INCOME TAX RETURN: few steps to understand taxes on stock market earnings

few steps to understand taxes on stock market earnings:

Types of stock market earnings

In the first place, you need to know that the income generated through purchasing or selling shares is covered under the category of Capital Gains.
The two heads under ‘Capital Gains’ are ‘Long Term Capital Gains’ and ‘Short Term Capital Gains’. Depending on their holding period, shares are classified either as long term or short term. Here the holding period refers to the duration for which the investment is held from the date of acquisition to the date or transfer or sale.

The holding periods of shares and securities differ between different types of capital assets. For the purpose of calculating the income tax, the holding period is defined differently for equity mutual funds and debt mutual funds. The taxability also differs in these cases.

How equity share gains are taxed

Short-Term Capital Gains (STCG)

On a given stock exchange, if the equity shares are sold within 12 months from the date of purchase, the seller is said to make either short term capital gains (STCG) or incur short term capital losses (STCL). Short term capital gain results when the selling price of shares is higher than the purchase price.

Short term capital gain calculation: Sale price of the share minus (Purchase price of the share + expenses on sale)
Short-term capital gains are taxed at 15% irrespective of which tax slab you belong to.

Long-Term Capital Gains (LTCG)

On a given stock exchange, if the equity shares are sold after 12 months of purchase, the seller is said to make either long term capital gain (LTCG) or incur a long term capital loss (LTCL).

Long term capital gain results when the selling price of shares is higher than the purchase price. If a seller makes a long term capital gain of over 1 lakh on selling equity shares or equity oriented mutual fund units, the gains made will be taxed @10% plus whatever cess is applicable. The seller will not have the benefit of indexation.

Short-Term Capital Loss (STCL)

If there are any short term capital losses from equity share sales, it can be offset against short term capital gains or long term capital gains ensuing from any capital asset. When not set off in entirety, the loss can also be carried forward for eight years and adjusted against short term or long term capital gains made over this eight year period.

It is possible to carry forward the losses only IF the taxpayer files the IT returns within the due date. Hence even if the income made in a year is lesser than the taxable income, filing |IT returns are mandatory for availing the provision of carrying forward the losses

Long-Term Capital Loss (LTCL)

Any long term capital losses incurred from transfers can be off-set and carried forward. Hence it is possible to off-set the long term capital losses against any other long term capital gains. However, it is not possible to off-set long term capital losses against short term capital gains.

If there are any long term capital losses that are unabsorbed, it is possible to carry them forward to the next eight years and can be set off against long term capital gains. To be able to avail of this provision, a person has to file IT returns within the due date.

Securities Transaction Tax (STT)

STT is applied on the equity shares sold or purchased. These tax implications apply only to the equity shares sold or bought on a stock exchange. All sales and purchases on a stick exchange will invite STT. /

Business income Vs Capital Gains Income

If you want to treat the income from the sale of shares as business income, the profits you made will be added to the total income generated in a given financial year. Such income is taxed according to your tax slab.
If you want to treat income from sale of shares as capital gains, long term capital gains from equity above 1 lakh per year is taxable. On the other hand, short term gains are taxed at 15%.

If the taxation rules allow treating the income from sale of shares as a business income is a big question. A lot of uncertainty hovers over this question since taxpayers have received notices from the income tax department seeking explanations on why they chose to treat the income from sale of shares as a business income.

Options in front of taxpayers

Taxpayers now have the option either to treat the income from sale of shares as a business income or income from capital gains. However, once they make their choice, the same method must continue for subsequent years too unless there is a significant change in the situations of selling shares. This choice is available only to the shares or securities listed.

CDBT circular says that the taxpayers can choose to treat the income from selling shares as business income by treating their listed shares as stock-in-trade, irrespective of how long the shares are held.

If the taxpayer chooses to treat the income from the sale of shares as capital gains, it is possible to do it in case of shares held for over 12 months. Nevertheless, if the taxpayer makes this choice, the same stand will have to continue for the subsequent years too and changing the stand will not be permitted.

In any of the cases discussed above, whether to consider the income from selling shares as business income or capital gains income depends on the concept of significant trading activity and the taxpayers intention to hold the shares either as ‘stock’ or ‘investment’.

Sale of Unlisted Shares

In case of selling unlisted shares, the sale does not take place in any formal market. Therefore, the Income Tax Department has clarified that the income generated from the sale or transfer of unlisted shares will be taxed as ‘Capital Gains’ irrespective of the holding period. This rule is put in place in order to ensure a uniform approach.

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