• Glossary
  • Unrealized Holding Gains & Losses

Unrealized Holding Gains and Losses

Unrealized holding gains are increases in asset value that a company or person continues to hang on to. The entity's income statement has not yet shown this gain as a realized gain. The gain is deemed to have been realized once the asset has been sold. Assets are routinely kept even after they have appreciated in value, either because the owner expects future gains or because they do not want to pay taxes on the gain.

Also, it is known as "paper profit" or "paper loss." It can be compared to money on paper that the business anticipates will be realized when it sells the asset in the future. The business realizes gains (losses) and pays taxes on them when it sells the asset.

Dealing With Unrealized Gains

Even if an investor does nothing, the value of a financial asset traded on a financial market could alter whenever that market is open for business.

For instance, if you paid $30 a share for Acme, Inc. stock and the most recent reported price is $42, you still have $12 in unrealized gains per share. If you sold Acme at $42 per share, you might pocket that profit. Otherwise, the share price would continue to affect your bottom line.

The terms "paper profits" and "paper losses" both refer to unrealized gains and losses. This is due to the fact that a gain or loss is only realized while the asset is physically in the investor's possession and recorded on paper, usually on the investor's ledger.

Handling Unrealized Losses

The opposite of a realized gain is a realized loss. When an asset is sold for less than when it was purchased, it occurs. Hence, if you buy a share of stock for $50 and sell it for $35, you suffer a loss of $15.

An unrealized gain is the reverse of an unrealized loss, too. That happens when a current investment's price falls below when it was purchased. The loss remains unrealized until the investment is sold, at which point it becomes realized.

How Capital Gains Are Taxed?

In your tax return for the year in which the asset was sold, you must disclose any capital gains or losses. There are two types of capital gains: short-term and long-term. Realized gains on assets held for a year or less are referred to as short-term capital gains and are taxed as ordinary income.

A capital investment must have been kept for longer than a year in order to be eligible for the lower tax rates on long-term capital gains.

The rates for long-term capital gains in 2023 are as follows:

  • 0% for taxpayers with taxable income of $89,250 for married couples filing jointly ($83,350 or less in 2022) or $44,625 or less for single filers ($41,675 or less in 2022).
  • 15% of taxable income between $44,626 and $492,300 ($41,676 to $459,750 in 2022) or $89,251 and $553,850 for married couples filing jointly (between $83,356 and $517,200 in 2022) for single taxpayers.
  • 20% of taxable income in excess of the 15% cap.


Knowing the portfolio's unrealized gain is a good idea. Monitoring the portfolio's performance is helpful. These earnings are merely "on paper," but they provide a good indication of the potential shortfall in actual profits if the holdings are liquidated.

They support tax preparation.

Only realized gains are subject to taxation, thus by knowing the unrealized gain, the corporation may predict how much tax will be due if they sell the securities.

When to sell the security and realize gains might be planned by the investor. While holding a security for a long time, the tax implications are lessened since long-term capital gains tax is applied. In order to minimize the tax implications, the investor can plan to sell the security a year after purchasing it rather than doing it immediately.

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