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Carryovers exist because there are maximum values for some items.

For example, you can use capital losses to offset capital gains in the current year, and if your losses exceed your gains, you can apply up to $3,000 of your losses to ordinary income. But what if your capital losses exceed your capital gains by $15,000? Well, you use $3,000 as above, and the remaining $12,000 loss is carried forward to the following year. Actually, you carry forward two varieties of capital loss: long-term and short-term. Capital losses can be carried forward indefinitely.

Charitable contributions are limited as well, to 20%, 30%, or 50% or AGI, depending on the type of asset being contributed. If your contribution exceeds the limit, you can carry forward the excess to a subsequent year, just as you carry forward a capital loss. Carryover for charitable contributions is limited to 5 years, however. See Publication 526.
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