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Researching a Stock With a Complicated History

Question: I have a stock that was bought in the early 1990s. Since then, the company has merged, changed names and split. Do you know how I can trace the stock’s history to find its cost basis?

– Richard Wrobbel, Tulsa, Okla.

Answer: The good news: Starting this year, brokerage firms are required to report the cost basis (the original value of a security, adjusted for splits, reinvested dividends and return-of-capital distributions) to the IRS. The bad news: The law isn’t retroactive—so you’re probably on your own here. Start by consulting your broker and the company’s investor-relations folks for information on splits or mergers, say experts. You’ll also find historical dividend data on sites like Yahoo Finance, says Michael Goodman, president of Wealthstream Advisors in New York. And be sure to document your research in case the IRS questions your numbers.

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