How do I determine the cost basis of stock  received as a gift

How do I determine the cost basis of stock received as a gift

January 31, 2024

Determining the cost basis of stock received as a gift involves understanding the rules set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the United States. The cost basis is crucial for calculating capital gains or losses when you sell the gifted stock. When receiving a gift of stock, the general rule is that your cost basis is the same as the donor's original cost basis, unless the fair market value (FMV) on the date of the gift is lower.

If the FMV on the gift date is lower than the donor's original cost, your cost basis is the lower FMV. However, if the FMV is higher, you inherit the donor's original cost basis. It's important to note that if the donor paid a gift tax on the transfer, it doesn't affect your basis.

If the donor passed away, and you inherited the stock, the cost basis is generally "stepped-up" or "stepped-down" to the FMV on the date of the donor's death. This means your cost basis is adjusted to the market value on that specific date.

To determine the FMV, you might need to obtain records or consult financial experts for historical stock prices. Keeping detailed records of the gift, including dates and values, is essential for accurate reporting to the IRS.

When selling the gifted stock, the cost basis is used to calculate capital gains or losses. If you can't determine the cost basis, the IRS may assume it to be zero, leading to higher taxable gains. Therefore, it's crucial to maintain accurate records and, if necessary, seek professional advice to ensure compliance with tax regulations. Always refer to the latest IRS guidelines or consult a tax professional for the most current and accurate information.


The taxation of gains on stock received as a gift depends on whether you make a profit (capital gain) or incur a loss when you sell the gifted stock. Here are the key considerations:

  1. Capital Gains:

    • If you sell the gifted stock at a price higher than the cost basis (either the donor's original cost basis or the stepped-up basis if inherited), you realize a capital gain.
    • Capital gains are typically categorized as either short-term or long-term, depending on the holding period. Holding the stock for more than one year usually qualifies for long-term capital gains treatment.
  2. Tax Rates:

    • The tax rates on capital gains depend on your income level and the holding period of the stock.
    • Long-term capital gains generally enjoy preferential tax rates that are often lower than short-term capital gains rates.
  3. Reporting to the IRS:

    • When you sell the gifted stock, you need to report the transaction on your income tax return (e.g., Schedule D of Form 1040 in the United States).
    • You will need to provide details such as the sale date, sale price, and the cost basis used to calculate the gain.
  4. Gift Tax Implications:

    • As the recipient of the gift, you usually do not incur any immediate tax liability.
    • If the donor had to pay gift tax on the transfer, it doesn't impact your capital gains tax.
  5. Inherited Stock:

    • If you inherited the stock, the cost basis is often "stepped-up" or "stepped-down" to the fair market value at the time of the donor's death. This can minimize potential capital gains taxes.
  6. Seek Professional Advice:

    • Tax laws are complex and subject to change. It is advisable to consult with a tax professional or financial advisor to ensure accurate reporting and to explore potential strategies for minimizing taxes on stock gains.

Understanding the tax implications and keeping thorough records of the gift and subsequent transactions are crucial for accurate reporting to tax authorities.


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