While time, not timing, is generally the key to long-terminvestment success, timing can have a dramatic impact on the tax consequences of your investment activities. The 15% long-term capital gains rate is 20 percentage points lower than the highest regular income tax rate of 35%—and it generally applies to investments held for more than 12months.
Holding on to an investment until you’ve owned it for more than a year may help you substantially cut your tax on the gain. Keep in mind, though: You have only until 2010 to take advantage of the 15% rate (which also applies to qualified dividends), unless Congress extends it. Of course, be sure to consider overall performance and risk, not just taxes, when making investment decisions. Here are some other tax-saving strategies related to timing:
Use unrealized losses to absorb gains - If you’ve cashed in some big gains during the year, before year end look for unrealized losses in your portfolio and sell them off, thus offsetting the gains.
Don’t let tax reasons hold you back from selling at a loss. If you’re ready to divest your portfolio of a poorly performing security but don’t have enough gains to absorb the loss you’ll realize, remember that capital gains distributions from mutual funds can also be offset with losses. If you end up with a net capital loss, you can claim up to $3,000 of the loss against ordinary income this year and carry forward any excess to future years.