Other income

Chapter 12
Other income


You must include on your return all items of income you receive in the form of money, property, and services unless the tax law states that you do not include them. Some items, however, are only partly excluded from income. This chapter discusses many kinds of income and explains whether they are taxable or nontaxable.

  • Income that is taxable must be reported on your tax return and is subject to tax.
  • Income that is nontaxable may have to be shown on your tax return but is not taxable.

This chapter begins with discussions of the following income items.

  • Bartering.
  • Canceled debts.
  • Sales parties at which you are the host or hostess.
  • Life insurance proceeds.
  • Partnership income.
  • S Corporation income.
  • Recoveries (including state income tax refunds).
  • Rents from personal property.
  • Repayments.
  • Royalties.
  • Unemployment benefits.
  • Welfare and other public assistance benefits.

These discussions are followed by brief discussions of other income items.

Useful Items

You may want to see:


  •  525 Taxable and Nontaxable Income
  •  544 Sales and Other Dispositions of Assets
  •  4681 Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions, and Abandonments


Bartering is an exchange of property or services. You must include in your income, at the time received, the fair market value of property or services you receive in bartering. If you exchange services with another person and you both have agreed ahead of time on the value of the services, that value will be accepted as fair market value unless the value can be shown to be otherwise.

Generally, you report this income on Schedule C (Form 1040), Profit or Loss From Business, or Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040), Net Profit From Business. However, if the barter involves an exchange of something other than services, such as in Example 3 below, you may have to use another form or schedule instead.

Example 1. You are a self-employed attorney who performs legal services for a client, a small corporation. The corporation gives you shares of its stock as payment for your services. You must include the fair market value of the shares in your income on Schedule C (Form 1040) or Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040) in the year you receive them.

Example 2. You are self-employed and a member of a barter club. The club uses “credit units” as a means of exchange. It adds credit units to your account for goods or services you provide to members, which you can use to purchase goods or services offered by other members of the barter club. The club subtracts credit units from your account when you receive goods or services from other members. You must include in your income the value of the credit units that are added to your account, even though you may not actually receive goods or services from other members until a later tax year.

Example 3. You own a small apartment building. In return for 6 months rent-free use of an apartment, an artist gives you a work of art she created. You must report as rental income on Schedule E (Form 1040), Supplemental Income and Loss, the fair market value of the artwork, and the artist must report as income on Schedule C (Form 1040) or Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040) the fair rental value of the apartment.

Form 1099-B from barter exchange. If you exchanged property or services through a barter exchange, Form 1099-B, Proceeds From Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions, or a similar statement from the barter exchange should be sent to you by February 17, 2015. It should show the value of cash, property, services, credits, or scrip you received from exchanges during 2014. The IRS also will receive a copy of Form 1099-B.

Canceled Debts

In most cases, if a debt you owe is canceled or forgiven, other than as a gift or bequest, you must include the canceled amount in your income. You have no income from the canceled debt if it is intended as a gift to you. A debt includes any indebtedness for which you are liable or which attaches to property you hold.

If the debt is a nonbusiness debt, report the canceled amount on Form 1040, line 21. If it is a business debt, report the amount on Schedule C (Form 1040) or Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040) (or on Schedule F (Form 1040), Profit or Loss From Farming, if the debt is farm debt and you are a farmer).

Form 1099-C. If a Federal Government agency, financial institution, or credit union cancels or forgives a debt you owe of $600 or more, you will receive a Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt. The amount of the canceled debt is shown in box 2.

Interest included in canceled debt. If any interest is forgiven and included in the amount of canceled debt in box 2, the amount of interest also will be shown in box 3. Whether or not you must include the interest portion of the canceled debt in your income depends on whether the interest would be deductible when you paid it. See Deductible debt under Exceptions, later.

If the interest would not be deductible (such as interest on a personal loan), include in your income the amount from Form 1099-C, box 2. If the interest would be deductible (such as on a business loan), include in your income the net amount of the canceled debt (the amount shown in box 2 less the interest amount shown in box 3).

Discounted mortgage loan. If your financial institution offers a discount for the early payment of your mortgage loan, the amount of the discount is canceled debt. You must include the canceled amount in your income.

Mortgage relief upon sale or other disposition. If you are personally liable for a mortgage (recourse debt), and you are relieved of the mortgage when you dispose of the property, you may realize gain or loss up to the fair market value of the property. To the extent the mortgage discharge exceeds the fair market value of the property, it is income from discharge of indebtedness unless it qualifies for exclusion under Excluded debt, later. Report any income from discharge of indebtedness on nonbusiness debt that does not qualify for exclusion as other income on Form 1040, line 21.

