Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Wash Sale


A wash sale is a financial transaction in which an investor sells a security, typically stocks or bonds, at a loss and then repurchases the same security within 30 days before or after the sale. The primary purpose of a wash sale is to realize and claim a short-term capital loss for tax purposes while retaining ownership of the asset. However, the IRS disallows the claimed loss for tax deductions, rendering the practice ineffective for tax benefit purposes.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Wash Sale” is:wɒʃ seɪl

Key Takeaways

  1. A Wash Sale occurs when an investor sells a security at a loss and repurchases the same or a substantially identical security within 30 days before or after the sale.
  2. Wash Sale rules are in place to prevent investors from taking tax benefits from a loss without actually closing the position and shouldering the full economic burden of their investment.
  3. Losses from Wash Sales are not considered deductible for tax purposes, and the disallowed losses are added to the cost basis of the repurchased security, effectively deferring the tax deduction to a future sale.


The term “wash sale” is important in the realm of business and finance because it refers to a transaction where an investor sells an investment, such as a stock or bond, at a loss and then repurchases the same investment within a short time frame, typically 30 days. The intention is to recognize a loss for tax purposes while still maintaining ownership of the asset. However, governing bodies like the IRS do not allow this tax-loss harvesting strategy; wash sales are disallowed and the loss cannot be claimed for tax purposes. Understanding and avoiding wash sales is crucial for investors to ensure compliance with tax regulations and to avoid negating the potential tax benefits of selling investments at a loss.


The primary purpose of the wash sale rule is to prevent investors from exploiting the tax system to gain benefits, specifically by selling securities at a loss and instantly repurchasing them. This tactic would allow for a situation where the investor could claim the loss as a tax deduction, without actually incurring a meaningful economic loss. By doing so, the investor would be able to offset capital gains and reduce their tax liability. The wash sale rule, therefore, functions as a safeguard to maintain the integrity of the tax system and ensure that investors do not manipulate transactions to gain an unfair advantage. In practice, the wash sale rule complements various types of financial risk management strategies. Since one should always consider the tax implications of their investments, the rule helps guide investors in making informed decisions when it comes to selling and repurchasing securities with the intent of harvesting losses. As such, the wash sale rule promotes disciplined investing practices and fosters a level playing field for all market participants within the framework of fair taxation. By understanding and abiding by this rule, investors can avoid unfavorable tax consequences while strategically managing their portfolios to optimize financial gains over the long term.


Wash sale is a term used in finance when an investor sells a security at a loss and then repurchases the same security within 30 days before or after the sale. This is usually done to acquire a tax benefit; however, the IRS does not allow individuals to take advantage of tax deductions in such cases. Here are three real-world examples of wash sales: 1. A stock trader, John, owns 100 shares of XYZ company, which he originally bought at $50 per share, for a total investment of $5,000. Due to an unfavorable market situation, the share price drops to $40, and John’s position is now worth only $4,000. To realize the $1,000 capital loss for tax purposes, John sells his 100 shares of XYZ company and repurchases them within 30 days at the same $40 per share price. This transaction is considered a wash sale by the IRS, and John will not be allowed to claim the $1,000 capital loss for tax purposes. 2. Linda is an investor who purchased 50 shares of ABC corporation at $100 per share, with a total investment of $5,000. The stock price decreases to $90 per share, making her position worth only $4,500. Linda decides to sell 25 of her shares to realize a capital loss of $250. However, she repurchases the same 25 shares for $90 per share within 30 days. The IRS would consider this a wash sale, and the $250 loss would be disallowed for tax purposes. 3. Mike bought 500 shares of a mutual fund at $20 per share, for a total investment of $10,000. After a few months, the share price falls to $18 per share, and his total investment is now worth $9,000. Trying to capitalize on the $1,000 capital loss for tax purposes, Mike sells his entire 500-share position but then immediately repurchases it within 30 days for the same $18 per share price. This transaction also qualifies as a wash sale, and Mike is not allowed to claim the $1,000 loss for tax purposes.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Wash Sale?
A wash sale is a financial transaction where an investor sells a security such as stocks, bonds, or options, at a loss, and then repurchases the same or substantially identical security within 30 days before or after the sale. The primary purpose of a wash sale is to realize a capital loss that can be used to offset capital gains for tax purposes while maintaining the same investment position.
How does the Wash Sale Rule affect tax deductions?
The IRS prohibits investors from claiming a tax deduction on a capital loss generated from a wash sale. Instead, the disallowed capital loss is added to the cost basis of the repurchased securities, effectively deferring the loss, which can be claimed when the repurchased security is sold in the future without violating the wash sale rule.
What is the Wash Sale Rule’s 30-Day Window?
The wash sale rule’s 30-day window consists of the period starting 30 days before the sale date and ending 30 days after the sale date, during which you are not allowed to buy back the same or substantially identical security and claim a tax deduction on the reported loss.
What is considered a “substantially identical” security?
A substantially identical security is one that is nearly identical in terms of risks, returns, and key features to the original security. This may include securities from the same company, such as common and preferred stock, or even stocks and options of the same company.
Can wash sales occur in both taxable and non-taxable accounts?
Yes, a wash sale can occur across different types of accounts, including taxable accounts (e.g., individual brokerage accounts) and non-taxable accounts (e.g., IRAs, 401(k)s). This means that if you sell a security in a taxable account and repurchase it in a non-taxable account within the 30-day window, you could still trigger the wash sale rule.
How can I avoid Wash Sales?
Some strategies to avoid wash sales include: 1. Waiting more than 30 days before repurchasing the same or substantially identical security. 2. Diversifying your investments in different securities or asset classes instead of repurchasing the same security. 3. Utilizing tax-loss harvesting strategies to sell losing positions and replace them with similar but not substantially identical investments.
How do I report wash sales on my tax return?
Wash sales are reported on IRS Form 8949, “Sales and Other Dispositions of Capital Assets,” and the corresponding disallowed losses are included in the Schedule D (Form 1040), “Capital Gains and Losses.” Brokers typically provide a Form 1099-B at the end of the year, which includes information on wash sales that occurred in your account.

Related Finance Terms

  • Capital Loss
  • IRS (Internal Revenue Service)
  • 30-Day Rule
  • Tax Deduction
  • Securities

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