Short Sell Against the Box

Definition of 'Short Sell Against the Box'


The act of short selling securities that you already own. This results in a neutral position where your gains in a stock are equal to the losses. For example, if you own 100 shares of ABC and you tell your broker to sell short 100 shares of ABC, you have shorted against the box. An alternative to short selling against the box is to buy a put on your stock. This may or may not be less expensive than doing the short sale.

Also known as "shorting against the box".

Investopedia explains 'Short Sell Against the Box'


Before 1997, the sole rationale for shorting against the box was to delay a taxable event. According to tax laws that preceded 1997, owning both long and short positions in a stock meant that any papers gains from the long position would be removed temporarily due to the offsetting short position. All in all, the net effect of both positions is zero, meaning that no taxes need to be paid.

Let's say that you have a big gain on some shares of ABC. You think that ABC has reached its peak and you want to sell. However, the tax on the capital gain may leave you under-withheld for the year and subject to penalties. Perhaps the next year you expect to make a lot less money, putting you in a lower bracket and causing you to want to take the gain at that time. However, the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 (TRA97) no longer allows short selling against the box as a valid tax deferral practice. Under TRA97, capital gains or losses incurred from short selling against the box are not deferred. The tax implication is that any related capital gains taxes will be owed in the current year.



comments powered by Disqus
Hot Definitions
  1. Debit Spread

    Two options with different market prices that an investor trades on the same underlying security. The higher priced option is purchased and the lower premium option is sold - both at the same time. The higher the debit spread, the greater the initial cash outflow the investor will incur on the transaction.
  2. Odious Debt

    Money borrowed by one country from another country and then misappropriated by national rulers. A nation's debt becomes odious debt when government leaders use borrowed funds in ways that don't benefit or even oppress citizens. Some legal scholars argue that successor governments should not be held accountable for odious debt incurred by earlier regimes, but there is no consensus on how odious debt should actually be treated.
  3. Takeover

    A corporate action where an acquiring company makes a bid for an acquiree. If the target company is publicly traded, the acquiring company will make an offer for the outstanding shares.
  4. Harvest Strategy

    A strategy in which investment in a particular line of business is reduced or eliminated because the revenue brought in by additional investment would not warrant the expense. A harvest strategy is employed when a line of business is considered to be a cash cow, meaning that the brand is mature and is unlikely to grow if more investment is added.
  5. Stop-Limit Order

    An order placed with a broker that combines the features of stop order with those of a limit order. A stop-limit order will be executed at a specified price (or better) after a given stop price has been reached. Once the stop price is reached, the stop-limit order becomes a limit order to buy (or sell) at the limit price or better.
  6. Pareto Principle

    A principle, named after economist Vilfredo Pareto, that specifies an unequal relationship between inputs and outputs. The principle states that, for many phenomena, 20% of invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained. Put another way, 80% of consequences stem from 20% of the causes.
Trading Center