When Do I Need to Use Schedule D for Capital Gains From Mutual Funds?

by Eric Bank ; Updated July 27, 2017
Under the right circumstances, you can avoid Schedule D.

Mutual funds provide investors with several benefits, including instant diversification, professional management and precise recordkeeping. Part of the recordkeeping process is to inform you of your capital gains so that you can report them accurately to the Internal Revenue Service. Your particular situation dictates whether you need to use Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses, to report your capital gains from mutual funds.

Capital Gains Distributions

You can earn capital gains from a mutual fund through distributions and share trading. Capital gains distributions arise from profitable trades your fund manager makes. Mutual funds frequently buy and sell securities within their portfolios. A capital gains distribution allocates portfolio-trading gains to mutual fund shareholders. Mutual funds report capital gain distributions on Internal Revenue Service Form 1099-DIV. You treat all such capital gains as long-term and thus eligible for lower taxes. In 2013, the tax rates on long-term capital gains range from zero to 20 percent, depending on your income. Short-term gains, which come from investments you’ve held for a year or less, are ordinary income, taxed at your marginal rate.

Reporting Distributions

You do not have to use Schedule D if your capital gains distributions meet certain requirements: you have no capital losses, your only capital gains stem from distributions and you have no unrecaptured section 1250 real estate gains, section 1202 gains on qualified small business stock or 28-percent gains on collectibles. In this situation, you need only fill out Form 1040. The form has a Qualified Dividends and Capital Gain Worksheet you can use to figure your tax. If you don’t meet the requirements, you must use Schedule D, but can avoid Form 8949 if your capital gains and losses only arise from distributions, a capital loss carryover and certain other sources such as partnerships, estate, trusts, S corporations and installment sales.

Undistributed Capital Gains

Mutual funds normally distribute all of their capital gains to shareholders. By doing so, they avoid income tax -- the tax obligation passes through to shareholders. A mutual fund may decide to retain some of its capital gains and pay the taxes on them. A fund issues you Form 2439 to report undistributed capital gains. Attach a copy of the form to Schedule D and report the tax paid by the mutual fund on Form 1040. Your fund will tell you how much of the undistributed capital gains are unrecaptured section 1250 gains and section 1202 gains. Use this information to fill out the appropriate Schedule D worksheets. You also must report section 1202 gains on Part II of Form 8949.

Share Sales

You create capital gains when you sell mutual fund shares, and the proceeds exceed the purchase cost. The fund will send you Form 1099-B specifying the amount of short- and long-term capital gains you earned from selling shares. If you sell shares purchased at different times, you can identify which shares to sell or you can let the fund company sell shares on a first-in, first-out basis. Use the information from Form 1099-B to fill out Form 8949 and summarize the results on Schedule D. If some of your capital gains come from passive activities or rentals, you might also have to fill out Form 8582.

About the Author

Based in Chicago, Eric Bank has been writing business-related articles since 1985, and science articles since 2010. His articles have appeared in "PC Magazine" and on numerous websites. He holds a B.S. in biology and an M.B.A. from New York University. He also holds an M.S. in finance from DePaul University.

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