If you are not personally liable for a mortgage (nonrecourse debt), and you are relieved of the mortgage when you dispose of the property (such as through foreclosure), that relief is included in the amount you realize. You may have a taxable gain if the amount you realize exceeds your adjusted basis in the property. Report any gain on nonbusiness property as a capital gain.

See Publication 4681 for more information.

Stockholder debt. If you are a stockholder in a corporation and the corporation cancels or forgives your debt to it, the canceled debt is a constructive distribution that is generally dividend income to you. For more information, see Publication 542, Corporations.

If you are a stockholder in a corporation and you cancel a debt owed to you by the corporation, you generally do not realize income. This is because the canceled debt is considered as a contribution to the capital of the corporation equal to the amount of debt principal that you canceled.

Repayment of canceled debt. If you included a canceled amount in your income and later pay the debt, you may be able to file a claim for refund for the year the amount was included in income. You can file a claim on Form 1040X if the statute of limitations for filing a claim is still open. The statute of limitations generally does not end until 3 years after the due date of your original return.


There are several exceptions to the inclusion of canceled debt in income. These are explained next.

Student loans. Certain student loans contain a provision that all or part of the debt incurred to attend the qualified educational institution will be canceled if you work for a certain period of time in certain professions for any of a broad class of employers.

You do not have income if your student loan is canceled after you agreed to this provision and then performed the services required. To qualify, the loan must have been made by:

  1. The Federal Government, a state or local government, or an instrumentality, agency, or subdivision thereof,
  2. A tax-exempt public benefit corporation that has assumed control of a state, county, or municipal hospital, and whose employees are considered public employees under state law, or
  3. An educational institution:

    1. Under an agreement with an entity described in (1) or (2) that provided the funds to the institution to make the loan, or
    2. As part of a program of the institution designed to encourage its students to serve in occupations with unmet needs or in areas with unmet needs and under which the services provided by the students (or former students) are for or under the direction of a governmental unit or a tax-exempt organization described in Section 501(c)(3).

A loan to refinance a qualified student loan also will qualify if it was made by an educational institution or a qualified tax-exempt organization under its program designed as described in (3) (b) above.

Education loan repayment assistance. Education loan repayments made to you by the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program (NHSC Loan Repayment Program), a state education loan repayment program eligible for funds under the Public Health Service Act, or any other state loan repayment or loan forgiveness program that is intended to provide for the increased availability of health services in underserved or health professional shortage areas are not taxable.

Deductible debt. You do not have income from the cancellation of a debt if your payment of the debt would be deductible. This exception applies only if you use the cash method of accounting. For more information, see chapter 5 of Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Business.

Price reduced after purchase. In most cases, if the seller reduces the amount of debt you owe for property you purchased, you do not have income from the reduction. The reduction of the debt is treated as a purchase price adjustment and reduces your basis in the property.

Excluded debt. Do not include a canceled debt in your gross income in the following situations.

Host or Hostess

If you host a party or event at which sales are made, any gift or gratuity you receive for giving the event is a payment for helping a direct seller make sales. You must report this item as income at its fair market value.

Your out-of-pocket party expenses are subject to the 50% limit for meal and entertainment expenses. These expenses are deductible as miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2%-of-AGI limit on Schedule A (Form 1040), but only up to the amount of income you receive for giving the party.

For more information about the 50% limit for meal and entertainment expenses, see chapter 27.

Life Insurance Proceeds

Life insurance proceeds paid to you because of the death of the insured person are not taxable unless the policy was turned over to you for a price. This is true even if the proceeds were paid under an accident or health insurance policy or an endowment contract. However, interest income received as a result of life insurance proceeds may be taxable.

Proceeds not received in installments. If death benefits are paid to you in a lump sum or other than at regular intervals, include in your income only the benefits that are more than the amount payable to you at the time of the insured person’s death. If the benefit payable at death is not specified, you include in your income the benefit payments that are more than the present value of the payments at the time of death.

Proceeds received in installments. If you receive life insurance proceeds in installments, you can exclude part of each installment from your income.

To determine the excluded part, divide the amount held by the insurance company (generally the total lump sum payable at the death of the insured person) by the number of installments to be paid. Include anything over this excluded part in your income as interest.

Surviving spouse. If your spouse died before October 23, 1986, and insurance proceeds paid to you because of the death of your spouse are received in installments, you can exclude up to $1,000 a year of the interest included in the installments. If you remarry, you can continue to take the exclusion.

