Booking profits or losses from buying to close a short positions or selling to close a long positions is pretty straightforward, but how is it treated when you exercise an option or if you happen to be assigned? Options can be complicated, but add tax treatment to it, and you wind up with one complicated cocktail. That’s why we’ve broken it down since it’s not so “black & white.” 

First, let’s do some review on what happens during exercise and assignment of puts and calls.

Short stockLong stockLong stockShort stock

Assignments from short options

Tax Treatment

Long stock called away (covered call)^

Exercise Price + Premium Received* - Original purchase price of the stock

Long stock put to cover (covered put)

Short sale price - Exercise Price + Premium Received

Uncovered call

Net proceeds: Premium received* + proceeds from the short stock sold

Uncovered put

Basis: Premium received* - exercise strike price of the put. Holding period starts the day after the option was exercised by the counterparty.

Exercising long options

Tax Treatment

Long call hedge

(short stock)

Net proceeds: Proceeds from short sale - Exercise price of the call - Premium paid

Long put hedge

(long stock)^

Exercise price of the put - Premium paid for long put - Original stock purchase price the stock

Long call

Basis: Exercise price of the call + Call premium. Holding period starts the day after the option was exercised.

Long put

Net Proceeds: Exercise price of the put - Put premium.

*Premium collected from a short equity options position is treated as short-term capital gains.
^Tax treatment on equity position is based on your holding period (i.e. short-term or long-term).

How about Rolls?
Rolls, on the other hand, are a bit different. Even though you may not have closed out of your rolled position, you realize a gain or loss when rolling. By definition, a roll consists of closing a position then opening a new position. When you roll a short premium or long premium position, the closing portion of the roll would be a realized loss or profit, which is a taxable event. Even though the entire position is not closed, rolls, by definition, consist of a closing order and an opening order. Any gains or losses realized from a roll is reported and realized.

Your overall realized profit from a short premium position will only occur if you can purchase it back for less than the total credits received. Conversely, any realized profit from a long premium trade can only be realized for a gain if it is sold for more than what it was purchased for.