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Tax Resource Center

Cost Basis

Cost basis is used to calculate capital gains or losses — for tax purposes — when you sell shares. For the most part, cost basis only applies to taxable investing accounts and not to tax-deferred accounts for retirment or education.

On the face of it, cost basis is pretty simple: you purchase a mutual fund share at a certain price and this amount is your cost basis for that share. When the share is sold, the cost basis method you select is used to calculate how much gain (or loss) needs to be reported on your income tax return.

Where cost basis becomes more complex is when you’ve been investing over a period of time and buying shares through reinvesting your dividends and capital gains and/or making new purchases through one-time and recurring investments. Share purchase prices change over time, which means that original value—the cost basis—of your shares may differ. When you sell your shares, the cost basis method you choose to use determines which shares are sold and impacts the amount of capital gains or losses you’ll have from the sale. Being strategic about which shares you choose to sell can potentially lower your tax bill and save you some money.

Holding Periods

Another factor to consider when thinking about cost basis is that the amount of time you’ve owned the shares (the holding period) impacts the tax rate you pay on the capital gains. The holding period is used to determine the tax rate applied to capital gains from the sale of shares:

  • Long-term periods apply to shares owned more than one year. Generally, lower capital gains tax rates apply to long-term capital gains.
  • Short-term periods apply to shares owned one year or less. Ordinary income tax rates apply to short-term capital gains and they tend to be higher tax rates than apply to long-term capital gains.

Cost Basis Accounting Methods

Thrivent Mutual Funds offers several different cost basis calculation methods. The various cost basis methods indicate the order in which shares are redeemed when you sell your investment. If you don’t choose a cost basis method, we will use the funds default method of average cost.

  • Average Cost
    All shares purchased are added together and then divided by the number of shares. This average price per share becomes the value used when shares are sold to determine the gain or loss. The holding period is determined by using the FIFO method. This is the default cost basis method for Thrivent Mutual Funds.
  • First In First Out (FIFO)
    The first assets purchased are the first ones to get used or sold.
  • Last In First Out (LIFO)
    The last assets purchased are the first ones used or sold.
  • High Cost
    The shares with the highest cost per share when purchased are the first shares to be used or sold.
  • Low Cost
    The shares with the lowest cost per share when purchased are the first ones to be used or sold.
  • Specific Lot Identification
    At the time of transaction, you can select individual purchase lots to use in order to get to your desired total sale amount.
  • Loss/Gain Utilization
    The objective of this method is to generate the least amount of potential tax liability from the sale. At the time of redemption, shares are grouped based on the amount of losses or gains they will produce and the holding period. A short-term holding period means your purchase was less than one year ago and long-term means it was more than one year. This is how they’re grouped and sold:
    1. Short-term losses (from greatest loss per share to least loss per share)
    2. Long-term losses (from greatest to least)
    3. Short-term no gain or loss
    4. Long term no gain or loss
    5. Long term gains (from least gain per share to most gain per share)
    6. Short term gains (from least to most)
    7. Lots with unknown cost in FIFO method, and then least share count order.

More information about cost basis also be found in our Cost Basis FAQs

Consult Your Tax Advisor

Depending on your individual tax situation, you may wish to consult with your tax advisor before selecting a cost basis accounting method and selling shares you own. You can change the cost basis method used on your account; however, once you have sold your shares, you cannot retroactively change the cost basis used for a specific transaction. Also, please note that cost basis is not a substitute for performance information for an investment.