Surrender of policy for cash. If you surrender a life insurance policy for cash, you must include in income any proceeds that are more than the cost of the life insurance policy. In most cases, your cost (or investment in the contract) is the total of premiums that you paid for the life insurance policy, less any refunded premiums, rebates, dividends, or unrepaid loans that were not included in your income.

You should receive a Form 1099-R showing the total proceeds and the taxable part. Report these amounts on lines 16a and 16b of Form 1040 or lines 12a and 12b of Form 1040A.

More information. For more information, see Life Insurance Proceeds in Publication 525.

Endowment Contract Proceeds

An endowment contract is a policy under which you are paid a specified amount of money on a certain date unless you die before that date, in which case, the money is paid to your designated beneficiary. Endowment proceeds paid in a lump sum to you at maturity are taxable only if the proceeds are more than the cost of the policy. To determine your cost, subtract any amount that you previously received under the contract and excluded from your income from the total premiums (or other consideration) paid for the contract. Include the part of the lump sum payment that is more than your cost in your income.

Accelerated Death Benefits

Certain amounts paid as accelerated death benefits under a life insurance contract or viatical settlement before the insured’s death are excluded from income if the insured is terminally or chronically ill.

Viatical settlement. This is the sale or assignment of any part of the death benefit under a life insurance contract to a viatical settlement provider. A viatical settlement provider is a person who regularly engages in the business of buying or taking assignment of life insurance contracts on the lives of insured individuals who are terminally or chronically ill and who meets the requirements of Section 101(g)(2)(B) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Exclusion for terminal illness. Accelerated death benefits are fully excludable if the insured is a terminally ill individual. This is a person who has been certified by a physician as having an illness or physical condition that can reasonably be expected to result in death within 24 months from the date of the certification.

Exclusion for chronic illness. If the insured is a chronically ill individual who is not terminally ill, accelerated death benefits paid on the basis of costs incurred for qualified long-term care services are fully excludable. Accelerated death benefits paid on a per diem or other periodic basis are excludable up to a limit. This limit applies to the total of the accelerated death benefits and any periodic payments received from long-term care insurance contracts. For information on the limit and the definitions of chronically ill individual, qualified long-term care services, and long-term care insurance contracts, see Long-Term Care Insurance Contracts under Sickness and Injury Benefits in Publication 525.

Exception. The exclusion does not apply to any amount paid to a person (other than the insured) who has an insurable interest in the life of the insured because the insured:

  • Is a director, officer, or employee of the person, or
  • Has a financial interest in the person’s business.

Form 8853. To claim an exclusion for accelerated death benefits made on a per diem or other periodic basis, you must file Form 8853, Archer MSAs and Long-Term Care Insurance Contracts, with your return. You do not have to file Form 8853 to exclude accelerated death benefits paid on the basis of actual expenses incurred.

Public Safety Officer Killed in the Line of Duty

If you are a survivor of a public safety officer who was killed in the line of duty, you may be able to exclude from income certain amounts you receive.

For this purpose, the term public safety officer includes law enforcement officers, firefighters, chaplains, and rescue squad and ambulance crew members. For more information, see Publication 559, Survivors, Executors, and Administrators.

Partnership Income

A partnership generally is not a taxable entity. The income, gains, losses, deductions, and credits of a partnership are passed through to the partners based on each partner’s distributive share of these items.

Schedule K-1 (Form 1065). Although a partnership generally pays no tax, it must file an information return on Form 1065, U.S. Return of Partnership Income, and send Schedule K-1 (Form 1065) to each partner. In addition, the partnership will send each partner a copy of the Partner’s Instructions for Schedule K-1 (Form 1065) to help each partner report his or her share of the partnership’s income, deductions, credits, and tax preference items.

For more information on partnerships, see Publication 541, Partnerships.

Qualified joint venture. If you and your spouse each materially participate as the only members of a jointly owned and operated business, and you file a joint return for the tax year, you can make a joint election to be treated as a qualified joint venture instead of a partnership. To make this election, you must divide all items of income, gain, loss, deduction, and credit attributable to the business between you and your spouse in accordance with your respective interests in the venture. For further information on how to make the election and which schedule(s) to file, see the instructions for your individual tax return.

S Corporation Income

In most cases, an S corporation does not pay tax on its income. Instead, the income, losses, deductions, and credits of the corporation are passed through to the shareholders based on each shareholder’s pro rata share.

