I've been actively trading a stock but am now out of the position and wasn't planning to reinvest in the security. I have some wash sale losses that i would like to use for tax purposes. Is my only option to repurchase shares after the 30 day window closes? I'm assuming i could do that and then simply turn around and sell right away to adjust the cost basis and take the loss, as long as I don't reinvest in the same stock again within the 30 day window - is that how traders do it?

  • 1
    What country's tax rules are you asking about? Jun 27 '20 at 23:02
  • What's the point of selling it right away ? Why would you purchase something and then just sell it right away ?
    – xyious
    Jun 29 '20 at 20:24

A wash sale violation (WSV) doesn't prevent you from trading as often as you like. It only affects your ability to deduct the loss.

A WSV occurs if you purchase (or short) a “substantially identical” security within a 60 day window around the date when you realize a loss. That's 30 days before and 30 days after the loss. That means that you must increase the cost basis of the replacement shares position by the amount of the loss and the loss is deferred. When you close the replacement position cleanly (assuming no add'l WSVs), you get to deduct the original loss.

You can have as many WSVs as you like in substantially identical securities. As long as you close all involved positions by the end of the year and do not open a "substantially identically" position in the next 30 days, you can claim all losses in the current tax year.

In the US, professional traders who apply to the IRS and are granted Trader Tax Status are not subject to the WSV. They use Mark-To-Market accounting. Retail traders are subject to it and due to the maximum deduction of $3,000 per year, the WSV can be problematic.

As an aside:

  • A DRIP purchase can unexpectedly trigger a WSV, no matter how small it is, if it occurs in the 60 day window.

  • If a loss occurs in a non sheltered account and a WSV is triggered in a retirement account, the realized loss is lost not deferred.

  • IMO, this answer gives a lot of general information about wash sales but doesn't focus on OP's specific question.
    – nanoman
    Jun 28 '20 at 1:33

If you no longer have any position in the stock, then all of your wash sale losses have already been realized. A wash sale defers recognition of a loss and is always accompanied by an increased basis assigned to other substantially identical shares that you own (the "replacement shares").

By the time you have sold your entire position, you must have sold all replacement shares. Thus, accounting for their increased basis, your total allowed losses equal your total actual losses. If you follow the rules for calculating wash sales throughout your trades, you will find that there are no remaining deferred losses.

There is some confusion when you ask if you should "repurchase shares after the 30 day window closes...to adjust the cost basis". Shares purchased more than 30 days after selling for a loss are, by definition, not replacement shares and do not acquire an increased basis.

There is generally no reason, for investment purposes or tax purposes, to buy a stock and "simply turn around and sell right away".

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