When an individual or business sells an asset, the gain or loss is classified into one of two distinct tax groups – ordinary or capital. The tax classification is strictly tied to the nature of the asset sold. For most businesses, the assets sold are inventory.
Capital gains are earnings on investments in excess of the cost basis or purchase price plus transaction fees. Capital gains is a commonly used term in stock transactions. This information is reported on Schedule D of the taxpayer’s return.
Code Section 465 of the Internal Revenue Code defines ‘At-Risk’ as the financial value the taxpayer has in jeopardy related to the business activity the taxpayer is invested in as some form of an owner. Effectively, the taxpayer may only take losses on his tax return contingent on the loss being directly tied to invested dollars with some form of tax basis.
When a product or investment is sold, the seller must realize a gain or loss from the transaction. The actual sale or transaction will trigger the gain or loss realized. In effect, the receipt of cash sets the threshold for a ‘REALIZED’ amount. Unrealized gains or losses are potential i.e. on paper transactions.