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Commodity Investing and Tax Benefits

With tax season just passed, you may still be hurting from the results. If you requested an extension and haven’t filed yet, this topic might be very helpful to you. Aside from the profit potential that you can realize from trading commodities, there are handsome tax benefits as well. The current tax laws separate investment gains and losses into two expansive groups: short-term capital gains and long-term capital gains. This feature is nice because when you are commodity investing, you are allowed to split your profits between the two categories.

To understand the tax benefits of commodity trading, there are a couple of things to learn. Grab the statements from your commodity account and a calculator, and start a spreadsheet; this is quick and fairly easy to grasp. Here are the things you need to do:

  1. Understand what short-term capital gains are. Profits from any commodity trade that is held for less than one year are considered short-term capital gains. Short-term capital gains are taxed at the investor’s normal tax rate; if you are in the 25% bracket, your short-term gains will be taxed at 25%.

  2. Understand what long-term capital gains are. Commodity trades that are held for more than one calendar year are long-term capital gains. Long-term capital gains are taxed at a flat rate of 15% unless you are in the ten percent or fifteen percent brackets and then long-term capital gains are taxed at 5%. For those people who are holding long-term futures contracts, this is obviously a very attractive situation.

  3. Add up your profits and losses. This is where you can use your calculator (or your computer if you have some spreadsheet skills). For each transaction you made while commodities trading, enter the amount of profit you made as a positive number and the amount of loss you had as a negative number. For example, imagine that you made three commodity trades; you earned $500 on the first, lost $300 on the second and made $1,000 on the third. To calculate your profits, add the numbers together. $500 - $300 + $1,000 = $1,200; $1,200 would be your profit for the year.

  4. Determine your long-term capital gains. For this calculation, take the total number and multiply it by sixty percent. For our example, $1,200 x 0.60 = $720; this is your long-term capital gains on your commodity investing. Now you need to multiply this number by the 15 percent tax rate; $720 x 0.15 = $108. This will be the long-term capital gains tax responsibility on your commodity long-term investing.

  5. Determine your short-term capital gains. For this calculation, take the total number and multiply it by forty percent. For our example, $1,200 x 0.40 = $480; this is your short-term capital gains for your commodity investment strategies. Now you need to multiply this number by the 25 percent tax rate (For this example we’ll assume this is your rate but we hope it is higher!); $480 x 0.25 = $120. This becomes your short-term capital gains tax responsibility on your commodity investments.

  6. Add the two together. Once you add the short and long-term tax numbers together, you have calculated your tax liability for your commodity trading. $108 + $120 = $228.

  7. Review your savings. In order to see your savings, multiply your total profit for the year by your tax rate and then subtract your actual tax responsibility from this number. (Remember that we assumed you were in the 25% bracket.) $1,200 x 0.25 = $300; this would have been your liability. $300 - $228 = $72. While on the surface this doesn?t seem like a lot but it is actually a 24% reduction in your tax burden for the money you made! 24% can make anyone?s investment philosophy look pretty smart!

Because of the method for computing capital gains, commodity investing can be very beneficial from a tax standpoint. Since futures contracts are taxed at a split rate, 60 percent of your earnings from commodity investments are taxed at the long-term capital gains rate and only 40 percent is taxed at the short-term capital gains rate. This is called the 60/40 tax treatment, and it will save you money in taxes. As always you should consult your tax advisor but you will likely be very pleased with your returns!


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