- 1 treasury bond interest taxable
- 1.1 Taxation rules for bond investors
- 1.2 Treasury Bond vs. CD Interest Tax
- 1.3 How Are US Treasury Bonds Taxed?
- 1.4 Is Semi Annual Interest Income Taxable?
- 1.5 How the Treasury Website Simplifies the Tax Work for You?
- 1.6 How to Calculate Treasury Bond Tax On Interest Income?
- 1.7 Another Possible Tax On Original Issue Discount (OID):
- 1.8 How Tax Withholding Reduces Burden?
- 1.9 Summary: Why You Should Estimate Taxes In Advance?
treasury bond interest taxable
Investing in bonds is a good way to generate extra income without taking on the added risk of the stock market. But while you do stand to make money by buying bonds, you should be aware that in some cases, you’ll lose a portion of your earnings to taxes. The interest you receive from corporate bonds is always taxable. Furthermore, while savings bonds and government-issued Treasury bonds are exempt from state and local taxes, they are taxable at the federal level. Then there are municipal bonds, which are always federal tax-exempt but sometimes subject to state and local taxes. Understanding how bond interest is taxed can help you choose the right investments.
Whenever you make money, the IRS likes to get a piece of the action, and bond interest is no exception. Generally speaking, the only way to completely avoid paying taxes on bond interest is to buy municipal bonds issued by your home state. If you buy municipal bonds issued by another state, you’ll avoid federal taxes, but you’ll be subject to state and local taxes that apply.
Treasury bonds and savings bonds work the opposite way — you’ll avoid state and local taxes but pay federal taxes on your interest. That said, if you use your savings bonds to pay for higher education costs, you may be eligible to avoid federal income taxes. This exception applies to eligible Series EE and I Bonds issued after 1989, and you’ll need to meet certain criteria to snag that interest tax-free. For example, your bonds must be used to cover qualified expenses, and your expenses must be incurred during the same tax year you redeem your bonds.
Corporate bonds, meanwhile, offer zero opportunity to avoid taxes. Corporate bonds typically pay interest twice a year, and you’re required to report that interest as income on your return.
You have several options for investing in bonds, each of which comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Treasury bonds, for example, are considered virtually risk-free, which means you don’t have to worry about losing your principal investment. On the other hand, treasury bond yields are much lower than those of corporate bonds, and on a tax-adjusted basis, municipal bonds have yielded 25%-30% more than Treasury bonds over time. Throw in the fact that Treasury bond interest is taxable at the federal level, and your opportunity to profit is somewhat limited.
Corporate bonds, on the other hand, typically offer the highest yields, but because their interest is taxable, you’ll lose a portion of what you make right off the bat. The amount you ultimately pay will depend on your tax rate, but if you make $1,000 in bond interest over the course of a year but typically lose 25% of your income to taxes, you’ll end up with just $750. Keep in mind that unlike your paycheck, those taxes won’t be taken out automatically; you’ll receive your interest payments in full, but you’ll need to pay taxes on them when you file your return.
If you’re worried about taxes, you might consider municipal bonds as a reasonable middle ground. Municipal bonds are triple tax-exempt provided you buy bonds issued by your home state, and while their yields are traditionally lower than those of corporate bonds, you get the opportunity to bank all of your interest income instead of losing a portion to taxes.
Of course, in some cases, it might make more sense to pay taxes on corporate bond interest than collect a lower amount of municipal bond interest tax-free. To see which scenario will better benefit you, you can use our handy online tool to calculate your tax-equivalent yield.
Finally, don’t forget the risk factor when choosing between bonds. Corporate bonds typically offer the highest yields but come with the highest risks. Municipal bonds, meanwhile, are 50 to 100 times less likely to default than comparably rated corporate bonds. As is the case with all investments, you’ll need to consider not just the tax implications when buying bonds, but the extent to which you might lose money if things end up going sour.
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Taxation rules for bond investors
Every year, bondholders receive their annual 1099-INT forms and dutifully report the numbers that are listed there on their tax returns. However, there is often more than meets the eye on these forms than the income that is generated from the stated rate of interest.
Many fixed income investors are unaware of a number of factors that can impact the amount of taxable interest that they must report at the end of the year. This article will explore each of the major categories of bonds, as well as analyze some of the other issues that factor into what investors must report as income.
All bonds fall into one of three broad categories:
Although certificates of deposit (CDs) can trade like bonds in the secondary market and are taxed in a similar manner, they are not considered as bonds. The following is a breakdown of each type of debt.
