It is absolutely crucial to build at least a basic understanding of tax laws prior to embarking upon any options trades. In this article, we will look at how calls and puts are taxed in the US, namely, calls and puts for the purpose of exercise, as well as calls and puts traded on their own. But before we go any further, please note that the author is not a tax professional and this article should only serve as an introduction to the tax treatment of options.
Further due diligence or consultation with a tax professional is highly recommended. Firstly, when call options are exercised, the premium is included as part of the cost basis of a stock.
For brevity sake, we will forgo commissions, which can be tacked onto the cost basis of her shares. The tax time period is considered short-term as it is under a year, and the range is from the time of option exercise June to time of selling her stock August. Put options receive a similar treatment: The position's elapsed time begins from when the shares were originally purchased to when the put was exercised shares were sold. Both long and short options for the purposes of pure options positions receive similar tax treatments.
Gains and losses are calculated when the positions are closed or when they expire unexercised. Below is an example that covers some basic scenarios:. Covered calls are slightly more complex than simply going long or short a call, and can fall under one of three scenarios for at or out-of-the-money calls: A call is unexercised, B call is exercised, or C call is bought back bought-to-close.
The above example pertains strictly to at-the-money or out-of-the-money covered calls. Tax treatments for in-the-money ITM covered calls are vastly more intricate. When writing ITM covered calls, the investor must first determine if the call is qualified or unqualified , as the latter of the two can have negative tax consequences. If a call is deemed to be unqualified, it will be taxed at the short-term rate, even if the underlying shares have been held for over a year.
Protective puts are a little more straightforward, though barely just. If an investor has held shares of a stock for more than a year, and wants to protect their position with a protective put, he or she will still be qualified for long-term capital gains.
The wash sale rule applies to call options as well. For example, if Beth takes a loss on a stock, and buys the call option of that very same stock within thirty days, she will not be able to claim the loss. Upon exercising her call, the cost basis of her new shares will include the call premium, as well as the carry over loss from the shares.
The holding period of these new shares will begin upon the call exercise date. Similarly, if Beth were to take a loss on an option call or put and buy a similar option of the same stock, the loss from the first option would be disallowed, and the loss would be added to the premium of the second option. Finally, we conclude with the tax treatment of straddles. Tax losses on straddles are only recognized to the extent that they offset the gains on the opposite position.
Taxes on options are incredibly complex, but it is imperative that investors build a strong familiarity with the rules governing these derivative instruments. This article is by no means a thorough presentation of the nuisances governing option tax treatments and should only serve as a prompt for further research. For an exhaustive list of tax nuisances, please seek a tax professional.
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Exercising Options Firstly, when call options are exercised, the premium is included as part of the cost basis of a stock. Pure Options Plays Both long and short options for the purposes of pure options positions receive similar tax treatments. Below is an example that covers some basic scenarios: Covered Calls and Protective Puts Covered calls are slightly more complex than simply going long or short a call, and can fall under one of three scenarios for at or out-of-the-money calls: We will revisit Mary for this example.
If the call is exercised , Mary will realize a capital gain based on her total position time period and her total cost. Straddles Finally, we conclude with the tax treatment of straddles. The Bottom Line Taxes on options are incredibly complex, but it is imperative that investors build a strong familiarity with the rules governing these derivative instruments.
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