If you have cashed out capital gains in Colorado, you know you’ll lose something to taxes. But how much? It’s important to understand your capital taxes and how they will impact your financial future, not least because that knowledge will empower you to take action to reduce your tax bill today.
In this article, we’ll explain what capital gains are, how they are taxed in Colorado.
We’ll also show you different tax planning strategies that can significantly reduce your state capital gains tax:
- Sell appreciated assets in a tax-exempt trust through Charitable Remainder Trusts
- Buy renewable energy projects that make you eligible for significant government tax incentives that lower your capital gains tax bill.
- Reduce your taxable income with charitable deduction tax strategies such as Charitable Lead Annuity Trusts and Conservation Easements.
So let’s dive in!
What Are Capital Gains?
Capital gains are a capital asset’s increase in value from the value at which it was purchased. Capital assets can include stocks, real estate, or even an item purchased for personal use like a car or a boat – in short, any significant property that could gain or lose value over time.
Capital gains can be realized or unrealized. “Realized” in this context means “acquired” or “received,” so realized capital gains are gains that you have captured by selling the asset. Unrealized gains, by contrast, represent a change in the value of an investment that you have not yet sold. For instance, if you hold stock that increases in value, but you haven’t sold it yet, that is considered an unrealized capital gain. Critically for our purposes, in most cases you will not pay taxes until you cash out or “realize” the gains.
What Are The Types Of Capital Gains?
There are two types of realized capital gains for taxation purposes:
- Short-term capital gains: These are gains from selling assets that you’ve held for one year or less. At the federal level, short-term capital gains are typically taxed at the same (high) rate as ordinary income.
- Long-term capital gains: These are gains from selling assets that you’ve held for more than one year. Generally, at the federal level, long-term capital gains receive more favorable tax treatment than short-term gains.
How Are Capital Gains Taxed?
Capital gains are not taxed until they are realized, meaning that even if your Apple stock has increased 50x from the day you invested, you won’t owe any capital gains taxes until you sell the stock. Of course, once you do sell the stock, you will face federal and state capital gains taxes.
Realized capital gains are typically subject to both federal and state taxes. The tax rate you will pay on capital gains will vary depending on where you live, your income, and the type of asset you sold but the federal and state tax systems are generally progressive, so individuals with higher incomes face a higher capital gains tax rate. Let’s look at how federal and state governments tax capital gains.
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What Is The Federal Capital Gains Tax (2024)?
Short- and long-term capital gains are taxed differently; assets held for one year or less are treated as ordinary income, while longer-held assets are taxed at lower rates.
The short-term capital gains schedule matches the schedule for ordinary income, and your marginal and effective rates depend on your income and marital status, as shown below:
|Taxable income (Single Filers)
(Married Filing Jointly)
|Tax Rate on This
|$0 to $11,000
|$0 to $22,000
|$11,000 to $44,725
|$22,000 to $89,450
|$44,725 to $95,375
|$89,450 to $190,750
|$95,375 to $182,100
|$190,750 to $364,200
|$182,100 to $231,250
|$364,200 to $462,500
|$231,250 to $578,125
|$462,500 to $693,750
|$578,125 or more
|$693,750 or more
Long-term capital gains, meanwhile, are taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income. Here, too, the precise rate depends on the individual’s income and marital status:
|Taxable income (Single Filers)
(Married Filing Jointly)
|Tax Rate on This
|$0 to $40,400
|$0 to $80,800
|$40,400 to $445,850
|$80,800 to $501,600
|$445,850 or more
|$501,600 or more
In addition, some categories of capital assets fall entirely outside of this rubric: gains on collectibles such as art, jewelry, antiques, and stamp collections are taxed up to a maximum 28% rate.
What Is The Colorado Capital Gains Tax?
Colorado taxes capital gains as income at a flat rate of 4.55%, so no matter the amount of taxable ordinary income, the state tax rate will always be 4.55%.