The interest from Treasury bills, notes and bonds as well as U.S. government agency securities is taxable at the federal level only. Some agency securities, such as the Ginnie Mae - Government National Mortgage Association (GNMA), are also taxable at the federal level.
Taxation of Zero-Coupon Bonds
Despite the fact that they have no stated coupon rate, zero-coupon investors must report a prorated portion of interest each year as income, even though it has not been paid out. Zeros are issued at a discount and mature at par value, and the amount of the spread is divided equally among the number of years to maturity and taxed as interest, just as any other original issue discount bond. (For related reading, see Weighing the Tax Benefits of Municipal Securities.)
Series E and EE savings bonds are also state and local tax free, except that the interest on them may be deferred until maturity. Series H and HH bonds pay taxable interest semiannually until maturity.
Series I bonds also pay taxable interest, which may be deferred like Series E/EE bonds. The interest from Series E and I bonds may also be excluded from income if the proceeds are used to pay higher education expenses. (For more insight, read The Lowdown on Savings Bonds.)
Municipal bonds are generally appropriate for high-income investors who are seeking to reduce their taxable investment income. The interest from these bonds is tax free at the federal, state and local levels as long as the investor resides in the same state or municipality as the issuer.
However, if you buy municipal bonds in the secondary market and then sell them later at a gain, that gain will be taxable at ordinary long- or short-term capital gains rates. Municipal bonds pay a commensurately lower rate than other bonds as a result of their tax-free status. If you want to accurately compare the return, you will receive from a municipal bond versus a taxable bond, you must compute its taxable equivalent yield. The formula is as follows:
Joe is trying to decide whether he should invest in a corporate or municipal issue. He is in the 26% tax bracket. The municipal bond is paying 5% and the corporate issue pays 8%. Which is the best choice?
In this case, the corporate obligation will pay Joe more than the municipal issue. This is true for most investors in the lower tax brackets. (For more, see The Basics of Municipal Bonds and Avoid Tricky Tax Issues on Municipal Bonds.)
Corporate bonds are the simplest type of bond from a tax perspective, as they are fully taxable at all levels. Because these bonds typically contain the highest level of default risk, they also pay the highest interest rates of any major category of bond. Therefore, an investor who owns 100 corporate bonds at $1,000 par value each paying 7% annually can expect to receive $7,000 of taxable interest each year. (For more insight, read Corporate Bonds: An Introduction to Credit Risk.)
Regardless of the type of bonds that are sold, any debt issue that is traded in the secondary market will post either a capital gain or loss, depending on the price at which the bonds were bought and sold. This includes government and municipal issues as well as corporate debt. Gains and losses on bond transactions are reported the same as with any other type of security, such as stocks or mutual funds, for the purposes of capital gains. (For related reading, see Capital Gains Tax 101.)
As discussed previously, when a bond is issued at a discount, a prorated portion of the discount is reported as income by the taxpayer each year until maturity. When bonds are purchased at a premium (greater than $1,000 per bond), a prorated portion of the amount over par can be deducted yearly on the purchaser's tax return.
For example, if you buy 100 bonds for $118,000 and hold them for 18 years until they mature, you can deduct $1,000 each year until maturity. You also have the option of deducting nothing each year and simply declaring a capital loss when you redeem the bonds at maturity or sell them for a loss.
However, it is not necessary to amortize premium in the year that you buy the bond; you can begin doing so in any tax year. One important rule to remember is that if you elect to amortize the premium for one bond, then you must also amortize the premium for all other similar bonds, both that year and going forward. Another caveat is that if you do decide to amortize the premium from a bond, you must reduce the cost basis of your position by an equivalent amount.
For further information on bond taxation, download IRS Publication 1212: Guide to Original Issue Discount (OID) Instruments. If taxable bond income is a major component of your annual taxes, consider hiring a certified public accountant to assist you in annual tax planning strategies.
Investing in bonds is a good way to generate extra income without taking on the added risk of the stock market. But while you do stand to make money by buying bonds, you should be aware that in some cases, you'll lose a portion of your earnings to taxes. The interest you receive from corporate bonds is always taxable. Furthermore, while savings bonds and government-issued Treasury bonds are exempt from state and local taxes, they are taxable at the federal level. Then there are municipal bonds, which are always federal tax-exempt but sometimes subject to state and local taxes. Understanding how bond interest is taxed can help you choose the right investments.
IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.
Whenever you make money, the IRS likes to get a piece of the action, and bond interest is no exception. Generally speaking, the only way to completely avoid paying taxes on bond interest is to buy municipal bonds issued by your home state. If you buy municipal bonds issued by another state, you'll avoid federal taxes, but you'll be subject to state and local taxes that apply.
Treasury bonds and savings bonds work the opposite way -- you'll avoid state and local taxes but pay federal taxes on your interest. That said, if you use your savings bonds to pay for higher education costs, you may be eligible to avoid federal income taxes. This exception applies to eligible Series EE and I Bonds issued after 1989, and you'll need to meet certain criteria to snag that interest tax-free. For example, your bonds must be used to cover qualified expenses, and your expenses must be incurred during the same tax year you redeem your bonds.
Corporate bonds, meanwhile, offer zero opportunity to avoid taxes. Corporate bonds typically pay interest twice a year, and you're required to report that interest as income on your return.
You have several options for investing in bonds, each of which comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Treasury bonds, for example, are considered virtually risk-free, which means you don't have to worry about losing your principal investment. On the other hand, treasury bond yields are much lower than those of corporate bonds, and on a tax-adjusted basis, municipal bonds have yielded 25%-30% more than Treasury bonds over time. Throw in the fact that Treasury bond interest is taxable at the federal level, and your opportunity to profit is somewhat limited.
Corporate bonds, on the other hand, typically offer the highest yields, but because their interest is taxable, you'll lose a portion of what you make right off the bat. The amount you ultimately pay will depend on your tax rate, but if you make $1,000 in bond interest over the course of a year but typically lose 25% of your income to taxes, you'll end up with just $750. Keep in mind that unlike your paycheck, those taxes won't be taken out automatically; you'll receive your interest payments in full, but you'll need to pay taxes on them when you file your return.
If you're worried about taxes, you might consider municipal bonds as a reasonable middle ground. Municipal bonds are triple tax-exempt provided you buy bonds issued by your home state, and while their yields are traditionally lower than those of corporate bonds, you get the opportunity to bank all of your interest income instead of losing a portion to taxes.
Of course, in some cases, it might make more sense to pay taxes on corporate bond interest than collect a lower amount of municipal bond interest tax-free. To see which scenario will better benefit you, you can use our handy online tool to calculate your tax-equivalent yield.
Finally, don't forget the risk factor when choosing between bonds. Corporate bonds typically offer the highest yields but come with the highest risks. Municipal bonds, meanwhile, are 50 to 100 times less likely to default than comparably rated corporate bonds. As is the case with all investments, you'll need to consider not just the tax implications when buying bonds, but the extent to which you might lose money if things end up going sour.
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Treasury Bond vs. CD Interest Tax
Treasury securities and bank certificates of deposit are two maximum-safety investments competing for investor dollars. Although both pay interest that is taxable, Treasury bonds have a slight tax bill edge. Doing some taxable-equivalent math will let you pick the best option based on the yield from the CD and the Treasury bond.
The interest earned from a CD is taxable for both federal and state income taxes. Interest from a Treasury bond is also taxable at the federal level but is exempt from state income taxes. Think of Treasury bonds as the opposite of municipal bonds. Muni bond interest is tax exempt at the federal level and taxable at the state level. Because Treasury interest is not taxed on your state income tax, it leaves you with more after-tax money than you would get with a CD with the same yield.
The extra benefit from the state-tax-exempt status of Treasury bond interest depends on your state income tax bracket. A handful of states do not have state income taxes, so these states offer no additional benefit for Treasury bonds over CDs. At the other end of the spectrum are states with top tax brackets near or above 10 percent. These states include Hawaii, California, Oregon, Iowa, New York, New Jersey and Maine. Check your own state tax bracket to determine the benefit of Treasury bond interest.
To compare the interest rate from a CD with the rate from a Treasury bond, calculate the state-taxable-equivalent yield of the Treasury bond. The equivalent yield is determined by dividing the Treasury bond yield by one minus your marginal tax rate. As an example, your state income tax rate is 8 percent and the Treasury bond you are looking at yields 3 percent. One minus 8 percent -- 1 minus 0.08 in decimal form -- gives 0.92. Divide the 3 percent by 0.92 to get a taxable equivalent yield of 3.26 percent. A CD must yield more than 3.26 percent to be a better deal than the Treasury bond.
