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What You Should Know About Capital Gains Taxes and CFD Trading

CFD trading was first developed in London during the 1990s. Compared to traditional stock market trading, investing in small businesses, and other investment types, CFD trading is a relatively new financial instrument. This type of trading is also different from spread betting, although the two share numerous similarities.

The most significant difference between spread betting and CFD trading is how they’ll affect your tax return. While spread betting isn’t subject to a capital gains tax in most places, CFD trading requires you to pay a capital gains tax. 

Continue reading to learn the essential things to know about capital gains taxes and CFD trading. 

Trader pointing to market platform indicating a profit or loss with consideration to capital gains tax and cfd trading

What Is CFD Trading?

A CFD is a contract for difference. Essentially, a CFD allows you to pay the difference in costs between the opens and closes of a trade instead of purchasing a given asset outright. 

CFDs are a tax-efficient way to speculate on various financial markets in many countries. However, you can lose your money as quickly as you profit, making them a reasonably high-risk investment opportunity. Of course, the more money you invest, the higher your risks are.

With CFD trading, you can make educated guesses on the rise and fall of prices in fast-moving global financial markets like indices, shares, commodities, forex, and treasuries. Profits or losses depend on price movement. 

How Does CFD Trading Work?

CFD trading is different from other financial markets in that you don’t own the underlying asset. Instead, you speculate by selling or buying a set number of units for a given financial instrument based on whether you believe the prices for those units will rise or fall.

You’ll earn (or lose) based on how many units your chosen assets move in the direction you predicted. You’ll lose money based on every unit the asset moves in the opposite direction you predicted. These gains and losses are multiplied by the number of assets you purchased.

With CFDs, you’re able to bet on financial instruments you believe will fall in value. Taking a short position on an asset means you think its value will fall in units versus rising. If the asset rises instead, you’ll lose money. 

CFDs Are Leveraged Products

CFDs are leveraged products, meaning you don’t need to invest the total asset amount to open your position. Instead, you’ll only need to deposit a percentage. These are called margin requirements or trading on margins. 

Due to leveraged products being fast-moving financial instruments, they require time and knowledge to be profitable. Anything traded on margin will usually be bought and sold quickly. 

Advantages of a CFD

Contracts for difference provide investors with several key advantages. A few of the most significant benefits include:

  • They allow investors to borrow money to increase the size of their position
  • Provides higher leverage compared to traditional trading
  • Less capital outlay
  • Greater potential returns on investment
  • Fewer rules and regulations apply to trading CFDs (*generally)
  • Investors can easily take a short or long position
  • Most CFD markets don’t have regulations regarding short-selling

Of course, these aren’t all of the advantages of trading CFDs. As with all investment opportunities, there are also potential downsides, such as capital loss. 

What Are Capital Gains Taxes?

According to the IRS, nearly everything you own for personal use or investment purposes is a capital asset. You’ll experience a capital gain or loss when you sell a capital asset. For example, retail investors who sell a company for more than they purchased would experience a capital gain equal to the difference in original investment price and final sales costs. 

Many capital gains and losses count as taxable income on your annual federal income tax. But, on that same token, losses can be counted as a tax deduction that decreases your total taxable income. 

However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, losses from the sale of personal property like your home or car aren’t tax deductible, while investment losses might be. 

How Do Capital Gains Tax Rates Work?

If you’re like most taxpayers, you’ll pay a higher rate on your income than you will on long-term gains that have been realized. A capital gain that has been “realized” has sold and incurred you either a profit or a loss. You will only be taxed on realized capital assets, not those you’re still holding onto. 

Since long-term capital gains have a lower tax rate, investors alike have an incentive to hold onto them. After any asset or investment has been held for a full calendar year, taxes on your profit will be lower. 

Taxes on Short Term Gains vs. Long Term Gains

Short-term capital gains are taxed significantly higher than those held for at least a year. The exact taxation rate will vary based on the amount of gains, your total annual income, and the country where you live. 

Before taxes are calculated, you can reduce your total profits by the amount of any capital losses that happened in the same year. The total annual maximum on reported net losses is $3,000. However, if you lost more than this, you can carry the remaining losses over into your next tax year. 

So, for example, let’s say all realized capital assets and investments in a given year made you a profit of $10,000. However, you also experienced a loss equal to or exceeding the $3,000 limit.

In this case, you would deduct the losses from the profits to come up with a net capital gain of $7,000. You would only be required to pay taxes on your net capital gain of $7,000, not your gross gains of $10,000.  

Any realized gains or losses kept for less than a year are treated as wages for tax purposes. They’re added to your tax return as earned or ordinary income and taxed as such. 

Long-term capital gains are taxed using a different system. They’re taxed based on a rate schedule instead of being taxed like traditional income sources. This rate schedule will vary based on your total annual taxable income and is adjusted for inflation each year.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re new to investing, it’s normal to have many questions about how trading works. Learning how to invest takes a lot of time, energy, and research if you want to do it well. Below are a few of the most frequently asked questions about how capital gains taxes and CFD trading works. 

Do Capital Gains Tax Rates Vary Based on Your Tax Bracket?

Yes, capital gains tax rates vary based on your tax bracket. Depending on which tax bracket you fall into, tax rates can be up to 20% in the United States. Capital gains taxes will also vary based on how long you held an asset and the country you live in, among other considerations. 

Should You Work With a Professional on Your Tax Return if You Invested in CFDs and Other Financial Instruments?

While it isn’t mandatory that you work with a tax professional on your annual return if you have investments, it’s highly encouraged to do so. There are severe consequences for tax errors, and depending on the error’s significance, you could be charged with tax fraud.

A tax professional will be able to help you ensure your return is error-free, and many provide additional assistance in the unfortunate event you’re audited. This can help give you peace of mind when filing taxes. 

Do All Countries Have Capital Gains Taxes?

Most countries have a capital gains tax, although not every country may tax capital assets in the same way. So before you start investing, look up the rules and regulations for capital gains and investments in your respective country to handle your situation appropriately. 

What if You Still Don’t Fully Understand How CFDs or Capital Gains Work?

If you still don’t fully understand how contracts for difference or capital gains work, you can check out our informative guides on how to start trading. Before making any investment, you must do ample research. 

Learn More About Capital Gains Taxes and CFD Trading

You can learn more about capital gains taxes and CFD trading on our website. You’ll find comprehensive information on many investment opportunities to help you get started.

If you’re ready to begin investing, you can create an account today. Baxia Markets is the choice trading solutions provider designed by forex trading professionals based on feedback from thousands of traders and research. 

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