Menu burger Close thin Facebook Twitter Google plus Linked in Reddit Email
Loading
Tap on the profile icon to edit
your financial details.

Dividend Tax Rate

Earning dividends is a great incentive for investing in certain companies and mutual funds. Dividends are particularly useful for people who want to supplement their retirement income. However, like all income, you’ll need to pay taxes on any dividends you receive. Which dividend tax rates you pay depend on how long you’ve held your investments, the size of your dividends and how much other income you have. It can also be helpful to consult with a financial advisor to learn more about dividends and their taxes.

What Are Dividends?

When a company or mutual fund earns profits, it will sometimes share those profits with its shareholders. The payments it makes to shareholders, typically each quarter, are dividends. Most companies pay dividends as cash, but it’s possible to get them as stock, stock rights or property.

There are two types of dividends: qualified and non-qualified. A dividend is typically qualified if you have held the underlying stock for a certain period of time. According to the IRS, a dividend is “qualified” if you have held the stock for more than 60 days during the 121-day period that begins 60 days prior to the ex-dividend date. Companies use ex-dividend dates to determine if a shareholder has held stocks long enough to be entitled to receive the next dividend payment.

Non-qualified dividends, which are sometimes called ordinary dividends, include a wide range of other dividends you may receive, including dividends on employee stock options and real estate investment trusts (REITs). The major difference between the two types of dividends is the tax rate you pay.

Dividends are particularly popular with retirees. Because you don’t have to pay taxes on income that’s in a retirement account, dividends you earn here are untaxed. That means you can reinvest those dividends to further grow your savings without the government taxing them first. Dividends can also provide a steady source of income in retirement.

However, don’t forget that dividends are not a guarantee. A company or mutual fund could stop paying dividends, and even an established company has the potential to go under.

How Are Dividends Taxed?

Yes – the IRS considers dividends to be income, so you usually need to pay taxes on them. Even if you reinvest all of your dividends directly back into the same company or fund that paid you the dividends, you will pay taxes as they technically still passed through your hands. The exact dividend tax rate depends on what kind of dividends you have: non-qualified or qualified.

The federal government taxes non-qualified dividends according to regular income tax rates and brackets. Qualified dividends are subject to the lower capital gains tax rates. Naturally, there are some exceptions though.

If you are unsure what tax implications dividends will have for you, the best thing to do is talk to a financial advisor. A financial advisor will be able to look at how an investing decision will impact you while also considering your overall financial picture. Try using our free financial advisor matching tool to find options in your area.

Dividend Tax Rates for the 2021 Tax Year

Dividend Tax Rate

Just like other investment income, dividends can be subject to better tax rates than other forms of income if they’re qualified in the eyes of the IRS. The income brackets for them are generally adjusted each year, and 2021 is no different. For the 2021 tax year (which you’ll file in early 2022), the qualified dividend tax rates are as follows:

2021 Qualified Dividend Tax Rates
Rate Single Married Filing Jointly Married Filing Separately Head of Household
0% $0 – $40,400 $0 – $80,800 $0 – $40,400 $0 – $54,100
15% $40,401 – $445,850 $80,801 – $501,600 $40,401 – $250,800 $54,101 – $473,750
20% $445,851+ $501,601+ $250,801+ $473,751+

To use the table above, all you need to know is your filing status and total income for the year. So let’s say you’re single and have $150,000 of annual income, with $10,000 of that being dividends. Your dividends would then be taxed at 15%, while the rest of your income would follow the federal income tax rates.

The tax rates for non-qualified dividends are the same as federal ordinary income tax rates. For 2021, these rates remain unchanged from 2020. However, the income thresholds for each bracket have been adjusted to account for inflation. Below are the 2021 rates non-qualified dividend investors will pay along with their normal income:

2021 Non-Qualified Dividend Tax Rates
Rate Single Married Filing Jointly Married Filing Separately Head of Household
10% $0 – $9,950 $0 – $19,900 $0 – $9,950 $0 – $14,200
12% $9,951 – $40,525 $19,901 – $81,050 $9,951 – $40,525 $14,201 – $54,200
22% $40,526 – $86,375 $81,051 – $172,750 $40,526 – $86,375 $54,201 – $86,350
24% $86,376 – $164,925 $172,751 – $329,850 $86,376 – $164,925 $86,351 – $164,900
32% $164,926 – $209,425 $329,851 – $418,850 $164,926 – $209,425 $164,901 – $209,400
35% $209,426 – $523,600 $418,851 – $628,300 $209,426 – $314,150 $209,401 – $523,600
37% $523,601+ $628,301+ $314,151+ $523,601+