The function of the bond markets is to set the rates and yields for Treasury bonds. If you are looking at Treasuries, the only choice is what term to maturity to pick based on the yields at different maturities. CD rates, on the other hand, are set by individual banks, and the rates are calculated to both be competitive and attract customer deposits. Once you have calculated the taxable equivalent yield of a Treasury bond, you can shop CD rates from different banks to see if a higher after-tax return is available.
How Are US Treasury Bonds Taxed?
You know US treasury bonds are among the lowest risk investment vehicles. Both individuals and institutional investors can benefit from the bonds. There are several questions surrounding the taxation of the treasury bonds. A prominent one is given below.
Since bonds are issued by none other than the Treasury of the US Government, are there tax benefits?
The answer is a resounding “yes“. The reason is only the taxes at the federal level apply. You will not have to pay the state taxes for the bond income. This feature will benefit everyone regardless of the place of residence. However, this is a boon to those who are from the states with high taxes.
For example, if you are from a state like New York or California known for high taxes, you will find good value in treasury bonds.
Is Semi Annual Interest Income Taxable?
If you hold a treasury bond, you will have to pay tax on the interest income. Treasury bonds pay semi-annual interest till the maturity or till you sell. The interest is will be added to your taxable income prior to calculation of AGI (Adjusted Gross Income.)
AGI is the taxable income after applying standard or itemized deductions. (You will understand “deductions” better after looking an example later in this post.)
How the Treasury Website Simplifies the Tax Work for You?
You may be familiar with TreasuryDirect website. This website is run directly the Govt’s Treasury Department. The purpose is to help investors to manage with ease the treasury nvestments.
For those who purchase bonds, the Treasury will send 1099-INT form every year. This form will help you with the specific interest income that is taxable. The website also helps you to view a history of taxable earnings.
How to Calculate Treasury Bond Tax On Interest Income?
Now you will see how to estimate your overall tax after adding interest income from the bonds. In reality, your financial advisor or auditor can do the task for you. Still, the example you are going to see now will help you understand the taxation better.
First things first, you know about the tax system that exists in the US. You should also know about an upcoming tax reform that is said to help a majority of the Americans. Though the new taxes may harm upper-middle-class Americans with an income of over $200,000.
The US has a multitier tax system. Depending on the source, some income is taxable at the federal level, some at the state and some at the municipal level. Common sources of income are taxable at multiple levels. Usually, the state level taxes are a small overhead over the federal taxes. State taxes are different for different states.
Let us assume you are residing at Colorado which has a flat tax rate of 4.63 % (as of 2018). Let your annual income from your job be $150,000. Let us assume you are single.
Note: Taxes differ for those who file as individuals and those who file jointly as couples.
Assume you have bought treasury bonds for $10,000. Let the interest on face value be 7%. Let the discount on face value be 5%. i.e. The purchase price is 5% lesser than the par value.
Now let us calculate the interest income based on our assumed rate. The interest payment in dollars has to be calculated based on the face value and not the purchase price.
Face value corresponding to the Purchase price of $10,000 at 5% discount can be calculated as shown below.
[100/(100 - Discount% from Par)] x Purchase Price
= 100/(100 - 5) x $10000
Interest income corresponding to 7% rate is:
= (7/100) x $10526.32 = $736.84
Your taxable income is the sum of your annual job compensation and the interest payment.
Note: For illustration purposes, we have assumed you don’t have other income than your job compensation and bond interest.
Taxable income = $150,000 + $736.84
Before estimating the tax, let us subtract the standard deduction from the taxable income. Standard deductions are flat deductions that that apply to all taxpayers. These deductions are decided upon by the IRS. They are applicable only when you have not presented itemized deductions.
Note: Itemized deduction, as the name implies is reporting expenses item-by-item. For example, you can report expenses like hospital bills, donations, etc., that may impact your taxes (by decreasing the taxable income). Your financial advisor will help you decide between the two types of deductions. As a general rule, the higher the deduction, the better.
For our example, we are sticking to the standard deduction.
If you are filing taxes for the 2017 financial year, according to IRS, the standard deduction is $6,350.
Now, your taxable income becomes:
$150,736.84 - $6,350 = $144,386.84
We are going to base our calculations on the tax brackets for 2017.
Assume a taxable income of $30,000. In this case, the first $9,525 will be taxed at 10% while the remaining $20,485 (= $30,000 – $9,515) will be taxed at 15%. (You have to split the income into tax brackets in an incremental fashion.) Above methodology is referred as marginal tax rate system. This method ensures everyone is taxed fairly.
