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Currently, capital gains tax rates are more favorable than regular income tax rates. That's why it's important for taxpayers who own stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or certain other investments to pay attention to the rules.

Favorable capital gains rates apply when the taxpayer has held the investment for more than a year, referred to as "long-term." If you hold an investment less than a full year, you don't get capital gains rates. So it's important when you're selling an investment to look at how long you've held it. You may want to hold it just a little longer if you're close to a full year of ownership.

What is the capital gains tax rate? If you're in a higher tax bracket, the capital gains rate is 15%. If you're in a lower tax bracket, the capital gains rate is only 5%. There are some exceptions to these rules, but these will apply to most taxpayers.

It pays to look carefully at your holding period for an investment. You could save yourself a significant amount of tax by ensuring that you've got a long-term holding period and are therefore able to get the benefit of capital gains tax rates on that investment. More information on Capital Gains can be found on the IRS website.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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