With the proliferation of online and discount brokerage , people are trading the stock market in ever increasing numbers. However, as an individual or sole proprietor, traders cannot take advantage of the myriad of tax advantages and asset protection strategies available to companies.
Trading the market can be a gainful way to make extra income, or even possibly a full-time living. Like any business, the income generated from trading is taxable and can create significant tax liabilities for the successful trader. For more on this, read our Brokers and Online Trading Tutorial.
In deciding on what structure to trade through, individuals can trade as individuals or sole proprietors , qualify for trader status, or trade through a business entity. For the active trader, creating a legal trading business will often provide the best tax treatment and asset protection. In fact, all income from trading is considered unearned, or passive, income.
The presumption is that individuals are investors and that any trading activities are done for long-term capital accumulation and not for paying current liabilities. For this reason, unless an individual can qualify for trader status, he or she will be treated as any other tax filing individual. Income from trading cannot be reduced by contributing to an IRA or pension. The only advantage to being considered a passive trader is that the income derived from trading is not subject to additional self-employment taxes.
After that, deductions are the same as normally afforded to W-2 wage earners, which are generally limited to mortgage interest , property taxes and charitable deductions. The amounts of most deductions are restricted to a percentage of adjusted gross income. Because trading is not considered a business activity, all the expenses necessary to trade are excluded as deductions.
For most active traders, the costs of necessities such as education, a trading platform , software, internet access, computers and the like can be considerable. For most traders, the biggest tax issue they face is that deductions for trading losses are limited to gains. Tax Remedies In order to avoid such tax treatment, some active traders try to qualify for trader status. The qualified trader is allowed to file a Schedule C and deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses , which would include education, entertainment, margin interest and other trading-related expenses.
Finally, a qualified trader can elect a Section f or the mark to market MTM election. Since the late s, mark-to-market accounting has allowed traders to change their capital gains and losses to ordinary income and losses. On the last day of the year, all positions are assumed to be sold at market value and a hypothetical gain or loss is calculated. For the following year, the basis for each of these positions is calculated by assuming they were also purchased at market value. The hypothetical gains and losses at year end are added to actual gains and losses for tax purposes.
Mark-to-market accounting can be a valuable practice, but all bets are off when the market fluctuates wildly. Because gains and losses are regarded as ordinary income under MTM, all losses are deducted in the year they occur. Some traders will also elect MTM in order to avoid the day wash sale rule , which disqualifies loss deductions on "substantially identical" securities bought within 30 days before or after a sale.
To be engaged in a business as a trader in securities, a person must trade on a full-time basis, and derive most of his or her income through day trading. According to the IRS , a trader is someone who trades significantly and continuously in order to profit from the short-term fluctuations in security prices. Traders are individuals who make multiple trades daily to profit from intraday market swings and do so continuously throughout the year.
They spend a considerable amount of time documenting and researching trades and strategies and incur a significant amount of expenses in order to conduct their business activities. Although not specifically required, most qualified traders will open and close multiple trades daily and hold their positions for less than 30 days.
For active traders, the benefits of qualifying are obvious, but these guidelines are open to interpretation by the IRS and the courts. Only a small percentage qualify, even some whose only income is derived through trading. A Legal Trading Business The only way to ensure that you are receiving the same tax treatment as a qualified trader is to create a separate corporate entity to trade through.
By creating a limited liability company or a limited partnership , you can receive all the same tax treatment as a qualified trader without having to qualify. The legal entity usually receives less scrutiny by the IRS because the assumption is that no one would go through the trouble and expense of forming the entity, unless they were committed to trading as a business venture. It is extremely difficult for individuals to change election such as MTM once it has been chosen.
With the company, if there is an advantage to changing accounting methods or the legal structure, the entity can simply be dissolved and re-formed accordingly.
Even though the actual structure is determined by an individual's financial goals, it usually includes a C corporation , which exists to be the general partner or managing member of several limited liability companies.
For example, in order to fund college expenses or to give children money tax free , family members can become employees. The corporation can then take advantage of deductible salaries and education expenses, while building Social Security and Medicare accounts. Medical reimbursement plans can be created to fund all types of elective healthcare and medical insurance premiums.
Because the corporation pays taxes on net income , the goal is to pay as many expenses as possible with pretax dollars and to minimize taxable income. Find out how becoming a corporation can protect and further your finances in Should You Incorporate Your Business? This type of business structure also provides excellent asset protection because it separates the business from the individual. Long-term assets can be held by other limited liability companies that can use accounting methods better suited for investments.
All assets are protected from creditors and the legal liabilities of the individual because they are held by separate legal entities. The amount of legal protection is determined by state law. Many advisors suggest forming these entities in states that will not allow the piercing of the legal structure.
Most prefer Nevada because of its lack of corporate sales tax , flexibility to charge orders as sole remedy by creditors, the anonymity of not having to list shareholders , and the nomination of corporate officers. Could incorporating your business help protect it? Conclusion Although trading through a complex legal structure has obvious benefits, it also can add a significant amount of complexity to one's personal affairs.
For traders who have been consistently profitable but cannot or do not want to qualify for trader status, trading through a simple business is essential. If you wish to set up a pension fund to defer taxes , pay salaries to loved ones or recoup significant medical expenses tax free, then the added complexity is a decent trade-off to gain the benefits of a compound structure.
Either way, to receive the best tax treatment and legal protection, one should speak with advisors who understand the formation and operation of these entities for traders. Dictionary Term Of The Day. A conflict of interest inherent in any relationship where one party is expected to Broker Reviews Find the best broker for your trading or investing needs See Reviews.
Sophisticated content for financial advisors around investment strategies, industry trends, and advisor education. A celebration of the most influential advisors and their contributions to critical conversations on finance. Become a day trader. Finally, a qualified trader can elect a Section f or the mark to market MTM election Since the late s, mark-to-market accounting has allowed traders to change their capital gains and losses to ordinary income and losses.
A conflict of interest inherent in any relationship where one party is expected to act in another's best interests. Passive investing is an investment strategy that limits buying and selling actions. Passive investors will purchase investments How much a fixed asset is worth at the end of its lease, or at the end of its useful life.
If you lease a car for three years, A target hash is a number that a hashed block header must be less than or equal to in order for a new block to be awarded. No thanks, I prefer not making money.
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