Unrealized Gains (Losses)

Updated on April 4, 2024
Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Edited byWallstreetmojo Team
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What are Unrealized Gains/Losses?

Unrealized Gains or Losses refer to the increase or decrease in the paper value of the different assets of the company which have not yet been sold. Once such assets are sold, the company will realize the gains or losses.

It is also called “paper profit” or “paper loss.” It can be thought of as money on paper, which the company expects to realize by selling the asset in the future. When the company sells the asset, it realizes the gains (losses) and pays taxes on such profit.

Portfolio valuations, mutual fundsMutual FundsA mutual fund is a professionally managed investment product in which a pool of money from a group of investors is invested across assets such as equities, bonds, etcread more NAV, and some tax policies depend on Unrealized gains/losses, also called marked to market.

Unrealized Gains Losses

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Calculate Unrealized Gain Losses with Example

Example #1

A Company XYZ has an investment of $ 10000 in stocks, which it holds for trading purposes. The value of these stocks has increased to $ 25000. The company could record $ 15000 as an Unrealized gain on these positions without selling the securities. It will only be paper profit, and the company will not be liable to pay taxes for such recorded Unrealized gains.

However, say he sells these positions for $ 30000 later in the year or next year, it would record a realized gain of $ 20000 in the net income, and he is liable to pay taxes on such gains.

From the above example, we can say that Unrealized gain is a difference between the value of investment now and the investment done in the past.

Example #2

Let us take another example. ABC bought 500 stocks for $3, each with an original investment of $ 1500. He paid a brokerage of $10 on the purchase of these stocks, and the current value of each stock is $7. Here, the total value of the investment is $ 3500. Thus, the Unrealized gain is (3500 – 1500 = $ 2000). However, to be precise, the person can subtract the brokerage paid on these stocks and say the Unrealized gain is 2000 – 10 = $ 1900.

Let us take another example:

The Dot-com bubble created a lot of Unrealized wealth, which evaporated as the crash happened. During the dot-com boom, many stock optionsStock OptionsStock options are derivative instruments that give the holder the right to buy or sell any stock at a predetermined price regardless of the prevailing market prices. It typically consists of four components: the strike price, the expiry date, the lot size, and the share premium.read more and RSUs were given to the employees as rewards and incentives. It saw many employees turning into millionaires in no time, but they could not realize their gains due to restrictions holding them for some time. Thus, the dot-com bubble crashed, and all the Unrealized wealth evaporated.

Video on Unrealized Gains (Losses)

Unrealized Gains and Losses Accounting

The accounting treatment depends on whether the securities are classified into three types, which are given below.

types of unrealized gains

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#1 – Held to Maturity Securities

Unrealized Gain and losses on securities held to maturitySecurities Held To MaturityHeld to maturity securities are the debt securities acquired with the intent to keep them until maturity. This type of security is recorded as an amortized cost in the company's financial statements, treated as debt security with a particular maturity date.read more are not recognized in the financial statements. Therefore, such securities do not impact the financial statements – balance sheet, income statementIncome StatementThe income statement is one of the company's financial reports that summarizes all of the company's revenues and expenses over time in order to determine the company's profit or loss and measure its business activity over time based on user requirements.read more, and cash flow statement. Many Companies may value these securities at market value and may choose to disclose it in the footnotes of the financial statements. However, securities are reported at amortized cost if the market value is not disclosed to maturity.

#2 – Trading Securities

Securities held as ‘trading securitiesTrading SecuritiesTrading securities are investments in the form of debt or equity that the company's management wants to actively purchase and sell to make a profit in the short term with securities they believe will increase in price. These securities can be found on the balance sheet at the fair value on the balance sheet date.read more‘ are reported at fair value in the financial statements. Unrealized gains or unrealized losses are recognized on the PnL statement and impact the company’s net income, although these securities have not been sold to realize the profits. The gains increase the net income and, thus, the increase in earnings per share and retained earningsRetained EarningsRetained Earnings are defined as the cumulative earnings earned by the company till the date after adjusting for the distribution of the dividend or the other distributions to the investors of the company. It is shown as the part of owner’s equity in the liability side of the balance sheet of the company.read more. There is no impact of such gains on the cash flow statement.

#3- Available for Sale Securities

Available for sale securitiesAvailable For Sale SecuritiesAvailable for sale Securities are the company's debt or equity securities investments that are expected to be sold in the short run and will are not be held to maturity. These are reported on the balance sheet at fair value, and any unrealized gains or losses on these securities are reported in other comprehensive income as a part of shareholders' equity rather than in the income statement.read more are also reported at fair value. However, accounting for such securities differs from ‘trading securities.’ Due to fair value treatment for “available for sale” securities, Unrealized gains or losses are included in the balance sheet on the asset side. However, such gains do not impact the net income of the company. The Unrealized gains on such securities are not recognized in net income until they are sold and profit is realized. They are reported under shareholders equityShareholders EquityShareholder’s equity is the residual interest of the shareholders in the company and is calculated as the difference between Assets and Liabilities. The Shareholders' Equity Statement on the balance sheet details the change in the value of shareholder's equity from the beginning to the end of an accounting period.read more as “accumulated other comprehensive income” on the balance sheet. The cash flow statementCash Flow StatementA Statement of Cash Flow is an accounting document that tracks the incoming and outgoing cash and cash equivalents from a business.read more is also not affected by such securities.

Unrealized gains/losses on Income Statement / Balance Sheet

The accounting treatment for various types of securities and their impact on financial statementsFinancial StatementsFinancial statements are written reports prepared by a company's management to present the company's financial affairs over a given period (quarter, six monthly or yearly). These statements, which include the Balance Sheet, Income Statement, Cash Flows, and Shareholders Equity Statement, must be prepared in accordance with prescribed and standardized accounting standards to ensure uniformity in reporting at all levels.read more is tabulated below:

Type of securityValued at?Impact on Balance sheetImpact on Income StatementImpact on Cash flowCash FlowCash Flow is the amount of cash or cash equivalent generated & consumed by a Company over a given period. It proves to be a prerequisite for analyzing the business’s strength, profitability, & scope for betterment. read more
Held to maturityGenerally Amortized to costNo ImpactNo ImpactNo Impact
Trading securitiesFair ValueUnrealized gain/losses recognized on the Balance sheetUnrealized gains/losses recognized on PnL statement and impacted net incomeNo impact
Available for saleFair ValueUnrealized gains or losses recognized on Balance sheetUnrealized gains or losses not recognized on PnLNo Impact



An Unrealized gain is an increase in the value of the investment due to the increase in its market value and calculated as (Fair Value or market value – purchase cost). Such a gain is recorded in the balance sheet before the asset has been sold, and thus the gains are called Unrealized because no cash transaction happened. Except for trading securities, the Unrealized gains do not impact the net income. The gains are realized only after selling the asset for cash because it is only when the transaction has materialized.

This article has been a guide to what are Unrealized Gains and Losses. Here we discuss how to account for unrealized gains or losses depending on the type of securities with examples. You may also have a look at these articles below to learn more about accounting –

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