Interest income

Chapter 7
Interest income

What’s New

Income limits for excluding education savings bond interest increased. In order to exclude interest, your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) must be less than $91,000 ($143,950 if married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er)).


Foreign-source income. If you are a U.S. citizen with interest income from sources outside the United States (foreign income), you must report that income on your tax return unless it is exempt by U.S. law. This is true whether you reside inside or outside the United States and whether or not you receive a Form 1099 from the foreign payer.

This chapter discusses the following topics.

  • Different types of interest income.
  • What interest is taxable and what interest is nontaxable.
  • When to report interest income.
  • How to report interest income on your tax return.

In general, any interest you receive or that is credited to your account and can be withdrawn is taxable income. Exceptions to this rule are discussed later in this chapter.

You may be able to deduct expenses you have in earning this income on Schedule A (Form 1040) if you itemize your deductions. See Money borrowed to invest in certificate of deposit, later, and chapter 29.

Useful Items

You may want to see:


  •  537 Installment Sales
  •  550 Investment Income and Expenses
  •  1212 Guide to Original Issue Discount (OID) Instruments

Form (and Instructions)

  •  Schedule B (Form 1040A or 1040) Interest and Ordinary Dividends
  •  8815 Exclusion of Interest From Series EE and I U.S. Savings Bonds Issued After 1989
  •  8818 Optional Form To Record Redemption of Series EE and I U.S. Savings Bonds Issued After 1989
  •  8960 Net Investment Income Tax—Individuals, Estates, and Trusts

General Information

A few items of general interest are covered here.

Recordkeeping. You should keep a list showing sources and interest amounts received during the year. Also, keep the forms you receive showing your interest income (Forms 1099-INT, for example) as an important part of your records.

Tax on unearned income of certain children. Part of a child’s 2014 unearned income may be taxed at the parent’s tax rate. If so, Form 8615, Tax for Certain Children Who Have Unearned Income, must be completed and attached to the child’s tax return. If not, Form 8615 is not required and the child’s income is taxed at his or her own tax rate.

Some parents can choose to include the child’s interest and dividends on the parent’s return. If you can, use Form 8814, Parents’ Election To Report Child’s Interest and Dividends, for this purpose.

For more information about the tax on unearned income of children and the parents’ election, see chapter 32.

Beneficiary of an estate or trust. Interest you receive as a beneficiary of an estate or trust is generally taxable income. You should receive a Schedule K-1 (Form 1041), Beneficiary’s Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, etc., from the fiduciary. Your copy of Schedule K-1 (Form 1041) and its instructions will tell you where to report the income on your Form 1040.

Social security number (SSN). You must give your name and SSN or individual tax identification number (ITIN) to any person required by federal tax law to make a return, statement, or other document that relates to you. This includes payers of interest. If you do not give your SSN or ITIN to the payer of interest, you may have to pay a penalty.

SSN for joint account. If the funds in a joint account belong to one person, list that person’s name first on the account and give that person’s SSN to the payer. (For information on who owns the funds in a joint account, see Joint accounts, later.) If the joint account contains combined funds, give the SSN of the person whose name is listed first on the account. This is because only one name and SSN can be shown on Form 1099.

These rules apply both to joint ownership by a married couple and to joint ownership by other individuals. For example, if you open a joint savings account with your child using funds belonging to the child, list the child’s name first on the account and give the child’s SSN.

Custodian account for your child. If your child is the actual owner of an account that is recorded in your name as custodian for the child, give the child’s SSN to the payer. For example, you must give your child’s SSN to the payer of interest on an account owned by your child, even though the interest is paid to you as custodian.

Penalty for failure to supply SSN. If you do not give your SSN to the payer of interest, you may have to pay a penalty. See Failure to supply SSN under Penalties in chapter 1. Backup withholding also may apply.

Backup withholding. Your interest income is generally not subject to regular withholding. However, it may be subject to backup withholding to ensure that income tax is collected on the income. Under backup withholding, the payer of interest must withhold, as income tax, on the amount you are paid, applying the appropriate withholding rate.

Backup withholding may also be required if the IRS has determined that you underreported your interest or dividend income. For more information, see Backup Withholding in chapter 4.

