Tax loss harvesting allows people to reduce their taxable income by selling securities that have gone down in value. Capital losses can be used to offset ordinary income or to offset realized capital gains.
But if an individual dies with a capital loss that they have not used, the person who inherits these securities may not be able to use these losses. There is a way to use these capital losses if it’s done right.
For example, If Joe buys a stock for $200 and it declines to $100 and then gives it to daughter Sue, her cost basis is $100 (the value when he gifts the stock). If she then sells it for $100 she cannot claim a loss.
However, if Joe gave the stock to wife Mary who then sells it for $100 she can claim a loss of $100 (the original cost $200 – $100 = $100 loss).
This is a quirk written into the tax code -Section 1015(e) – specifically designed for gifting of depreciated assets to a spouse.
This example only works if the assets are gifted before death. If Fred dies with the depreciated stock the tax cost basis is its value as of the date of death.