Return of Capital

Aug 29, 2022 By Triston Martin

Return of capital is a return on all or a portion of the investment made in a fund or stock. ROC could be part of a fund's distribution because ROC is the money you put in, even though your fund offers tax liability estimations. The 1099-DIV your fund issues at the close each year will reveal what amount of ROC you earned during the year. A good example of a ROC could be the time a fund distributes an amount based on the returns that the fund has generated and the amount you invested. The income earned from the returns is considered income, but the return on your capital isn't.

How Return of Capital Works

When a person invests in a fund, they put the capital to be put to work in the hope of earning a return, which is called the cost basis. If the principal is returned to the investor, this is the return of capital. Because it doesn't include losses or gains, the return isn't considered tax-deductible. It's similar to getting your cash back.

The return of an investor's original investment in some kinds of investments comes before the investor is eligible for tax deductions on subsequent profits (or losses). For instance, eligible retirement funds include 401(k) plans, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), and cash accrued through perpetual life insurance plans. Because investors get their first dollar before ever touching their earnings, these products follow the first-in-first-out model.

Cost basis can be defined as the total amount an investor pays to invest, and the cost basis of the stock is adjusted to account for dividends on stock or splits of stock, as well as commissions to buy the stock. Financial advisors and investors need to keep track of the cost basis for each investment to ensure that any potential cash flows from capital investments can be tracked.

If an investor purchases an investment and then sells the investment for profit and the taxpayer is required to report gains on his personal tax return. The price of the sale less the price basis of the investment is the profit resulting from the sale. If an investor is paid an amount less than or equivalent to the cost basis, then the amount is a capital gain, not a capital gain.

Factoring in Partnership Return of Capital

A partnership is an organization where two or more persons contribute assets and manage an entity to profit. The parties form an association by signing the agreement of partnership. Calculating the return on capital in a partnership may be challenging. A partner's stake in an organization is recorded through the partner's capital account. The capital account is boosted by any assets or cash provided by the partner and the portion of profits shared by the partner.

The partner's interest is decreased by any withdrawals or guarantee payments, as well as the portion of the loss of the partnership. The withdrawal of the amount equal to the capital account of the partner's amount is considered to be a repayment of capital and not tax-deductible.

Tax Implications

Return of capital distributions aren't tax deductible, but they can have tax implications as they could result in additional capital gains. Selling a share for $11, even though your cost basis is $10, you'll get an increase of $1 in the capital. If, however, your ROC was $2, the gain per share would be $3. IRS requires you to know your capital gain summaries based on the difference in your buy and sell prices and your capital return.

What It Means for Individual Investors

Understanding how the capital gains return will help you comprehend the impact of capital gains on yours. If you sell your shares at a price higher than the cost basis, a greater portion of that amount can be considered capital gain if you didn't receive a ROC distribution. Although this may sound like a negative situation, the capital return offers you the opportunity to make a non-taxable monthly cash flow and also delay the tax on capital gains until you sell your shares.


Consider, for instance, that an investor purchases 100 shares of XYZ common stock for $20 per share. In addition, the stock is split in a 2-for-1 split, such that the investor's holdings amount to 200 shares, with a price of $10 per share. If the investor decides to sell shares for $15, the first $1 is considered a return of capital and not taxed. The $5 additional per share is considered a capital gain and included on the personal tax return.

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