DEAR BRUCE: I have a stock that I sold, but I don’t have any record of when it was bought and for how much. What kind of information do I need when reporting this for my taxes? Any help you can give me would be appreciated. — Arlene, via email
DEAR ARLENE: It seems to be the time of year for questions such as yours. I have had several similar inquiries in the last couple of weeks.
We all have many responsibilities, and one of those is to keep accurate records. This way you know what you paid for a particular investment, how much the profits were, and so forth.
Without this information, the government can take a very narrow view.
The first thing to do is write down everything you can remember about the transaction, such as when was it made and the approximate costs.
If a brokerage was used, by all means contact the broker and find out what records it has. It should have a record of the transaction, assuming it took place in this century.
In the absence of solid information, you’re going to have to go to the government and tell it you must estimate what you paid and what you sold this stock for.
Don’t be too generous. The IRS will chop you up if you are.
In the event that you can reasonably live with whatever figures the IRS estimates, go in peace. If not, depending upon the amount of money involved, you may have to seek representation.
I would go to a specialist who does nothing but negotiate with the IRS. Generally speaking, this is a former IRS employee.
If the numbers are substantial, that is the only way to fly, but if it’s a relatively modest transaction, take your beating and get on with your life.