Wash Sales. You cannot deduct losses from sales or trades of stock or securities in a wash sale unless the loss was incurred in the ordinary course of your business as a dealer in stock or securities. A wash sale occurs when you sell or trade stock or securities at a loss and within 30 days before or after the sale you: Wash Sale Rule is likely a popular topic this year with investors sitting on tax losses from prior stock purchases. While the IRS has certain provisions for “substantially identical” investments, there are potential ways to achieve the same goal. I did a lot of trading in 2011 with just a few ETFs and hence incurred the "wash sale" problem. My real profit was about $2500, but Schwab has reported a net gain of about $9000, because many of the wash sale losses were disallowed. All my shares were bought and sold--i.e. I don't hold any shares currently. Does anyone know how I can avoid paying tax on 'profits' I didn't have???