Reporting backup withholding. If backup withholding is deducted from your interest income, the payer must give you a Form 1099-INT for the year indicating the amount withheld. The Form 1099-INT will show any backup withholding as “Federal income tax withheld.”

Joint accounts. If two or more persons hold property (such as a savings account or bond) as joint tenants, tenants by the entirety, or tenants in common, each person’s share of any interest from the property is determined by local law.

Income from property given to a child. Property you give as a parent to your child under the Model Gifts of Securities to Minors Act, the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act, or any similar law becomes the child’s property.

Income from the property is taxable to the child, except that any part used to satisfy a legal obligation to support the child is taxable to the parent or guardian having that legal obligation.

Savings account with parent as trustee. Interest income from a savings account opened for a minor child, but placed in the name and subject to the order of the parents as trustees, is taxable to the child if, under the law of the state in which the child resides, both of the following are true.

  • The savings account legally belongs to the child.
  • The parents are not legally permitted to use any of the funds to support the child.

Form 1099-INT. Interest income is generally reported to you on Form 1099-INT, or a similar statement, by banks, savings and loans, and other payers of interest. This form shows you the interest you received during the year. Keep this form for your records. You do not have to attach it to your tax return.

Report on your tax return the total interest income you receive for the tax year.

Interest not reported on Form 1099-INT. Even if you do not receive Form 1099-INT, you must still report all of your interest income. For example, you may receive distributive shares of interest from partnerships or S corporations. This interest is reported to you on Schedule K-1 (Form 1065), Partner’s Share of Income, Deduction, Credits, etc., or Schedule K-1 (Form 1120S), Shareholder’s Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, etc.

Nominees. Generally, if someone receives interest as a nominee for you, that person must give you a Form 1099-INT showing the interest received on your behalf.

If you receive a Form 1099-INT that includes amounts belonging to another person, see the discussion on nominee distributions under How To Report Interest Income in chapter 1 of Publication 550, or Schedule B (Form 1040A or 1040) instructions.

Incorrect amount. If you receive a Form 1099-INT that shows an incorrect amount (or other incorrect information), you should ask the issuer for a corrected form. The new Form 1099-INT you receive will be marked “Corrected.”

Form 1099-OID. Reportable interest income also may be shown on Form 1099-OID, Original Issue Discount. For more information about amounts shown on this form, see Original Issue Discount (OID), later in this chapter.

Exempt-interest dividends. Exempt-interest dividends you receive from a mutual fund or other regulated investment company, including those received from a qualified fund of funds in any tax year beginning after December 22, 2010, are not included in your taxable income. (However, see Information reporting requirement, next.) Exempt-interest dividends should be shown in box 10 of Form 1099-DIV. You do not reduce your basis for distributions that are exempt-interest dividends.

Information reporting requirement. Although exempt-interest dividends are not taxable, you must show them on your tax return if you have to file. This is an information reporting requirement and does not change the exempt-interest dividends into taxable income.

Note. Exempt-interest dividends paid from specified private activity bonds may be subject to the alternative minimum tax. See Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) in chapter 31 for more information. Chapter 1 of Publication 550 contains a discussion on private activity bonds under State or Local Government Obligations.

Interest on VA dividends. Interest on insurance dividends left on deposit with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is not taxable. This includes interest paid on dividends on converted United States Government Life Insurance and on National Service Life Insurance policies.

Individual retirement arrangements (IRAs). Interest on a Roth IRA generally is not taxable. Interest on a traditional IRA is tax deferred. You generally do not include it in your income until you make withdrawals from the IRA. See chapter 17.

Taxable Interest

Taxable interest includes interest you receive from bank accounts, loans you make to others, and other sources. The following are some sources of taxable interest.

Dividends that are actually interest. Certain distributions commonly called dividends are actually interest. You must report as interest so-called “dividends” on deposits or on share accounts in:

  • Cooperative banks,
  • Credit unions,
  • Domestic building and loan associations,
  • Domestic savings and loan associations,
  • Federal savings and loan associations, and
  • Mutual savings banks.

The “dividends” will be shown as interest income on Form 1099-INT.

Money market funds. Money market funds pay dividends and are offered by nonbank financial institutions, such as mutual funds and stock brokerage houses. Generally, amounts you receive from money market funds should be reported as dividends, not as interest.

