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For individuals engaged in foreign exchange, commonly known as forex, the primary objective revolves around executing profitable trades and witnessing the expansion of their forex account. In a dynamic market environment where gains and losses materialize swiftly, there exists a desire among individuals to generate short-term financial gains without fully considering the broader implications in the long run. However, it is generally advisable to consider the potential tax consequences associated with the purchase and sale of forex before initiating the initial transaction. 

Traders in Forex Options and Futures Markets

Agreements for foreign exchange options and futures fall under the IRC Section 1256 transactions, and as a result, they are subject to a tax consideration of 60 percent of the gain and 40 percent of the loss. For clarity, a sizeable amount of gains or losses, namely sixty percent, is categorized as long-term capital gains or losses. The remaining forty percent is classified as short-term gains or losses.

The 60/40 tax treatment is typically favorable for persons in higher income tax brackets who live in the United States. To provide one example, profits on the sale of stocks held for less than a year are considered short-term capital gains. These payments are always subject to taxes at the same rate as the investor’s average income, which may be as high as 37% in some cases. Individuals who participate in trading futures or options risk being taxed at the maximum rate applicable to long-term capital gains, which is presently set at 20%. This rate is applied to sixty percent of either the profits or losses. In addition, the remaining forty percent is subject to a maximum speed of 37 percent on capital gains applicable to short-term investments.

For People Who Buy Stocks Over-the-Counter (OTC)

Spot traders often have to pay taxes on their profits by Internal Revenue Code Section 988 contracts. These contracts are for dealings in foreign currency that are delivered within two days. As a consequence of this, they satisfy the requirements to be categorized as ordinary losses and gains. It is standard practice to refer to an individual who engages in spot FX trading as a “988 trader.” Being categorized as a “988 trader” might give a considerable benefit if year-end trading results in a net loss. In the category of 1,256 contracts, losses can be classed as “ordinary losses” without any limits, which include any losses that exceed the starting threshold of $3,000.

What Contract to Pick

The intricate phase arises: Determining the optimal approach for tax filing in one’s unique circumstances. Options, futures, and OTC trading can be categorized into distinct groups, allowing investors to select between 1256 or 988 trading options. The selection between the options must be made before the commencement of the new calendar year.

The level of straightforwardness that can be found in IRC 988 contracts is far more than that which can be found in IRC 1256 contracts. It is to one’s benefit to disclose losses because the tax rate does not change regardless of whether one has made a gain or a loss. In a significant way, 1256 contracts, despite their greater complexity, provide more substantial savings for a trader with net profits. These savings are raised by 12%.

Using 988 contracts is common among accounting firms for spot traders, while futures traders often rely on 1256 contracts. It is advisable to consult with a professional accountant before making any investment decisions. Once trading commences, transitioning between options is not feasible.

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Traders anticipate favorable outcomes and frequently opt for transitioning from 988 status to 1256 status. To opt out of a 988 level, an internal note should be made in the books, and the change should be filed with the accountant. Complications may arise when engaging in stock and currency trading due to varying tax implications for equity transactions, posing challenges in determining the appropriate categorization between 988 and 1256 contracts. 

Maintaining Accountability

One may find assurance in the reliability of brokerage statements; however, maintaining a performance record is a method that is both precise and advantageous for tax purposes in monitoring gains and losses.

The following is a formula that the IRS has approved for record-keeping:

  • Calculate the difference between the initial and final assets (net).
  • Deduct monetary inflows (into your accounts) and incorporate monetary outflows (from your accounts).
  • Deduct earnings from interest and incorporate interest expenses.
  • Include additional trading expenses.

The formula for the performance record gives an accurate picture of the profit-to-loss ratio, making the year-end filing process easier for you and your accountant to complete. 

Essential Things to Keep in Mind

About forex taxation, it is essential to consider a few key factors:

  • Please be aware of the deadline: In most instances, it is necessary to designate a tax situation by January 1st. For individuals new to trading, the timing of their first trade can be decided at any point.
  • Maintain accurate documentation: Time can be saved when tax season approaches. This will allow for increased trading time while minimizing tax preparation obligations.
  • Ensure timely settlement of your outstanding balance. Sometimes, individual traders try to get around the taxes responsibilities connected to their forex trading. The fact that over-the-counter trading is not required to be registered with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) contributes to the widespread belief that participants in this market may avoid taking responsibility for their actions. It is important to remember that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can detect inconsistencies over time, which might result in tax avoidance penalties that are higher than the original tax liabilities.


Whether one is considering pursuing forex as a career or is merely intrigued by the idea of exploring it, dedicating sufficient effort to proper filing procedures can result in substantial tax savings, ranging from hundreds to thousands of units of currency. The involvement in this process is deemed highly valuable and deserving of the allocated time. 

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Nathan Boardman

By Nathan Boardman

Nathan Boardman, acclaimed Forex trader and author, specializes in market analysis, strategy development, and risk management. His insightful articles, published in Forex Profiles, empower readers to navigate the currency market successfully.

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