Short-Term vs. Long-Term and 1256 Contracts

Tax treatment for short-term capital gains/losses is considerably different from long-term capital gains/losses. Let’s break down the differences.

Short-Term Capital Gains/Losses

A position held for 365 days or less

Realized long stocks, ETFs, and equity option positions held for 365 calendar days or less fall under short-term capital gains or losses. Typically, short-term capital gains are taxed at an individual’s ordinary tax rate. As a result, if you made $10,000 from trading positions held for less than a year, then your realized profit would fall under your ordinary income tax rate. Short equities and equity options always fall under short-term.

Long-Term Capital Gains/Losses

A position held for 366 days or more

Realized long stocks, ETFs, and equity options held for 366 calendar days or more fall under long-term capital gains or losses. Long-term capital gains are subject to a lower tax rate than short-term capital gains. As a result, if you realized a $10,000 profit from a stock position you have held for more than a year, then your realized profit would fall under a tax rate lower than your ordinary income tax rate.

What is a Section 1256 Contract (Regulated Futures Contracts)?

Futures and Cash-Settled Index options

Where do Section 1256 Contracts fit in? If you traded any broad-based index options that are cash-settled, such as SPX, NDX, VIX, any outright futures contract, or option on futures, any gains/losses are subject to different tax treatment–60% long-term and 40% short-term. For more information on how to file your gain or loss from Section 1256 Contracts, please click here.

Some cash-settled index options, also known as broad-based index options, include: DJX, NDX, NQX, OEX, RUI, RUT, SPX, VIX, XEO, and XSP.

Consequently, if you realize a $10,000 gain from trading SPX and futures throughout the year, taxes are treated differently than straight short-term or long-term capital gains/losses.

Additionally, this tax treatment includes any Section 1256 Contract position(s) that are not closed by the end of the year since these contracts are mark-to-market each day. That means any open positions held from December 2020 to January 2021 will mark as a realized profit or loss due to mark-to-market settlement.

Are you unclear what a cash-settled index option is? If so, then please click here to view a list of cash-settled indexes that trade options.

 Period HeldTax TreatmentProducts
365 days or less
Ordinary tax rateStock, equity/ETF options
Long-Term366 days or more15%-20%Stock, equity/ETF options
1256 ContractsN/A60% LT, 40% STFutures, Options on futures, Broad-based Index options