What is an Unrealized Gain?
How Does an Unrealized Gain Work?
Why Does an Unrealized Gain Matter?
Changes in tax rates may influence the timing of an investor's decision to realize profits. Capital gains are generally only taxable when the asset is actually sold, i.e. when the paper profits are realized. From a tax perspective, realized losses can often offset realized profits and thus lower a person's potential capital-gains taxes.
For companies, the implications of unrealized gains depend on the intentions of the investment. If a company purchases stock in another company primarily for the purpose of selling the stock later it must classify these shares as trading securities and report any unrealized gains or losses in its earnings. However, if the investing company does not intend to sell the stock in the near term, the stock is classified as available-for-sale, and any unrealized gains or losses on the stock are excluded from the investing company's earnings.