Can you realize capital gains on intangible property?

Capital gains may be realized on some forms of intangible property. Intangible assets range from patents and licenses to customer loyalty. Customer loyalty may result in substantial gains for a business. Customer loyalty cannot be specifically monetized and given a monetary value. As such, increased revenue or value as a result of loyalty cannot be treated as a capital gain. Other intangible property, such as patents, may be subject to capital gains taxes. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has complex guidelines that determine whether property is subject to capital gains taxes and may be counted as a financial loss if losses occur. These guidelines may be used for tax planning purposes.

Patents are one example of intangible property with a potentially high value. Patents may be licensed by or sold to another party for use. Income from patent licenses and sales may be treated differently by the IRS. Licensing a patent to another does not forfeit all rights to the property and simply permits usage of the patent. As such, income from licenses does not usually result in capital gains income. Sales of a patent may result in capital gains income. Other intellectual property may be treated in a similar fashion by the IRS. The sales of musical compositions may result in capital gains for sellers. Buyers of these rights may use the costs as deductions on an annual basis to recover costs.

Intangible property is treated differently depending on the specific asset class and the relationship of the buyer to the seller. Closely related buyers and sellers do not realize capital gains and losses, for example.