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Unrealized Gain


An unrealized gain refers to a potential profit that exists on paper, resulting from an investment that has yet to be sold in exchange for cash. It occurs when the current market value of an asset is higher than the investor’s initial purchase price. These gains are not recognized in the investor’s income until the asset is sold.


Unrealized Gain in phonetics is: ʌnˌriːəˈlaɪzd geɪn

Key Takeaways

Key Facts About Unrealized Gain

  1. Definition: Unrealized gain refers to the hypothetical profit that is not yet actualized from an investment. It exists on paper, due to the increase in the investment’s value, but it does not become a realized gain until the investment is sold.
  2. Influence on Net Worth: While unrealized gains are not yet tangible, they do increase the net worth of the investor on paper. Despite this, you should bear in mind that until they are realized, they can fluctuate based on the current market conditions.
  3. Tax considerations: It’s vital to understand that unrealized gains are not subject to taxes since they represent potential rather than actual profits. This tax dynamic changes once the gain is realized through the sale of the investment.


Unrealized Gain is a crucial term in business and finance as it refers to the profits that an investor theoretically holds but has not yet converted into actual cash by selling the investment. It represents the increase in the value of an investor’s holdings that they have not cashed out, offering insight into potential future proceeds if they were to sell. By monitoring unrealized gains, investors can make strategic decisions about when to sell off assets and realize those gains, depending on factors such as current market conditions, their financial goals and their tax situation. Because unrealized gains are merely paper profits until converted into realized gains, they have a significant impact on a company’s financial and tax planning strategies. Furthermore, unrealized gains can influence the value of a business, its share price, and the overall perceived wealth of an investor.


Unrealized gains serve an important role in finance and investing, reflecting potential earnings on an investment that is yet to be sold. They mark the increase in value the investment has garnered since it was bought, even if that value has not been converted into tangible profit through a sale. Thus, they provide investors a useful tool for evaluating the performance and potential worth of their assets. An unrealized gain, therefore, represents the prospective income an investor stands to earn should they decide to liquidate the investment when its market value exceeds the price at which it was purchased.Interestingly, unrealized gains can also impact a company’s financial statements. While they do not affect a company’s cash flow (since no actual transaction has taken place), they can increase a company’s net assets shown on the balance sheet. This is essential for companies to portray their financial health and resilience, particularly to potential investors and lenders. Furthermore, this unrealized profit or loss does play an important role in the valuation of a company. Therefore, unrealized gains, while not yet actualized in cash form, hold practical significance in the complex world of finance and business.


1. Stock Market Investment: Let’s say, an individual buys 100 shares of Company X at $10 each, spending $1,000. Over a few months, the stock price rises to $15 per share. At this point, the investor’s shares are worth $1,500. However, unless the investor sells the shares, the $500 increase is an unrealized gain. If the investor sells the shares, the gain becomes realized and can be taxed.2. Real Estate Investment: Consider a person who buys a property for $300,000. After a couple of years, due to appreciation in the real estate market, the value of the property goes up to $350,000. However, the homeowner doesn’t sell the house. The rise in the property value, in this case, is an unrealized gain. It’s not until the homeowner sells the property that the gain is realized.3. Foreign Currency Investment: Assume a U.S investor buys Euros when the exchange rate is 1 Euro = 1.1 USD, spending $1,100 for 1,000 Euros. Subsequently, the exchange rate changes to 1 Euro = 1.2 USD. Now, the investor’s Euros are worth $1,200. This increase of $100 is an unrealized gain until the investor exchanges his Euros back into USD. Only at that moment the gain becomes realized.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an unrealized gain?

An unrealized gain is a potential profit that exists on paper, resulting from an investment. It becomes a real gain only when the asset is sold.

How do unrealized gains differ from realized gains?

Unrealized gains are potential profits that have yet to be actualized through a transaction, while realized gains are profits that have been made official through the sale of the asset.

When is an unrealized gain recognized for tax purposes?

Unrealized gains are typically not subject to taxes until the asset is sold and the gain is realized.

Can unrealized gains fluctuate?

Yes, unrealized gains can fluctuate as the market value of the asset changes. They can increase or decrease in value depending on market conditions.

How does the application of unrealized gains differ for individuals and corporations?

For individuals, unrealized gains are usually not taxed, whereas corporations must report unrealized gains and may pay taxes on them depending on the jurisdiction.

Can unrealized gains turn into losses?

Yes, if the market value of the asset decreases below the original purchase price, the unrealized gain can turn into an unrealized loss.

Where are unrealized gains reported on financial statements?

Unrealized gains are usually reported in the equity section of a company’s balance sheet.

How do unrealized gains affect the net worth of an individual or company?

Unrealized gains increase the net worth of the individual or company as they are added to the overall value of the assets owned, even though these gains haven’t been realized yet.

Can I use unrealized gains as collateral?

Depending on the lending institution’s regulations, unrealized gains may or may not be accepted as collateral since their value can fluctuate.

Is it better to have unrealized gains or realized gains?

This depends on your investment goals and strategies. Realized gains usually offer more financial flexibility, while unrealized gains allow for potential future growth. It’s important to balance and manage both types of gains according to your financial planning.

Related Finance Terms

  • Mark-to-Market: This is an accounting method that records the value of an asset based on its current market price rather than its book value.
  • Paper Profit: This is a gain that an investor has on paper, but that has not yet been realized through a transaction such as selling the investment.
  • Capital Gains: These are the profits that an investor realizes when they sell a capital asset for a price that is higher than the purchase price.
  • Asset Appreciation: This refers to the increase in the value of an asset over time. In the context of unrealized gains, it would relate to the increase in value that has not yet been realized through a sale.
  • Investment Portfolio: This refers to a collection of investments held by an individual or an institution. Unrealized gains are often reflected in the value of an investment portfolio.

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