Tax Implication of Selling a Mutual Fund Roth IRA

by Mike Parker ; Updated April 19, 2017
Unlike a traditional IRA, contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax deductible.

A Roth IRA is a type of individual retirement arrangement that allows working taxpayers to contributed to a tax-advantaged account with after-tax dollars. You may purchase and sell a wide range of investments with funds in your Roth IRA, including shares of mutual funds. Any income generated by your investment grows tax-free, as long as the funds remain in your Roth IRA.

Mutual Funds

A mutual fund pools funds from a number of investors, then invests those funds in securities that meet the mutual fund's stated investment objective. Mutual funds may invest in stocks, bonds, cash equivalents or short-term debt. Each share of a mutual fund represents equal ownership in all of the investments within the mutual fund's portfolio. Investors purchase mutual funds because they provide the twin benefits of a diversified portfolio, which reduces risk, and professional management, improves return on investment. Having a mutual fund in your Roth IRA provides the additional benefits of tax-free growth.

Selling Inside a Roth IRA

Trades that occur within your Roth IRA do not create a taxable event, as long as the funds remain inside the Roth account. You may sell shares of your mutual fund for a profit without incurring a taxable capital gain, but if you sell for a loss you will not be able to take that capital loss on your current tax return.

Trading Funds

You may buy and sell shares of a mutual fund within a family of funds, subject to the rules of the fund, without creating a taxable event — as long as the funds remain inside your Roth IRA account. You may sell shares of one mutual fund and purchase a different mutual fund in a different family of funds if your Roth account is set up that way.

Return of Principal

All funds in your Roth IRA belong to you. You have the option of withdrawing them for any reason at any time. If you purchased shares of a mutual fund in your Roth IRA, you may sell those shares and withdraw the entire amount that you contributed without creating a taxable event. The Internal Revenue Service refers to this as a return of principal. This type of withdrawal is tax free, because you have already paid income taxes on those funds.

Qualified Withdrawal

You must leave any earnings on your contributions in your Roth IRA account for at least five years to qualify for tax exemption of those funds. Once you reach 59 1/2 years of age you may begin making withdrawals of qualified earnings. The IRS refers to this type of withdrawal as a qualified withdrawal. Qualified withdrawals are not subject to federal income taxation. You may sell any mutual fund shares held in your Roth IRA and you may withdraw the proceeds without generating any tax liability if you are at least 59 1/2 years old and the earnings have been in your Roth account for at least five years.

Non-qualified Withdrawals

You may sell shares of any mutual fund you hold in your Roth IRA at any time and withdraw the proceeds. If the withdrawal does not meet the requirements as a qualified withdrawal, the earnings portion of that withdrawal will be considered non-qualified.

Non-qualified withdrawals are subject to taxation as ordinary income at your then-current tax rate. The IRS will additionally charge you a tax penalty of 10 percent of the non-qualified amount.

About the Author

Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.

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