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Dividend Tax Considerations

What You Need to Know

by Harry Domash

For Federal income tax purposes, depending on the type of stock, the dividends you receive could be classified as "qualified" or "non-qualified." Which classification applies could affect the income tax rates that apply to your dividends. 

Qualified Dividends
Qualified dividends must be paid by a corporation that is subject to U.S. corporate income taxes, or by a foreign corporation based in a country that is eligible for benefits under a U.S. tax treaty.
Most dividend stocks, such as those issued by utilities, banks or other financial institutions, or firms that make products or sell services, fall into the qualified category. For those, the your dividend tax rate depends on your ordinary income tax rate, but tops out at the maximum capital gains rate, which is 15% or 20%, depending on your tax status.

Ordinary
Income Tax Rate
Qualified Dividend
Income Tax Rate
10% 0%
15% 0%
25% 15%
28% 15%
33% 15%
35% 15%

If your stocks are held in a taxable account, you report qualified dividends on Line 9b of IRS Form 1040. If your dividends totaled more than $1,500, the IRS requires you to detail the payouts on Schedule B.  Click here for IRS dividend filing instructions. If you're stocks are held in a tax-sheltered account, taxes will not be an issue for qualified dividends.

Non-Qualified Dividends
Dividends paid by tax-exempt corporations or trusts such as Business Development Corporations (BDCs), Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs), Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs), or Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) are considered non-qualified, and may be taxed at ordinary rates. You report non-
qualified dividends on Line 9a of IRS Form 1040.

Business Development Corporations
BDC dividends are mostly taxed at ordinary income tax rates, However, after the year-end, a BDC may designate a portion of the prior year's dividends as "return of capital," which may be treated as a capital gain. Return of capital payouts reduce your cost basis and are not taxable until you sell your shares, when they are taxed at the appropriate capital gains rate.

Real Estate Investment Trusts
REIT dividends are mostly taxed at ordinary income tax rates. However, after the year-end, a REIT may designate a portion of its prior year's payouts as "qualified dividends," which qualify for the maximum 15% rate.  On average, roughly 20% of annual payouts fall into this category. A REIT may also classify portions of its prior year payouts as return of capital.

Master Limited Partnerships & Limited Liability Corporations
For income tax purposes, MLPs and LLCs are treated the same. Both require filing IRS Schedule K1 forms, which are more complicated than Form 1040s. If they exceed certain limits, portions of dividends received from MLPs and LLCs could be considered "unrelated income," and be taxable. For details on MLP and LLC tax considerations, click here.

Foreign Corporation Dividend Withholding
Many countries withhold a percentage of dividends paid to residents of foreign countries for income taxes. However, you can apply for to the U.S. IRS for a refund (foreign tax credit) for at least a portion of the amount withheld. How much you'll get back depends on your individual tax status. Here's a list showing what major countries withhold from U.S. residents.

Country     Country  
Argentina 0%   Japan   10%
Australia  30%   Kuwait  15%
Austria  25%   Malaysia  25%
Belgium   25%   Mexico   10%
Bosnia  5%   Netherlands  15%
Brazil   15%   New Zealand  30%
Canada   15%   Norway  25%
China A, B, & C Shares 10%   Peru  4%
China - Red Chips 0%   Philippines  30%
Colombia 0%   Poland  19%
Denmark   28%   Portugal   20%
Egypt 0%   Qatar 0%
Estonia 0%   Russia  15%
Finland   28%   Saudi Arabia  5%
France  25%   Singapore  0%
Germany  26%   South Korea   28%
Greece   10%   Spain   19%
Hong Kong    0%   Sweden  30%
Hungary   10%   Switzerland  35%
India  0%   Taiwan  20%
Indonesia  20%   U.K. Corps.  0%
Ireland  20%   U.K. REITS  20%
Israel   20%   United Arab Em.  0%
Italy   27%   Vietnam 0%
 

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