So, what would these numbers look like in the real world?
Let’s consider Jenna, a Colorado investor who purchased 7,000 shares of Apple stock in April 2019 at $50 per share. She decides to sell her shares in January 2024 at a price of $100 each. Jenna held the stock for more than one year, so her realized income is considered long-term capital gain.
Jenna realized a capital gain of $350,000. (She paid for 7,000 shares at $50 each, for a total of $350,000, and then sold them for $100 each, for a total of $700,000. That’s a net gain of $350,000).
To simplify this example, let’s assume further that she doesn’t earn any other income. (If she did, it would be more complicated to figure out which bracket she falls into.) Given her $350,000 of gains, she would fall into the income group between $40,400 and $445,800, resulting in a long-term federal capital gains tax rate of 15%. As a result of the progressive tax system, however, not every dollar will be taxed at that rate. The amount below $40,400 won’t be taxed, so she would therefore pay $46,440 in federal capital gains taxes on this transaction (15% of every dollar over $40,400).
Jenna would also pay Colorado taxes on her capital gains. Given her $350,000 realized income, she falls into the 4.55% tax bracket, so she would pay a total of $15.925 in Colorado state income taxes for 2024.
A quick counterfactual: If Jenna had sold her stock after holding for less than a year, her earnings would have been considered short-term capital gains, and she would have been subject to ordinary income taxes at the federal level and she would also fall into the 4.55% tax bracket at Colorado levels.
What Is Tax Planning?
Capital gain taxes are a common burden that can significantly reduce your net earnings from the sale of an asset. Accordingly, it’s critical to identify strategies that can reduce these taxes.
Tax planning is a strategic approach designed to reduce a person’s or a company’s capital gains tax liability by leveraging various tax benefits and allowances. It’s about understanding the tax implications of your financial decisions so you can minimize your taxes and, ultimately, keep more of your hard-earned money.
This might involve making investments that offer tax benefits, choosing the right type of retirement account, taking advantage of generally available deductions and credits, or creating a tax-advantaged trust or other vehicle.
4 Tax Planning Ideas To Reduce Colorado Capital Gains Taxes
There are many tax planning strategies that can help you reduce your federal and Colorado capital gains tax liability. Here are a few ideas:
- Sell appreciated assets in a tax-exempt trust: You can minimize your taxable capital gains by moving appreciated assets into a tax-exempt trust – a Charitable Remainder Trust, for example – before you sell. By setting up a CRUT trust, people can receive a charitable income tax deduction of approximately 10% of the current value of the appreciated asset and also save money in taxes when they sell it, allowing them to reinvest those savings and create more wealth for themselves. As an example, if you have your assets in a lifetime CRUT, it’s common to be able to take home 100% or more compared to not using one and selling your assets in a regular taxable account, even after making a large donation to charity. Learn more about Charitable Remainder Trusts here or set up a call with us here.
- Buying renewable energy projects: Investing in renewable energy projects can make you eligible for significant government tax incentives – credits and depreciation – to lower your capital gains taxes. Taking into account tax savings and income from the solar business, this strategy can make a 5.85x return on investment compared to choosing to pay your taxes directly instead. Learn more about renewable energy credits here or set up a call with us here to learn more.
- Maximize retirement contributions: Both federal and Colorado state tax laws allow deductions for contributions to certain retirement accounts like a 401(k) or an IRA. Maxing out these contributions can lower your taxes, including ordinary income and capital gains taxes.
- Other charitable deductions:
- Charitable Lead Annuity Trust: If you are charitably inclined, a Charitable Lead Annuity Trust (CLAT) might be an option to increase your charitable deductions this year and minimize your tax liability. As an example, if you have your money in a CLAT, you’ll be able to take home up to or more than 28% compared to not using one and paying your taxes upfront and reinvesting the remainder in a regular taxable account, even after making a large donation to charity.
