two types of capital gains taxes:

  • Short-term capital gains tax is a tax on profits from the sale of an asset held for a year or less. Short-term capital gains tax rates are the same as your usual tax bracket. 
  • Long-term capital gains tax is a tax on profits from the sale of an asset held for longer than a year. Long-term capital gains tax rates are 0%, 15%, or 20% depending on your taxable income and filing status. Short-term capital gains have higher tax rates than long-term capital gains. That can mean paying lower taxes on stocks.

In any of these types of capital gain tax, you would need to pay taxes on your stocks investments. What varies is the amount of tax to pay.

When you held your stock for the long term, you would be more likely to pay less tax than a person who held it for a short period. Assets you hold for over one year qualify for the more favorable long-term capital gains rates.

In contrast, gains on investments you’ve held for one year or less are considered “short-term capital gains,” which are taxed at your higher, ordinary income tax rate.

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How Does the Capital Gains Tax on Stocks Work?

If you bought 100 shares from a company, and you bought each stock at $20 per share and sold them more than a year later for $50 per share.

You also fall into the income category where your long-term gains are taxed at 15%. I would tabulate your earnings as:

  • Bought 100 shares at $20= $2,000
  • Sold 100 shares at $50= $5,000
  • Capital gain= $3000
  • Capital gain which would be taxed at 15%= $450
  • Profit after tax= $2,550

This means that $450 of your profit will go to the government. However, if you held the stock for one year or less (short term), they have taxed your profit at your ordinary income tax rate, which can be as high as 37% for tax years 2021 and 2022.

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How to Can You Calculate Long-Term Capital Gains Tax on Stocks?

You may find that calculating the tax you have to pay on your Stocks would make you more reasonable when investing.

It is only reasonable that you learn how to calculate the tax accrued on your stocks using software that automatically makes the computations. You can also use a capital gains calculator to get a rough idea.

There are also some applications online you can use to easily calculate the amount of tax you have to pay.

However, if you want to calculate it manually, you should:

  • Determine your basis: The basis is generally the purchase price plus any commissions or fees you paid. The basis can be adjusted up or down for stock splits and dividends.
  • Determine your realized amount: This is the sale price minus any commissions or fees you paid.
  • Subtract the basis (what you paid) from the realized amount (what you sold it for) to determine the difference. This is the capital gain (or loss).
  • Determine your tax: If you have a capital gain, multiply the amount by the appropriate tax rate to determine your capital gains tax for the asset (remember that tax rates differ depending on your taxable income and how long you held the asset before you sold it). If you have a capital loss, you may They can adjust the basisuse the loss to offset capital gains.
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How to Can You Minimize or Avoid Capital Gains Tax?

There are several ways to minimize or even avoid capital gains taxes. The common strategies are:

Invest for the long term:

If you can, find good companies and hold their stock for the long term. When you hold stocks long-term, you will pay the lowest capital gains tax rate.

A company’s fortunes can change over the years, and you might want or need to sell earlier than you originally anticipated.

However, to minimize the tax you would pay, try to hold on for a long time. 

Take advantage of tax-deferred retirement plans:

When you invest your money through a retirement plan, such as a 401(k), 403(b), or individual retirement account (IRA), it will grow without being subject to immediate taxes.

You can also buy and sell investments within your retirement account without triggering capital gains tax.

In the case of traditional retirement accounts, your gains will be taxed as ordinary income when you withdraw money, but by then, you may be in a lower tax bracket than when you were working. 

Another option for minimizing the amount of taxes you pay on investments is to put aside the money that you will owe in taxes on dividends, interest, and capital gains as you earn it.

If your current tax rate is 25%, you may earmark a quarter of any capital gains you received on short-term holdings to cover your taxes the following year. 

Talk to an Accountant:

You can also talk to your accountant about the best way to prepare for tax season if you have an investment portfolio, so you can be prepared to pay your tax bill and still stick to your monthly budget.

Use investment capital losses to offset gains:

The difference between your capital gains and your capital losses is called your “net capital gain.”

If your losses exceed your gains, you can deduct the difference on your tax return, up to $3,000 per year.

Convert a traditional IRA to Roth IRA:

You can convert a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA so that withdrawals in retirement are tax-free. However, only post-tax dollars get to go into Roth IRAs.

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So if you deducted traditional IRA contributions on your taxes and then decide to convert this to a Roth, you would need to pay taxes on the money you contributed, just like everyone else who invests in a Roth IRA.


The thought of having shares or an investment growing money somewhere often closes people’s eyes towards the taxes attached to these investments.

It’s easy to get caught up in choosing investments and forget about the tax consequences, particularly, the capital gains tax.

After all, picking the right stock or mutual fund can be challenging enough without worrying about after-tax returns. For every investment, it is important to consider the taxes attached to them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have to claim stocks on taxes?

Shares of stock received or purchased through a stock plan are considered income and generally subject to ordinary income taxes. Additionally, when shares are sold, you would need to report the capital gain or loss.

How to avoid capital gains taxes on stocks?

To avoid capital gains taxes on stocks, work your tax bracket, use tax-loss harvesting, donate stocks to charity, buy and hold qualified small business stocks, reinvest in an opportunity fund, hold on to it until you die, and try as much as you can to use tax-advantaged retirement accounts.

Do you pay tax when you sell shares?

Generally, any profit you make on the sale of a stock is taxable at either 0%, 15%, or 20% if you held the shares for more than a year or at your ordinary tax rate if you held the shares for less than a year. Also, any dividends you receive from stock are usually taxable.

Do I have to report stocks if I don't sell?

If you sold stocks at a loss, you might get to write off up to $3,000 of those losses. And if you earned dividends or interest, you will have to report those on your tax return as well. However, if you bought securities but sold nothing, you will not have to pay any “stock taxes.”

What happens if you don't pay taxes on stocks?

They included profits from trading are capital gains and on tax form Schedule D. In rare cases, they can even prosecute taxpayers for tax evasion, which includes a penalty of up to $250,000 and 5 years in prison.

How often do you pay taxes on stocks?

Taxes on capital gains only apply to profits you make when you sell. If the value of your investments has risen but you have realized no gains by selling shares, you don’t owe any taxes. You’ll pay taxes on these gains whenever you sell your stocks.


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