What Is an Unrealized Gain or Loss?

What Is an Unrealized Gain or Loss?

By Charles Joseph | Editor, Financial Affairs
Reviewed by Corey Michael | Senior Financial Analyst

An unrealized gain or loss is a potential profit or loss that one could experience but hasn’t yet because the transaction or sale has not yet been completed. This type of gain or loss exists only theoretically on paper, hence the term “unrealized”. For instance, when you own a share of stock that has increased in value, the rise in value represents an unrealized gain. Only when you sell the stock does the gain become realized and you actually make a profit.

Related Questions

1. What is a realized gain?

A realized gain refers to profit resulting from the sale of an investment or financial asset. It is the opposite of an unrealized gain and signifies actual profit as the transaction has been completed and cash is involved in it.

2. How does an unrealized gain affect the balance sheet?

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Unrealized gains or losses do affect the balance sheet as they are often included in the earnings reported in the equity section of the balance sheet. However, they are usually reported in a ‘comprehensive income’ section of equity, separate from retained earnings and additional paid-in capital.

3. Can unrealized gains be taxed?

No, unrealized gains are typically not subject to taxes. Taxes are incurred only once the gain is realized, that is, when the asset or investment is actually sold.

4. What happens when you realize a loss?

If you realize a loss, this means you’ve sold an asset or investment for less than what you originally paid for it. Realized losses can have tax implications, potentially reducing the amount of income you’re taxed on.

5. What is a capital gain?

A capital gain is the profit one earns on the sale of a real estate property or investment. It is essentially the difference between the purchase price and the sale price, provided the sale price is greater. If the sale price is less than the purchase price, it results in a capital loss.