Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Capital Loss Carryover


Capital loss carryover refers to the portion of a financial loss on investments that exceeds the maximum allowable annual deduction for tax purposes, which is then carried over to future tax years. Investors can apply this carryover to offset capital gains and reduce their taxable income in subsequent years. The process continues until the entire capital loss is fully utilized or the taxpayer no longer has any capital gains to offset.


Capital Loss Carryover in phonetics is:/ˈkæpɪtəl lɒs ˈkæriˌoʊvər/

Key Takeaways


Capital Loss Carryover – Main Takeaways

  1. Allows unused losses to offset future gains: Capital loss carryover enables taxpayers to apply their unused net capital losses (the amount exceed the annual limit) against future capital gains, reducing their taxable income in subsequent years.
  2. Annual limit on deductible losses: Taxpayers can only deduct a certain amount of net capital losses each year. For instance, in the U.S., individuals can deduct up to $3,000 in net capital losses from their ordinary income annually ($1,500 if married filing separately).
  3. No expiration on carryover losses: If the total net capital loss exceeds the annual deductible limit, taxpayers can continue carrying over those losses into future years indefinitely until the losses are fully utilized to offset taxable income.



Capital Loss Carryover is an important business/finance term as it allows investors to offset their capital gains tax liability by carrying forward their net capital losses from previous tax years. This provision ensures that investors are not excessively burdened by tax liabilities during years when they incur significant capital losses, which can negatively impact their overall investment returns. By effectively managing their capital losses and strategically utilizing the capital loss carryover, investors can potentially reduce their tax burden in subsequent years, improve their net gains, and maintain a healthy long-term investment portfolio.


Capital Loss Carryover is a fundamental concept in tax management, aimed at bringing a more balanced and fair approach to the taxation of financial gains and losses. The purpose of capital loss carryover lies in enabling taxpayers, mainly investors, to utilize losses incurred on the sale of capital assets in one tax year, as a tool to offset capital gains realized in subsequent tax years. This mechanism not only provides ample opportunity to recover from losses but also aids in the efficient management of tax liabilities, fostering a healthy and thriving investment environment. Capital loss carryover serves as a critical financial planning tool for investors across various markets. By preserving the value of incurred capital losses, investors can effectively strategize the timing and extent of their investments and subsequent sales, to maximize the advantage of the provisions offered by this concept in reducing their tax burden. Furthermore, the ability to carry forward capital losses deters individuals from making hasty and potentially risky investment decisions, simply to avoid paying taxes on short-term gains. Overall, capital loss carryover acts as a catalyst for promoting financial stability and long-term growth, while concurrently ensuring that tax policies remain equitable for all.


Capital Loss Carryover refers to the process of using the net capital losses from a previous tax year to offset the capital gains in future tax years. This strategy allows investors to reduce their tax burden, especially when they have realized significant losses. Here are three real-world examples: 1. Individual Investor’s Scenario: In 2020, Lisa, an individual investor, incurred a net capital loss of $10,000 from selling several stocks. The IRS allows a maximum capital loss deduction of $3,000 per year for individual taxpayers. Therefore, Lisa can use $3,000 of her capital loss to offset her ordinary income in 2020. She has a remaining capital loss carryover of $7,000, which she can apply to her 2021 tax return. If she has capital gains in 2021, she can use the capital loss carryover to offset those gains. If not, she can continue to carry over the remaining balance to future tax years, in increments of $3,000 per year, until the entire loss has been accounted for. 2. Real Estate Investment Scenario: In 2019, John, a real estate investor, sold a rental property at a net capital loss of $30,000. The following year, he sold another rental property at a capital gain of $50,000. John can carry over the $30,000 of capital loss from 2019 to his 2020 tax return. By doing so, he would only owe taxes on $20,000 of capital gains ($50,000 gain – $30,000 loss) for the 2020 tax year. 3. Small Business Stock Scenario: Karen, an entrepreneur, experienced a capital loss of $15,000 on her small business stock in 2019. In 2020, she sells another investment for a capital gain of $20,000. Karen can use her capital loss carryover from the previous year to offset the 2020 capital gains. This would result in a taxable gain of only $5,000 ($20,000 gain – $15,000 loss) in 2020, which would lower her overall tax liability for that year.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Capital Loss Carryover?
Capital Loss Carryover is a tax provision that allows investors to carry forward their net capital losses from one tax year to the next, offsetting their future capital gains taxes. This provision is particularly useful when an investor has more capital losses in a year than capital gains.
How does Capital Loss Carryover work?
When an investor experiences a net capital loss in a tax year (i.e., their realized capital losses exceed realized capital gains), they can apply the excess loss as a deduction for their taxable income for that year, up to a maximum of $3,000. The remaining portion of the net capital loss can be carried over to future years to offset potential capital gains or to further deduct from taxable income up to the yearly limit.
Can Capital Loss Carryover be used indefinitely?
Yes, there is no set expiration period for capital loss carryovers, and they can be used to offset future capital gains for as long as the investor has remaining net capital losses to carry forward.
Are there any restrictions or limitations when using Capital Loss Carryover?
The primary limitation for Capital Loss Carryover is the maximum annual deduction of $3,000 when applying net capital losses to taxable income. Additionally, short-term capital losses must first be applied to offset short-term capital gains before they can be used against long-term capital gains.
How can I keep track of my Capital Loss Carryover?
Investors should maintain accurate records of their investment transactions, including the purchase and sale dates, costs, and proceeds. This documentation will help in calculating capital gains and losses, as well as determining the amount of any Capital Loss Carryover. Additionally, the IRS requires taxpayers to complete Form 8949 and Schedule D when reporting capital gains and losses on their tax returns, which can serve as a record of carryover amounts.
Can I choose which tax year to apply my Capital Loss Carryover?
No, the IRS requires taxpayers to apply their capital loss carryovers consecutively, beginning with the tax year following the year in which the net capital loss occurred. The remaining carryover amount is then applied to subsequent years as needed until the balance is exhausted.
Can I use Capital Loss Carryover to offset income from other sources?
Capital Loss Carryover can only be used to offset capital gains and, to a limited extent, other taxable income. The maximum capital loss carryover amount that can be applied towards non-capital gains income is $3,000 per year, regardless of a taxpayer’s filing status (e.g., single, married filing jointly).

Related Finance Terms

Sources for More Information

About Our Editorial Process

At Due, we are dedicated to providing simple money and retirement advice that can make a big impact in your life. Our team closely follows market shifts and deeply understands how to build REAL wealth. All of our articles undergo thorough editing and review by financial experts, ensuring you get reliable and credible money advice.

We partner with leading publications, such as Nasdaq, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, and more, to provide insights on retirement, current markets, and more.

We also host a financial glossary of over 7000 money/investing terms to help you learn more about how to take control of your finances.

View our editorial process

About Our Journalists

Our journalists are not just trusted, certified financial advisers. They are experienced and leading influencers in the financial realm, trusted by millions to provide advice about money. We handpick the best of the best, so you get advice from real experts. Our goal is to educate and inform, NOT to be a ‘stock-picker’ or ‘market-caller.’ 

Why listen to what we have to say?

While Due does not know how to predict the market in the short-term, our team of experts DOES know how you can make smart financial decisions to plan for retirement in the long-term.

View our expert review board

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More