- Conservation Easements: There’s also a not so openly discussed strategy: investing in conservation easements. When you agree to restrict the use of your land to the conservation cause, the government considers that a charitable donation, and you’ll get certain associated deductions. Your tax savings can often be around 2.5X your purchase price (assuming a 50% tax rate). You can learn more about conservation easements here or set up a call with us here to learn more.
Capital gain taxes can significantly reduce the wealth your family keeps every year. Fortunately, there are several strategies available to minimize these taxes. Read more here and check out our Guided Planner tool, where we’ll point you toward the strategies that might apply to you.
We’ve built a platform to give everyone access to the tax and wealth building tools typically reserved for wealthy individuals with a team of accountants and lawyers. We make it simple and seamless for our customers to take advantage of these hard-to-access tax-advantaged structures so you can build your wealth more efficiently at less than half the cost of competitors.
From picking the best strategy to taking care of all the setup and ongoing overhead, we make things simple. The results are real: We have helped create more than $1.1 billion in additional wealth for our customers.If you would like to learn more, please feel free to explore our Learning Center, check out your potential tax savings with our online calculators, or schedule a time to chat with us!
As an expert in taxation and financial planning, I bring a wealth of knowledge to the topic of capital gains and tax planning. My expertise is grounded in a deep understanding of federal and state tax systems, including the intricacies of capital gains taxation in Colorado. I have hands-on experience in crafting effective tax strategies to help individuals minimize their tax liabilities and maximize their financial outcomes.
In this article, the focus is on Colorado capital gains taxes and various tax planning strategies to reduce them. Let's break down the concepts discussed in the article:
1. Capital Gains Overview:
- Definition: Capital gains refer to the increase in the value of a capital asset from its purchase value.
- Realized vs. Unrealized: Realized gains occur when the asset is sold, while unrealized gains represent the change in value of unsold investments.
- Tax Timing: Taxes on capital gains are incurred upon realization, i.e., when the asset is sold.
2. Types of Capital Gains:
- Short-term Capital Gains: Gains from assets held for one year or less, taxed at ordinary income rates.
- Long-term Capital Gains: Gains from assets held for more than one year, generally taxed at more favorable rates.
3. Federal Capital Gains Tax (2024):
- Tax Rates: Differ for short-term and long-term gains, with long-term rates being more favorable.
- Progressive Tax System: Rates vary based on income and marital status.
- Categories: Some asset categories, like collectibles, have specific tax rates.
4. Colorado Capital Gains Tax:
- Flat Rate: Colorado taxes capital gains as income at a flat rate of 4.55%.
5. Case Study:
- Scenario: Jenna, a Colorado investor, realizing a long-term capital gain on Apple stock.
- Federal Taxes: Calculated based on the progressive tax system for long-term capital gains.
- State Taxes: Colorado state income taxes applied at the flat rate.
6. Tax Planning:
- Definition: A strategic approach to minimize capital gains tax liability.
- Objective: Understand tax implications and leverage benefits to keep more of one's earnings.
- Examples: Investment in tax-exempt trusts, renewable energy projects, maximizing retirement contributions, and utilizing charitable deductions.
7. Tax Planning Ideas to Reduce Colorado Capital Gains Taxes:
- Tax-Exempt Trusts: Move appreciated assets to trusts like Charitable Remainder Trusts for tax benefits.
- Renewable Energy Projects: Invest to qualify for government tax incentives.
- Maximize Retirement Contributions: Utilize deductions for contributions to retirement accounts.
- Other Charitable Deductions: Explore options like Charitable Lead Annuity Trusts and Conservation Easements.
- Importance of Tax Planning: Capital gain taxes can significantly impact wealth, emphasizing the need for effective tax planning.
- Available Tools: Platforms like Valur offer accessible tax and wealth-building tools to optimize financial strategies.
In summary, understanding the nuances of capital gains taxation, both at the federal and state levels, and implementing thoughtful tax planning strategies can empower individuals to make informed financial decisions and minimize their tax burdens.