Major changes have occurred in the tax reporting for stock sales during the past few years, making accurate tax-return reporting more complex and difficult.
The Revised IRS Form 1099-B
Sent by brokers by mid-February, IRS Form 1099-B, or the broker's equivalent substitute statement, reports details about your stock sales. The information on Form 1099-B is sent both to you and to the IRS, though your broker may give you supplemental information beyond what is provided to the IRS.
Alert: The 1099-B for stock sales made during 2016 closely resembles the version for the 2015 tax year. However, in 2014 the IRS introduced some major changes that you should continue to keep in mind when reviewing your 1099-B for stock sales in 2016:
- The IRS redesigned the form to match its box numbers with the columns on Form 8949, which you use to report stock sales. The all-important cost-basis information is now in Box 1e instead of the previous Box 3. Also, for grants made in 2014 and later years, brokers are prohibited from including equity compensation income (as included on Form W-2) in the cost basis reported on Form 1099-B.
- A box at the top center of Form 1099-B indicates the appropriate box to check near the top of Form 8949 ("Sales and Other Dispositions of Capital Assets") when reporting the sale.
- The proceeds that your broker reports must be net of commissions and fees.
- A new box (Box 1g) was added for adjustments. Do not confuse this with the adjustments needed for stock compensation that are discussed below. Box 1g applies only to the amount of any nondeductible loss in a wash sale or to the amount of accrued market discount.
IRS Form 8949 And Schedule D: Cost-Basis Confusion
The revision of Form 1099-B, which began with the 2011 tax year, required a complete revamp of the tax-return forms used to report stock sales. To report a sale of shares on your tax return, you must complete IRS Form 8949 along with Schedule D. You submit both with your Form 1040 tax return.
Form 8949 is where you list the details of each stock sale, using the information on Form 1099-B, while Schedule D now simply aggregates the column totals from this form to report your overall long-term and short-term capital gains and losses. However, the cost-basis information sent to the IRS in Box 1e of Form 1099-B may be too low, or the box may be blank. Depending on your situation, this may be the case for any of several reasons:
- The rules for cost-basis reporting are mandatory only for stock acquired in 2011 and later, so the basis of stock acquired earlier may not be reported.
- Starting in 2011, brokers had the flexibility to include the compensation part of the basis in their reporting to the IRS. However, the rules changed. The final IRS regulations (pages 29–30) and the 1099-B instructions (page 9) do not allow brokers to report the compensation portion at all for stock grants made on or after January 1, 2014. Therefore, for 2016 sales of company stock acquired from equity compensation and ESPPs, brokers can either (1) report the complete cost basis for pre-2014 grants, while reporting only the partial basis for later grants, or (2) report the unadjusted partial basis for all grants. To ensure that they consistently report all stock sales in the same way, most brokerage firms are following the second route.
- No basis is reported for restricted stock and RSUs, as they are not acquired for cash and are considered noncovered securities.
Actions To Take When Cost Basis Is Omitted, Too Low, Or $0
You don't need to get a corrected Form 1099-B from your broker, as the reporting is following the IRS rules. Instead, see our FAQ and brief video on how to handle Form 8949 when the cost basis on the 1099-B is wrong or omitted. Also review the FAQ on the compensation/W-2 income part of the tax basis. You will need that amount for your adjustment on Form 8949 if the basis on the 1099-B is too low.
Alert: It is up to you—not your company, your broker, or the IRS—to make any necessary modifications in your Form 8949. The special section Reporting Company Stock Sales on this site presents FAQs with annotated diagrams of Form 8949 and Schedule D. Each FAQ explains and illustrates a different reporting situation involving stock options, restricted stock, restricted stock units, performance shares, employee stock purchase plans, or stock appreciation rights. Clear instructions and diagrams show how to complete the forms, whether the cost-basis information reported to the IRS on Form 1099-B is accurate, too low, or omitted.