Learning the Basics of Portfolio Accounting

Portfolio accounting is essentially about determining gain or loss. This is especially important when an investments in the portfolio is sold. Closing a position causes a realized gain or loss. Before selling, the gain or loss since purchase is only an unrealized appreciation or decline in value. Proper portfolio accounting requires an understanding of cost basics and holding period.

Realized Gain or Loss

In this portfolio accounting, the sale proceeds realized from selling a security in a portfolio is the whole amount received. This includes both cash and the fair market value of anything else received in exchange for the security. Determining gain or loss on the same of a portfolio security involves comparing the amount received with the basis of the investment. A gain occurs when the sale proceeds exceed the basis in the sold investment. There is a loss when the same proceeds are less than the basis.

Basis of a Security

The basis of a security in portfolio accounting is usually the cost of the purchase plus any associated commission and fees. The basis is different in portfolio accounting if a security is acquired by a different way than purchase. A gift during the life of a donor retains the basis of that donor. The portfolio accounting of the gift recipient uses the basis of the donor. However, the recipient of inherited property accounts for basis as the fair market value of the investment on the date of the decedent’s death.

Holding Period

Portfolio accounting for sold investments requires determining whether the holding period was short-term or long-term. A gain or loss is long-term when the investment is held fir more than a year. The gain or loss is short-term if the investment is sold a year or less after the purchase. The date of purchase is recorded to account for the holding period. The date of sale is the final day of a holding period.