If you've made money trading foreign currencies, then the IRS wants to know about it. TurboTax and other tax-preparation software make it fairly easy to track and report your gains, and your trading platform should provide the backup documentation, if needed. Keep in mind the important choice you have to make, as a forex trader, to treat forex gains as miscellaneous or investment income.
As a forex trader, you have a choice of two very different tax treatments: Section 988 or Section 1256. With the latter, you report gains on Form 6781 and can split your gains: 60 percent at the long-term rate (15 percent as of 2013) and 40 percent at the short-term rate (your own marginal income tax rate) -- no matter how long you held your position. Under Section 988, you report gains and losses as interest income or loss, with any gain added to your ordinary income from other sources. You can opt out of Section 988 and select the Section 1256 treatment, but you must do so before you start currency trading.
There are four different versions of TurboTax software as of 2014; only two support the reporting of gains and losses from investments: Premier and Home & Business. With the free online version, you can only file a basic 1040EZ return; the Deluxe version does not handle gains and losses from investments or forex trading. All TurboTax versions are available via the company's website for download; your broker may allow you to import your trade data directly into the program once you have it installed on your computer.
Importing the Data
If you've elected to report forex trading under Section 988, then you can import the data from your broker directly into TurboTax with a program such as GainsKeeper. Otherwise, you can enter the information manually into TurboTax as Miscellaneous Income. The software will ask you to input all income, including ordinary wages, interest, dividends and money earned under the category of "Less Common Income." For forex trading, you select the last category, and then select "Miscellaneous Income," and from the list of sources, select "Other Reportable Income." You then enter the description "IRC 988" and the net amount, either a positive number for your gain or a negative number for your losses.
The Section 1256 Way
With Section 1256 treatment, you will receive a 1099-B from your broker detailing the net profit or loss during the year; your broker may allow this information to be directly imported into the TurboTax program. The program will generate a Form 6781, on which you report the net gain for the year, and then apply the 60/40 rule to a Schedule D, on which you report all investment capital gains and losses. If you had a loss on your Section 1256 trades, the IRS will allow you to carry back the loss up to two years; TurboTax will assist you with applying the carry-back to amended returns, which may allow you a refund from the IRS.
Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.