I'd sold off all of my smaller share holdings in March 2009 (as the market dipped below the level where I would start getting margin calls if I didn't raise some cash) and in order to calculate the relevant capital gains figures I had to trawl through 15 years worth of tax pack files to find the relevant dividend reinvestment plan amounts in order to calculate the cost basis for the shares that had been sold. Where the shares had come into my account via a distribution due to a take-over or demerger I also had to work through the paperwork for several different share holdings to calculate the cost base relating to a particular share sale. Some added complications arose where I couldn't find the DRP paperwork in the relevant tax pack file (apparently I had the bright idea of filing the papers that would be needed for future CGT calculations in a different place at some point in time - now I can't find those dividend statements at all!). In those cases I had to look up the dividend payment details online (via computershare), but the online records only went back five years. For my Commonwealth Diversified Share Fund CGT calculation I had even more trouble getting information as the company had delisted when the fund closed down last June, so I couldn't even look up the historical share price information to calculate an approximate cost basis for the DRP shares that had been issued more than five years ago. In the end I had to download the historical price data for XAO (the all ordinaries index) and use a spreadsheet to calculate the approximate ratio of CDF share price to XAO index price, and estimate the CDF share price that would have been used for each DRP allocation. The final cost base amount for my CDF should be a reasonable estimate (within $50 or so), so it won't have a material impact on my CGT calculation. In any case, it looks like I'll have made a small capital loss overall for the 08/09 tax year which will carry forward until I eventually sell some shares for a net profit.
If the ATO ever does a desk audit of this tax return (I haven't been audited yet), it will be interesting to see if they decide to accept my estimation methodology, or want to spend time working out the exact cost base figures. From all the capital gains calculation information I've seen on the ATO website, they tend to prefer the most long-winded methods possible (for example, totalling all the purchase amounts and broker fees separately and then deducting total brokerage cost from total purchase cost, rather than just adding up the net cost amounts. The two methods are mathematically equivalent). At the end of the day, there's a 50:50 chance that I've underestimated the cost base and would be due a refund.
Diversification, dollar cost averaging and use of dividend reinvestment plans seemed like a good idea at the time, but since I stopped recording all my share transaction details in Quicken in 1999 the GCT paperwork has turned into a headache. That's one of the reasons I tend to invest in index funds these days, rather than investing in individual stocks.
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