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In 2011 I accidentally bought $1000 worth of stock in a brokerage account and immediately sold it the same day for $985 (a $15 loss). The IRS is now claiming I owe $280 in taxes on $985 of income. Is something wrong here?

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What's wrong is that you didn't report the sale, while the broker did. But in 2011, the broker was only required to report the proceeds ($985), not the basis ($1000), so the IRS doesn't know how much you paid for it and assumes its 0.

What you should have done was to report it on your tax return, schedule D, and then you would actually be able to deduct the $15 loss from your other income.

You can still do that by filing an amended return, but if you're under audit for the issue - you should probably have a professional help you.

  • Ugh. I figured the $15 deduction wasn't worth my time. I don't even remember getting a tax form for the transaction. Thanks for your answer. – James Jones May 21 '13 at 23:57
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    You need to report it for matching, otherwise they assume you had $985 gain. The deduction is a side benefit (and now is actually moot because mailing the amended return will cost you more than what you could have saved with that). – littleadv May 22 '13 at 0:10
  • Interesting. Any idea why brokers don't report the basis? – James Jones May 22 '13 at 0:58
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    Basis tracking started with purchases in 2013, I believe. So at some point, this type of issue will be less likely. – JTP - Apologise to Monica May 22 '13 at 1:50
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    Generally speaking, you should always figure out and report all captial gains/losses that affect your taxes, even if it doesn't feel like a lot. – JAGAnalyst May 23 '13 at 4:24

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