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I sold an investment in a standard brokerage account at a small loss because I needed the money for a down payment. I still think it is a good investment, can I buy the same investment in a standard IRA without running into wash sale problems? I will probably just wait the 30 days any way to avoid any headaches, but I want to know if there is a definitive answer on this.

Being as the cost basis in the traditional IRA doesn't matter, I wouldn't think there would be a problem.

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From the IRS Section 1091. Loss from Wash Sales of Stock or Securities:

Section 1091(a) provides that in the case of any loss claimed to have been sustained from any sale or other disposition of shares of stock or securities where it appears that, within a period beginning 30 days before the date of such sale or disposition and ending 30 days after such date, the taxpayer has acquired (by purchase or by an exchange on which the entire amount of gain or loss was recognized by law),or has entered into a contract or option so to acquire, substantially identical stock or 3 securities, then no deduction shall be allowed under § 165

The document is not long, 4 pages, and should be read to see the intent. It's tough to choose the one snippet, but the conclusion is this is the definitive response to that question.

A purchase within an IRA or other retirement account can create a wash sale if such a purchase would be a wash sale otherwise, i.e. the fact that it's a retirement account doesn't avoid wash rules.

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Being as the cost basis in the traditional IRA doesn't matter, I wouldn't think there would be a problem.

Yes this is a problem because:

  1. Buying the same investment in some tax-advantageous account (IRA, 401(k), HSA, etc.) will make it count as a wash sale.
  2. But the tax-advantageous account will not benefit from having a different cost basis.

For example, let's say that you sold Stock A at 1000 USD loss in your regular brokerage account, and purchased the same amount of Stock A in your IRA, then the 1000 USD loss can't be used to reduce your taxes because this is a wash sale and the increase in cost basis in your purchase in your tax-advantageous account is worthless. The 1000 USD loss is referred to as a "disallowed loss".

(Just to make JTP's great answer easier to understand.)

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