How taxing is your options trade?
Index and ETF Options both offer broad market exposure to execute trading strategies, however they're not treated the same at tax time.
If you're an active trader, you work hard to generate profits in your trading account. You study the charts, you watch the day's headlines, and research your entry and exit points before placing an order. If things go your way, you end up with a winning trade in your account. But if you're using a broad-market ETF to trade options on the S&P 500®, you may be paying more in taxes than you would by using index options.* That means you may be giving up more of your hard-earned trading profits.
Many traders use a variety of ETF options products, such as SPY, to gain exposure to the S&P 500. What they may not realize is that capital gains from ETF options may be considered short-term gains and taxed at the ordinary income rate, which in 2019 ranged from 10-37%. Depending on individual trading and your tax bracket, that could be a big hit to your income.
In a rush? Watch the video to learn more about the different tax treatments of ETF and index options.
Index Options may be Eligible for 60/40 Tax Treatment
Many S&P 500 index options—including Mini-SPX, which has the same notional size as SPY options and goes by the ticker XSPSM—may be eligible for more favorable tax treatment. Under section 1256 of the Tax Code, certain exchange-traded options, including XSP, may qualify for 60% long term/40% short-term rates, even if the option is held for less than a year. With 2019 long-term capital gains rates ranging from 0-20% versus short-term capital gains rates of 10-37%, Mini-SPX options may allow you to keep more of your trading profits.
Take, for example, an investor in the 32% tax bracket who had $50,000 in taxable trading profits. If they were trading ETF options, they could be taxed at the ordinary income rate and pay as much as $16,000 in taxes. If, on the other hand, the investor was trading index options that qualified for 60%/40% tax treatment, they would only pay $10,900. That's a difference of $5,100. Ask your accountant about the tax implications of trading ETF options versus index options.
Potential Tax Savings with Index Options
In addition to the potentially different tax treatment, there are several other important differences between ETF options and index options. If you're an options seller, you'll particularly want to understand the differences between European and American style options and the implications of early assignment. Learn more about the differences between ETF and index options below.
Why You Should Worry About Share Settlement When Trading S&P 500 ETF Options
Don't Get Stuck Paying the Dividend on Your Short S&P 500 ETF Option Trade
Cboe Mini-SPX (XSP) is an index option product designed to track the S&P 500. At 1/10th the size of the standard SPX options contract, XSP is the same notional size as S&P 500 ETF options, but with the added benefits of:
- Cash settlement
- No early exercise
- May qualify for 60/40 blended tax treatment
*Under section 1256 of the Tax Code, profit and loss on transactions in certain exchange-traded options, including XSP, are entitled to be taxed at a rate equal to 60% long-term and 40% short-term capital gain or loss, provided that the investor involved and the strategy employed satisfy the criteria of the Tax Code. Investors should consult with their tax advisors to determine how the profit and loss on any particular option strategy will be taxed. Tax laws and regulations change from time to time and may be subject to varying interpretations.
The information in this article is provided for general education and information purposes only. No statement(s) within this article should be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell a security or to provide investment advice. Supporting documentation for any claims, comparisons, statistics or other technical data in this article is available by contacting Cboe Global Markets at cboe.com/contact.
XSP is a service mark of Cboe Exchange, Inc. All other trademarks and service marks are property of their respective owners. © 2019 Cboe Exchange, Inc. All Rights Reserved.