Capital gains are the profits realized from the sale of capital assets, such as stocks, bonds, and property. The capital gains tax is triggered only when an asset is sold, not while the asset is held by an investor. However, mutual fund investors could be charged capital gains on investments in the fund that are sold by the fund during the year.
There are two types of capital gains: long term and short term; each has different tax rates. Long-term gains are profits on assets held longer than 12 months before they are sold. As a result of the 2003 tax law, the long-term capital gains tax was reduced from 20% to 15% (0% for individuals in the 10% and 15% tax brackets) through 2010; the 2010 Tax Relief Act extends the reduced tax rate through 2012. Short-term gains (on assets held for 12 months or less), on the other hand, are taxed as ordinary income at the seller’s marginal income tax rate.
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