Disposition: Exploring Types and Practical Examples


A disposition involves the act of selling, transferring, or donating an asset. It includes various forms such as selling securities, real estate, or making transfers to charities or trusts. This article provides a comprehensive overview of different types of dispositions, their implications, tax considerations, and the behavioral aspect known as the “disposition effect.”

Understanding disposition types

A disposition, in financial terms, encompasses various actions involving assets. It could be selling stocks, real estate, or making transfers to charities or trusts. It also includes the concept of business dispositions, which involve divestiture or spinoffs.

Dissecting the sale of securities

The sale of securities, often stocks, is a common form of a disposition. Investors might decide to sell their shares for various reasons, such as market performance or financial goals. Capital gains taxes may apply to any profits gained from such sales, subject to IRS regulations.

Other forms of disposition

Apart from selling securities, dispositions include transfers and assignments. These could involve legal transfers of assets to family, charities, or organizations, often for tax and accounting purposes. Donations of appreciated assets to charities can lead to tax benefits for the disposer.

Business dispositions and regulatory guidelines

Businesses often undergo dispositions by divesting assets or segments. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) mandates specific reporting requirements for such dispositions. Non-disclosure might necessitate pro forma financial statements under certain significance tests, measuring the value of the disposed unit concerning total assets or income.

The significance test

The significance test plays a pivotal role in determining the reporting requirements for business dispositions. This test measures the value or income percentage of the disposed unit compared to the company’s total assets or income. The SEC stipulates thresholds for what qualifies as significant, impacting financial reporting obligations.

The disposition effect: A behavioral insight

The disposition effect is a behavioral concept influencing investor decisions. It relates to the tendency to prematurely sell winning investments while holding onto losing ones for extended periods. This phenomenon, described by Hersh Shefrin and Meir Statman, highlights the psychological aspect of investment decisions.

Implications and strategies

Studies suggest that the disposition effect results in suboptimal investment decisions. Investors should consider strategies to counteract this bias by focusing on sound investment principles rather than emotional responses.

Disposition in real estate

Real estate dispositions involve the sale or transfer of land, buildings, or other property. Let’s explore an example to understand this better:

Example: Selling a property

Imagine you own a residential property that you want to sell. You list the property on the market, find a buyer, and complete the sale. This transaction represents a disposition of your real estate asset. Any gains from this sale might be subject to capital gains tax depending on factors like how long you owned the property.

Disposition in estate planning

Disposition also plays a significant role in estate planning and the transfer of assets to heirs.

Example: Asset transfer in estate planning

Suppose you’re an individual creating an estate plan. As part of this plan, you decide to transfer ownership of certain assets, like stocks, to your children or beneficiaries. This transfer is a disposition, which may have implications for inheritance taxes and future ownership.

Disposition in business mergers and acquisitions

Business dispositions are often encountered in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) scenarios.

Example: Business segment divestiture

Consider a large corporation looking to streamline its operations. It decides to divest a non-core business segment. This divestiture involves the sale or transfer of assets related to that segment. The company must adhere to SEC guidelines for reporting the disposition and may need to provide pro forma financial statements based on the significance test.


Understanding dispositions in finance is crucial for individuals and businesses. It involves various actions like selling assets, transferring ownership, or donating for tax benefits. The regulatory aspects, especially for business dispositions, involve adherence to SEC reporting guidelines. Moreover, being aware of behavioral biases like the disposition effect can aid in making more informed investment decisions.

Frequently asked questions

What are the tax implications of a disposition?

A disposition can have tax implications, depending on the type and circumstances. For example, when selling stocks, you might be subject to capital gains tax. In estate planning, transferring assets may trigger inheritance tax. It’s essential to consult with a tax professional for guidance on your specific situation.

How does the significance test affect business dispositions?

The significance test, as mentioned in the article, is used to determine whether a business disposition should be reported and if pro forma financial statements are required. It evaluates the value of the disposed unit relative to the company’s total assets or income. If the test indicates significance, the SEC mandates specific reporting obligations.

Can you give more examples of non-business dispositions?

Certainly, non-business dispositions encompass various scenarios. Apart from securities, real estate, and estate planning transfers, they can include donating assets to charities or trusts, gifting property to family members, or even transferring assets to revocable living trusts for estate planning purposes.

How can investors counteract the disposition effect?

Investors can counteract the disposition effect, a behavioral bias that can lead to suboptimal investment decisions. To mitigate this bias, it’s crucial to follow a disciplined investment strategy, diversify your portfolio, and avoid making impulsive decisions based on emotions. Staying informed and adhering to a well-thought-out financial plan can help overcome this bias.

Are there any legal obligations for reporting non-business dispositions?

The legal obligations for reporting non-business dispositions vary depending on the asset and jurisdiction. In many cases, for significant transactions, such as selling real estate or making large donations, there may be legal reporting requirements. It’s essential to research and understand the specific laws and regulations that pertain to your disposition to ensure compliance.

Key takeaways

  • A disposition covers various actions including selling, transferring, or donating assets.
  • Business dispositions have specific reporting guidelines regulated by the SEC.
  • The disposition effect influences investor behavior by affecting investment decisions.
View article sources
  1. Disposition – ISO
  3. Critical Thinking Disposition of Prospective … – IOPscience