Dividend Tax Rates for the 2020 Tax Year

The same principles above apply to dividends earned in the 2020 tax year. Dividends that meet the qualified requirements are subject to much more beneficial tax rates than their non-qualified counterparts. Rates again vary from 0% up to 20%, though most taxpayers will likely fall in the middle 15% bracket. Here are the qualified dividend tax rates for 2020:

2020 Qualified Dividend Tax Rates
Rate Single Married Filing Jointly Married Filing Separately Head of Household
0% $0 – $40,000 $0 – $80,000 $0 – $40,000 $0 – $53,600
15% $40,001 – $441,550 $80,001 – $496,600 $40,001 – $248,300 $54,601 – $469,050
20% $441,551+ $496,601+ $248,301+ $469,051+

Non-qualified dividends, on the other hand, are taxed at the federal income tax rates. The brackets are slightly lower than 2021, but the same rates apply. Here are the income tax rates for 2020, which double as the rates for non-qualified dividends:

2020 Non-Qualified Dividend Tax Rates
Rate Single Married Filing Jointly Married Filing Separately Head of Household
10% $0 – $9,875 $0 – $19,750 $0 – $9,875 $0 – $14,100
12% $9,876 – $40,125 $19,751 – $80,250 $9,876 – $40,125 $14,101 – $53,700
22% $40,126 – $85,525 $80,251 – $171,050 $40,126 – $85,525 $53,701 – $85,500
24% $85,526 – $163,300 $171,051 – $326,600 $85,526 – $163,300 $85,501 – $163,300
32% $163,301 – $207,350 $326,601 – $414,700 $163,301 – $207,350 $163,301 – $207,350
35% $207,351 – $518,400 $414,701 – $622,050 $207,351 – $311,025 $207,351 – $518,400
37% $518,401+ $622,051+ $311,026+ $518,401+

How to Report Dividends on Your Tax Return

If you have dividend income, you enter it directly on your Form 1040. The form asks for dividend income on lines 3a (qualified) and 3b (non-qualified). The amounts that you put on your 1040 will come right from your 1099-DIV. If you receive dividends throughout the year, the brokerages and other financial institutions through which you received them will send you 1099-DIV forms.

You may not receive a 1099-DIV if you had less than $10 in dividends. Even if that’s the case, you should still report that income on your tax form. If you have more than $1,500 in non-qualified dividends, you will need to report those on Schedule B. Then you will attach Schedule B to your 1040.

Some people will also receive a Schedule K-1. This form is for people who receive dividends (or other income) from a trust, estate, partnership, LLC or S corporation. It’s also possible you get a Schedule K-1 if you invest in a fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) (ETF) that operates as a partnership. However, even if you get a Schedule K-1, you will get a 1099-DIV reporting the dividends you received.

The IRS requires all financial institutions to send these forms to recipients by Jan. 31. It is possible that your forms won’t be available electronically until a day or two later. It may also take a few weeks to receive your form if you get it through the mail.

Avoid Dividend Taxes With a Retirement Account

Dividend Tax Rate

The best way to avoid taxes on dividends is to put dividend-earning stocks in a pre-tax retirement account. The benefit of retirement accounts is that your money grows tax-free until retirement. You still need to pay taxes either before or after you contribute the money, but you will not have to pay tax as your savings grow within the account.

What kind of retirement account you should use depends on your personal needs. Two common options are a 401(k) or Roth individual retirement account (IRA). A 401(k) is sponsored by your employer and takes pre-tax money, and you pay income tax when you withdraw funds. A Roth IRA instead takes post-tax money, so you don’t get to deduct the money you put in, but once it’s there, it will grow tax-free. You can even withdraw it tax-free in retirement.

Bottom Line

Dividends are a great way to earn extra income. They are especially useful in retirement because they provide a source of regular and (somewhat) predictable income. However, you will need to pay taxes on any dividends you make. The exact dividend tax rate you pay will depend on what kind of dividends you have. Non-qualified dividends are taxed at the regular federal income tax rate. Qualified dividends get the benefit of lower dividend tax rates because the IRS taxes them as capital gains.

Tips for Building Retirement Savings

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/SARINYAPINNGAM, ©iStock.com/mapodile, ©iStock.com/Pinkypills

Derek Silva, CEPF® Derek Silva is determined to make personal finance accessible to everyone. He writes on a variety of personal finance topics for SmartAsset, serving as a retirement and credit card expert. Derek is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®). He has a degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and has spent time as an English language teacher in the Portuguese autonomous region of the Azores. The message Derek hopes people take away from his writing is, “Don’t forget that money is just a tool to help you reach your goals and live the lifestyle you want.”
Was this content helpful?
Thanks for your input!

About Our Taxes Expert

Have a question? Ask our Taxes expert.