Schedule K-1 (Form 1120S). An S corporation must file a return on Form 1120S, U.S. Income Tax Return for an S Corporation, and send Schedule K-1 (Form 1120S) to each shareholder. In addition, the S corporation will send each shareholder a copy of the Shareholder’s Instructions for Schedule K-1 (Form 1120S) to help each shareholder report his or her share of the S corporation’s income, losses, credits, and deductions.

For more information on S corporations and their shareholders, see the Instructions for Form 1120S.


A recovery is a return of an amount you deducted or took a credit for in an earlier year. The most common recoveries are refunds, reimbursements, and rebates of deductions itemized on Schedule A (Form 1040). You also may have recoveries of non-itemized deductions (such as payments on previously deducted bad debts) and recoveries of items for which you previously claimed a tax credit.

Tax benefit rule. You must include a recovery in your income in the year you receive it up to the amount by which the deduction or credit you took for the recovered amount reduced your tax in the earlier year. For this purpose, any increase to an amount carried over to the current year that resulted from the deduction or credit is considered to have reduced your tax in the earlier year. For more information, see Publication 525.

Federal income tax refund. Refunds of federal income taxes are not included in your income because they are never allowed as a deduction from income.

State tax refund. If you received a state or local income tax refund (or credit or offset) in 2014, you generally must include it in income if you deducted the tax in an earlier year. The payer should send Form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments, to you by January 31, 2015. The IRS also will receive a copy of the Form 1099-G. If you file Form 1040, use the State and Local Income Tax Refund Worksheet in the 2014 Form 1040 instructions for line 10 to figure the amount (if any) to include in your income. See Publication 525 for when you must use another worksheet.

If you could choose to deduct for a tax year either:

  • State and local income taxes, or
  • State and local general sales taxes, then

the maximum refund that you may have to include in income is limited to the excess of the tax you chose to deduct for that year over the tax you did not choose to deduct for that year. For examples, see Publication 525.

Mortgage interest refund. If you received a refund or credit in 2014 of mortgage interest paid in an earlier year, the amount should be shown in box 3 of your Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement. Do not subtract the refund amount from the interest you paid in 2014. You may have to include it in your income under the rules explained in the following discussions.

Interest on recovery. Interest on any of the amounts you recover must be reported as interest income in the year received. For example, report any interest you received on state or local income tax refunds on Form 1040, line 8a.

Recovery and expense in same year. If the refund or other recovery and the expense occur in the same year, the recovery reduces the deduction or credit and is not reported as income.

Recovery for 2 or more years. If you receive a refund or other recovery that is for amounts you paid in 2 or more separate years, you must allocate, on a pro rata basis, the recovered amount between the years in which you paid it. This allocation is necessary to determine the amount of recovery from any earlier years and to determine the amount, if any, of your allowable deduction for this item for the current year. For information on how to compute the allocation, see Recoveries in Publication 525.

Itemized Deduction Recoveries

If you recover any amount that you deducted in an earlier year on Schedule A (Form 1040), you generally must include the full amount of the recovery in your income in the year you receive it.

Where to report. Enter your state or local income tax refund on Form 1040, line 10, and the total of all other recoveries as other income on Form 1040, line 21. You cannot use Form 1040A or Form 1040EZ.

Standard deduction limit. You generally are allowed to claim the standard deduction if you do not itemize your deductions. Only your itemized deductions that are more than your standard deduction are subject to the recovery rule (unless you are required to itemize your deductions). If your total deductions on the earlier year return were not more than your income for that year, include in your income this year the lesser of:

  • Your recoveries, or
  • The amount by which your itemized deductions exceeded the standard deduction.

Example. For 2013, you filed a joint return. Your taxable income was $60,000 and you were not entitled to any tax credits. Your standard deduction was $12,200, and you had itemized deductions of $14,300. In 2014, you received the following recoveries for amounts deducted on your 2013 return:

Medical expenses
State and local income tax refund
Refund of mortgage interest

Total recoveries

None of the recoveries were more than the deductions taken for 2013. The difference between the state and local income tax you deducted and your local general sales tax was more than $400.

Your total recoveries are less than the amount by which your itemized deductions exceeded the standard deduction ($14,300 − 12,200 = $2,100), so you must include your total recoveries in your income for 2014. Report the state and local income tax refund of $400 on Form 1040, line 10, and the balance of your recoveries, $525, on Form 1040, line 21.

Standard deduction for earlier years. To determine if amounts recovered in 2014 must be included in your income, you must know the standard deduction for your filing status for the year the deduction was claimed. Look in the instructions for your tax return from prior years to locate the standard deduction for the filing status for that prior year.