Twenty-five Rules of Investing:  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |  8  |  9  |  10  |  11  |  12  |  13  |  14  |  15  |  16  |  17  |  18  |  19  |  20  |  21  |  22  |  23  |  24  |  25 

 

 

It's OK to Pay the Taxes

 

 

Rule 2

No one has ever liked to pay taxes. As long as there have been taxes, people have hated paying them. But the aversion to paying taxes on stock gains borders on the pathological. That's why my second bedrock tenet for my 25 rules of investing is:

 

It's OK to pay the taxes.

 

When I went bearish in March 2000, I received a huge amount of angry email from people who felt aggrieved. They had bought, I don't know, Redback Networks (RBAK - news) or InfoSpace (INSP - news) because of me, because of something I wrote, and now they were being told to sell it.

Had I no regard for them? Had I no regard for how much in taxes they would have to pay because the gains were short-term? What was the point of making money in a compressed period of time when it meant you would have much less to show for it than if the stock were held long-term?

I had zero sympathy for these people. I had long ago made my peace with the tax man. I knew that some gains were and are simply unsustainable. Given, though, that so many people thought that if you bought and held, you always ended up with more than if you bought and sold, my discussion fell on deaf ears, an audience like the character in The Lord of the Rings, Gollum, who says, "I'm not listening, I'm not listening."

Anyone who held on to get the long-term gain then ended up with no gain at all. You obviated the need to pay taxes the hard way; no taxes are due when you sell at a loss.

It's important to remember that gains, any gains, can be ephemeral. It is better to stop worrying about the tax man and take the gains when those gains appear unsustainable than to ride things back to a loss. Stop fearing the tax man; start fearing the loss man. You won't regret it.