Marginal Tax Rate System
Now let us get back to our example. We are about to employ the marginal tax rate calculation for $144,386.84. Here we go:
Note: The third column is where we have split the taxable income into brackets in the increasing order of dollar value.
Based on our calculation, the taxes you have to pay comes to $33271.07
Is this the final tax you are going to pay? Wait! Do not forget the state tax. Though state tax doesn’t apply to treasury bonds, you have to pay for your day-job income.
Do you remember we started the example assuming you are from Colorado? Colorado has a flat rate of 4.63%. You have to apply the rate to the taxable income by subtracting the income from the bonds.
State level taxable income =
Total taxable income – Income from bonds
Colorado tax on $1,43,650 = (4.63/1000) x $1,43,650 = $665.10
Thus total taxes (Federal + State Level) = $33271.07 + $665.10 = $33,936.17
Note: We are limiting ourselves to federal and state taxes. We are not going into municipal taxes. The reason is the purpose of the example is just to explain the impact of bond income on overall tax.
An important point to note is that the above tax estimate is based on IRS data for 2017 tax year. If you want to calculate for any other year, say for 2018, you have to change the values (like standard deduction) accordingly. As you may be knowing, a new tax reform bill is set to change the tax brackets for 2018.
Tax brackets as per new tax bill (TCJA) are the following.
Just for curiosity sake, let us repeat our calculations for 2018 instead of 2017. The resulting table will look like the one shown below.
Note: We are going to assume the same standard deduction $6,350 for 2018. However, the deduction for 2018 will be probably greater than that of 2017 (based on inflation).
Based on the above computation, the federal tax for 2018 tax year will be $28942.34.
Let us assume the Colorado state tax is going to remain 4.63% for 2018. Therefore, the state tax will be $665.10 again,
In addition to federal tax, the total tax becomes:
Thus for same taxable income of $1,43,650 and same standard deduction, the tax for 2018 is lesser than that of 2017.
We are not making a sweeping argument that 2018 taxes are lesser. The reason is, there are too many factors that go into tax calculation. Our example makes lots of assumptions and does not cover all the factors. As said earlier, the purpose is just to help you understand taxation better.
Another Possible Tax On Original Issue Discount (OID):
Note: We are awaiting more clarity from experts on this section. The reason is a lack of explict mention of OID related taxes for treasury bonds on the TreasuryDirect websie. If you want to suggest changes, kindly use the comments section at the bottom. This section is purely based on our interpretation of bond discount taxes in general.
Any bond, not just Treasuries, are not always bought at par value. Instead, there could be a discount or premium over the face value. In the example we discussed in the previous section, we assumed buying bonds at a discount of 5% from the face value. Upon maturity, the investor will get the face value and not the purchase amount. Hence, if a discount from face value means there is gain upon maturity of the treasury bonds.
Gains on bonds are taxable provided the discount is greater than something called “De Minimis Threshold“. To find the threshold, just take the term of maturity and multiply it by 0.25.
In the case of US treasury bonds, the usual maturity term is 30 years. Thus de minis threshold for treasury bonds = 30 years x 0.25 = 7.5%
But in our example, the discount percent is lesser than 7.5% which was 5%. Hence, the OID related tax will not apply.
In case, the discount was above 7.5%, you may have to pay taxes on the potential gain. For tax purposes, the future gain will be distributed over the term of maturity. The income will then be added as an additional interest.
You will realize the gains due to issue price discount only during maturity. However, you have pay taxes annually corresponding to the accruing interest.
How Tax Withholding Reduces Burden?
You already know many about employers withholding taxes from employee salaries. They pay estimated taxes to the IRS. In case the payment exceeds the actual tax, there will be a refund. This is an example of tax withholding and reduces the burden on the taxpayers. They do not have to pay large amounts in one-go the end of the financial year.
How Tax Withholding Works In Treasury Bonds Case?
Similar to an employer, US Treasury can withhold taxes upon your request. Typically up to 50% of income may be withheld. This reduces the burden during payment. TreasuryDirect website will provide you with necessary tools to specify the precise amount of taxes to be withheld (subject to maximum limit of 50% of income).
Summary: Why You Should Estimate Taxes In Advance?
Depending upon your purchase amount and the interest rate, you may need to at least estimate your taxes in advance. This will help you avoid surprises later. The example outlined in this post will help you do the same.