Comparing Ordinary and Qualified Dividends in Investment Income
Dec 12, 2023 By Susan Kelly

Many buy stocks in businesses that distribute dividends, essentially sharing a slice of their earnings with stockholders. This approach, known as dividend investing, is often used to generate a consistent income stream.

There are two main kinds of dividends: ordinary and qualified. Each type is taxed differently. Here's a breakdown of how these dividends differ and ways you might consider investing in them.

Ordinary Dividends

Ordinary dividends are significant investment income. Dividends are taxed like regular income, with high-earners paying a percentile of almost 37%. Ordinary dividends over $1,500 must be reported on Schedule B of Form 1040 by the IRS.

These dividends provide short- and long-term financial benefits and a steady income without stock liquidation. The dividend tax on these profits can be high. Many invest dividend-paying stocks in tax-deferred retirement accounts like 401(k)s or conventional IRAs. This strategy lets you defer taxes on these funds until withdrawal.

Professional accountant and financial planner Sean Mullaney says investors can defer dividend taxes until they withdraw from a traditional retirement account. If you want to lower your dividend tax bill immediately, try this.

Roth IRAs and 401(k)s offer an alternative. By paying taxes upfront, these accounts allow for tax-free withdrawals after retirement. This can be a beneficial strategy for those willing to manage their dividend tax rate now to secure tax-free income in their retirement years.

2023 Ordinary Dividend Tax Rates

The tax rates on ordinary dividend income 2023 also differ according to the filer's status. Single taxpayers are taxed at 10% for incomes up to $11,000. The rate increases incrementally with income, reaching 37% for incomes over $578,125.

For married couples filing jointly, the initial 10% rate applies to incomes up to $22,000. The highest rate of 37% is for incomes over $693,750.

Heads of households see a 10% rate for incomes up to $15,700, increasing progressively to 37% for incomes over $578,100. Taxpayers need to understand these brackets when managing their dividend income. This knowledge helps in effective tax planning and understanding the impact of dividend tax rates on their finances.

Benefits of Dividend Investments

Dividend-paying stocks have many benefits.

  • Dividends let shareholders share in the company's success. This is an excellent source of income for retirees and those looking to supplement their income.
  • Another key advantage is the tax treatment of these dividends within traditional retirement accounts. Holding your shares in such accounts allows you to postpone paying taxes on your dividend income.
  • Furthermore, dividends offer a way to generate income without selling your shares. By receiving dividend payments, you can maintain your investment position while still accessing cash, which can be an effective long-term wealth-building strategy.

Drawbacks of Dividend Investments

There are drawbacks to investing in dividend stocks.

  • Taxes have one major disadvantage. Individuals in specific income brackets pay 10% to 37% ordinary income tax on dividends. Dividends and this tax rate may lower net income.
  • High-earning investors may pay more taxes. If your income exceeds a threshold, dividends may be subject to a 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax. This additional tax may make dividend income less appealing for higher-tax payers.
  • If dividend investments are part of your financial strategy, you must understand these tax implications. Dividends are a steady source of income, but you should consider their tax rates when investing to ensure they match your financial goals and tax status.

Qualified Dividends

Qualified dividends meet specific criteria. They are taxed differently than ordinary dividends. The tax rate on dividends that meet particular criteria is 0%, 15%, or 20%. Income and tax filing status determine these rates, similar to net capital gains. Dividends over $10 are reported on Form 1099-DIV. Box 1b of this form shows your qualified dividend.

Certain conditions lower qualified dividend tax rates. Dividends must come from a suitable foreign or U.S. company. Holding periods are also required. Investors must retain their shares for 60 days out of 121 to receive dividends, starting 60 days before the ex-dividend date.

The holding period is crucial for the best dividend tax rate on income. To lower dividend taxes, know these rules. Check Form 1099-DIV to ensure qualified dividend taxes are paid. Ask a tax expert if you have questions.

2023 Tax Rates on Qualified Dividends

In 2023, the tax rates for qualified dividends vary based on filing status. For single taxpayers, no tax is charged on qualified dividends if their income is up to $44,625. A 15% rate applies to amounts between $44,625 and $492,300. Incomes exceeding $492,300 attract a 20% tax rate.

Married couples filing jointly enjoy a 0% rate on qualified dividends for incomes up to $89,250. A 15% rate is applicable for incomes between $89,250 and $553,850. Beyond $553,850, the rate increases to 20%.

For heads of households, the 0% rate applies up to $59,750. Incomes between $59,750 and $523,050 are taxed at 15%, while a 20% rate is charged for incomes above $523,050. These rates are critical for anyone managing dividend income, as they directly affect the tax burden.

Benefits of Qualified Dividends

  • Qualified dividends are taxed less than ordinary income. Rates include 0%, 10%, 15%, even 20%. This favorable dividend tax rate can save investors a lot compared with traditional income taxes.
  • Qualified dividends are also beneficial to mutual fund and ETF investments. This means that investors holding stocks within these funds can also benefit from the reduced dividend tax rate, enhancing the overall appeal of such investment vehicles.
  • Receiving dividends provides investors with a steady stream of cash flow. This is particularly beneficial as it generates income without selling stock holdings.

Drawbacks of Qualified Dividends

  • One of the main drawbacks is the need to meet specific holding period criteria. Investors must hold the stock for at least 60 days within 121 days surrounding the ex-dividend date to qualify for the reduced dividend tax rate.
  • The tax benefit is nullified for dividends earned in traditional IRAs or 401(k)s. In these accounts, dividends are taxed as ordinary income upon withdrawal. This aspect can significantly diminish the attractiveness of qualified dividends for retirement savings held in these accounts.
  • High-income investors face an additional tax burden. Those falling into the higher income brackets may have to pay an extra 3.8% in Net Investment Income Tax on their dividend income.