Investment Expense Tax Deduction – Which Fees Can You Deduct?

chart coinsIf you have investments, such as stocks or mutual funds, the fees and commissions you pay to buy and sell directly reduce your profit (or increase your loss) when you sell. (Your broker reports on your 1099-B the cost basis inclusive of fees to purchase, and reports the sales price minus what you paid to sell.) Since these fees are already accounted for, they’re not deductible elsewhere on your tax return. But you can deduct a range of other investment-related expenses to your miscellaneous deductions on Schedule A.

Keep in mind that you can only deduct miscellaneous expenses that are in excess of 2% of your adjusted gross income (AGI), but there are several other items that get lumped in with that, such as unreimbursed employee expenses, tax preparation fees, educator expenses, losses from casualties or thefts, hobby expenses, and certain legal fees.

So even if, individually, none of these expenses exceeds 2% of your AGI, you just might have a deduction that’s worth something when they are all added together.

Investment Expenses You Can Deduct

You can deduct most expenses related to managing your investments, including:

  • Fees for a professional financial advisor if they advise you on taxable investments.
  • Attorney or accountant fees required to collect or manage your investments.
  • Safe deposit box rent (if you store items, such as bonds, stocks, or investment paperwork).
  • Clerical help or office rent if you have a large enough portfolio to warrant an office and clerical assistance to manage your investments.
  • Investment expenses from pass-through entities, such as non-publicly offered mutual funds, partnerships, and S-corporations. These expenses can be passed along in the same manner that income is passed along provided that it’s specifically stated which portion of the expenses are related to taxable-income producing investments.
  • Service fees on dividend reinvestment plans or automatic investment plans. Since these fees aren’t added to your cost basis like trading commissions are, you can deduct them.
  • Cost to replace missing securities certificates, including the premium you may pay for an indemnity bond in order to get new certificates.
  • The cost of investment newsletters, magazines, or website subscriptions to stock market news and research sites (as long as you are using them to make decisions about your taxable investments and they aren’t excessive.) You can also deduct fees paid to a personalized advisory service.
cost sell taxes calculator

When You Can Deduct Investment Expenses

In order to deduct expenses, investments must qualify and expenses must not be excessive:

  1. You can only deduct fees from investments that produce taxable income. Many investments produce taxable income, but it’s important to check with your broker, financial management firm, or financial advisor if you aren’t sure. Some examples of investments that don’t produce taxable income are municipal bonds or mutual funds that exclusively pay out nontaxable dividends. Your financial management firm should send you a detailed year-end statement that breaks down the fees by account type.
  2. If you incurred fees for an investment that produces both taxable and nontaxable income, you can only deduct the amount proportional to the taxable income produced. For example, consider a bond by which you earned $1,000 in nontaxable interest and another $2,000 in taxable appreciation because you sold it. Since you paid $90 in fees, you can include $60 in your miscellaneous deductions because your taxable amount was two-thirds of the total income produced by the investment.
  3. Deducted expenses must also be deemed “ordinary and necessary.” That is, you cannot deduct what the IRS considers to be excessive charges for the investments being managed. For example, if you claim expenses for your mutual fund that are five times what a mutual fund usually charges, you’re practically asking for a tax audit. You also can’t deduct expenses that the IRS deems unnecessary, such as the full-time secretary who manages your three stock picks.

Deducting Custodial Fees on a 401k or Traditional IRA

401ks and IRAs often charge custodial fees like an annual maintenance fee that are frequently paid directly from the money in your account. But because the money within these accounts was not taxed, you cannot deduct these fees.

That said, some financial management firms will let you pay custodial fees out of pocket, instead of directly from the account. In this way, custodial fees are paid with after-tax money, and can then, therefore, be deducted.

If you have a Roth IRA, Roth 401k, or a regular investment account to which you’ve contributed after-tax money, these fees can be paid directly from money in the account and also be deducted.

Investment Expenses You Can’t Deduct

There are a few expenses, such as commissions and fees on purchases, that you can’t deduct because they’re included in your cost basis. In other words, these fees already decrease the amount you must pay capital gains tax on when you sell the investment. If you’re not sure what expenses will be added to your cost basis, check with your broker.

There are also a slew of other expense you can’t deduct, including expenses related to collateral for conducting short sales, fees for buying life insurance or borrowing against your life insurance policy, and the cost to attend shareholder meetings or investment seminars.

Final Word

Since your miscellaneous expenses must exceed 2% of your AGI to be deductible, you may have previously assumed you don’t qualify for this deduction. However, especially if you’ve been jobless for part of the year, taken a pay cut, or have other large miscellaneous deductions to claim, revisit line 23 on Schedule A, do the math, and see if you do qualify.

Moreover, if you believe you should have claimed this deduction in years past, but did not, you can still file an amended tax return, provided you do so no later than three years after you filed the original.

Did you deduct investment expenses on your taxes last year?

  • Lapu-lapu Torio

    This article helped me understand which fees I can deduct and I benefited from it. Good work, Ms. Botkin.

  • Don Anderson

    This article was great but I still have a question on broker % fees within an IRA. I take a draw monthly and taxes are paid on that amount. I think the fee % for managing the IRA should be taken as a deduction as it made the draw possible and the income is taxable.

    • Kira Botkin

      I’m not exactly clear what you are saying the fees are for, but if they’re service fees that you incur while managing your investments, they are probably deductible.

  • Jeff Karst

    What research do you have to backup your statement about taking a deduction for a fee on a Roth IRA? I am a financial advisor and have never seen this in practice. Thanks.