Certificates of deposit and other deferred interest accounts. If you open any of these accounts, interest may be paid at fixed intervals of 1 year or less during the term of the account. You generally must include this interest in your income when you actually receive it or are entitled to receive it without paying a substantial penalty. The same is true for accounts that mature in 1 year or less and pay interest in a single payment at maturity. If interest is deferred for more than 1 year, see Original Issue Discount (OID), later.

Interest subject to penalty for early withdrawal. If you withdraw funds from a deferred interest account before maturity, you may have to pay a penalty. You must report the total amount of interest paid or credited to your account during the year, without subtracting the penalty. See Penalty on early withdrawal of savings in chapter 1 of Publication 550 for more information on how to report the interest and deduct the penalty.

Money borrowed to invest in certificate of deposit. The interest you pay on money borrowed from a bank or savings institution to meet the minimum deposit required for a certificate of deposit from the institution and the interest you earn on the certificate are two separate items. You must report the total interest you earn on the certificate in your income. If you itemize deductions, you can deduct the interest you pay as investment interest, up to the amount of your net investment income. See Interest Expenses in chapter 3 of Publication 550.

Example. You deposited $5,000 with a bank and borrowed $5,000 from the bank to make up the $10,000 minimum deposit required to buy a 6-month certificate of deposit. The certificate earned $575 at maturity in 2014, but you received only $265, which represented the $575 you earned minus $310 interest charged on your $5,000 loan. The bank gives you a Form 1099-INT for 2014 showing the $575 interest you earned. The bank also gives you a statement showing that you paid $310 interest for 2014. You must include the $575 in your income. If you itemize your deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040), you can deduct $310, subject to the net investment income limit.

Gift for opening account. If you receive noncash gifts or services for making deposits or for opening an account in a savings institution, you may have to report the value as interest.

For deposits of less than $5,000, gifts or services valued at more than $10 must be reported as interest. For deposits of $5,000 or more, gifts or services valued at more than $20 must be reported as interest. The value is determined by the cost to the financial institution.

Example. You open a savings account at your local bank and deposit $800. The account earns $20 interest. You also receive a $15 calculator. If no other interest is credited to your account during the year, the Form 1099-INT you receive will show $35 interest for the year. You must report $35 interest income on your tax return.

Interest on insurance dividends. Interest on insurance dividends left on deposit with an insurance company that can be withdrawn annually is taxable to you in the year it is credited to your account. However, if you can withdraw it only on the anniversary date of the policy (or other specified date), the interest is taxable in the year that date occurs.

Prepaid insurance premiums. Any increase in the value of prepaid insurance premiums, advance premiums, or premium deposit funds is interest if it is applied to the payment of premiums due on insurance policies or made available for you to withdraw.

U.S. obligations. Interest on U.S. obligations, such as U.S. Treasury bills, notes, and bonds, issued by any agency or instrumentality of the United States is taxable for federal income tax purposes.

Interest on tax refunds. Interest you receive on tax refunds is taxable income.

Interest on condemnation award. If the condemning authority pays you interest to compensate you for a delay in payment of an award, the interest is taxable.

Installment sale payments. If a contract for the sale or exchange of property provides for deferred payments, it also usually provides for interest payable with the deferred payments. That interest is taxable when you receive it. If little or no interest is provided for in a deferred payment contract, part of each payment may be treated as interest. See Unstated Interest and Original Issue Discount in Publication 537, Installment Sales.

Interest on annuity contract. Accumulated interest on an annuity contract you sell before its maturity date is taxable.

Usurious interest. Usurious interest is interest charged at an illegal rate. This is taxable as interest unless state law automatically changes it to a payment on the principal.

Interest income on frozen deposits. Exclude from your gross income interest on frozen deposits. A deposit is frozen if, at the end of the year, you cannot withdraw any part of the deposit because:

  • The financial institution is bankrupt or insolvent, or
  • The state where the institution is located has placed limits on withdrawals because other financial institutions in the state are bankrupt or insolvent.

The amount of interest you must exclude is the interest that was credited on the frozen deposits minus the sum of:

  • The net amount you withdrew from these deposits during the year, and
  • The amount you could have withdrawn as of the end of the year (not reduced by any penalty for premature withdrawals of a time deposit).