Dividends Tax USA – Simple Explanation, Definition, How-to Save Money

Dividends – We give a simple and easy-to-understand explanation and definition of dividends and dividends taxes. So you’ve invested well, your stocks are not only appreciating, but also paying dividends and your life as a finance shareholder is profiting. Welcome to the world of smart investing. Now you have to pay dividends tax though. What dividends are, what dividends tax is, how dividends are taxed, and the tricks behind saving money on dividends and taxes. These are investment basics, covering everything from qualified vs unqualified dividends, when dividends are taxed as capital gains or income, and tax deductions for investors.

Dividends Tax – Detailed Guide and Simple Explanation

This is the basic basic guide you could hope to find. We take you through dividends tax from the very beginning to the very end, covering everything you could hope to learn about this form of tax, from income tax or capital gains, tax deductions, and more. Although usually reserved for tax collectors and your accountant, it’s good to know exactly what this is, how much it is, and how to to reduce it. Even if you’re not having to pay dividends tax at the moment, it’s good to get read up on it in the meantime.

Dividends Explained – Investment Basics

So, dividends. That’s what’s being taxed, and to understand how this tax works, we first take a look at how dividends work. More specifically, what are dividends?

Dividend Definition: What is a Dividend

A dividend is by definition  number that’s divided by another number. In the context of finances, a dividend is the pay-out of the company’s earnings to its shareholders. There are two basic ways for shareholders of a company to make money, either by selling their shares, or because the company grows and pays out dividends to its shareholders.

  • A dividend is what a company pays out to its shareholders when it makes profit
  • Like a reward for investing

What is a Dividend Example? How Dividends Work

Consider you decide to invest in a company, for example you invest 500 shares. This company does quite well and over the next quarter they earn heavily. They then decide to pay out dividends. Because they did so well, they decide to pay out $0,50 per share. You own 500 shares, and that means

500 x $0,50 = $250

You receive $250. You do not have to sell your shares, and nothing changes about your shareholding in the company, it is merely a thank you, or a form of reward for holding shares and the company making earnings.

What are the Types of Dividends?

There are 5 basic types of dividends. They are: cash dividends, stock dividends, property dividends, scrip dividendss, and liquidating dividends. In the example above, we are dealing with a cash dividend. These are the most popular and frequent types of dividends. Next, stock dividends. These are where a company rewards a shareholder not with cash, but rather with more stocks. That means that the shareholder did realize an increase in capital, but not in the form of money, but rather in the form of owning more of the company. A property dividend is when you receive an object or any form of property as a dividend (e.g. a new sports car). A scrip dividend can be imagined as an I O U, and is typically done when companies do not have enough liquid assets. A liquidating dividend is when the company is dissolved and shareholders receive their investment.

  • Cash Dividend
  • Stock Dividend
  • Property Dividend
  • Scrip Dividend
  • Liquidating Dividend

What is a Qualified Dividend? Difference Ordinary, Qualified Dividends

Especially when considering dividends taxes it is important to consider whether a dividend is qualified or unqualified (called ordinary). An ordinary dividend is taxed much higher than a qualified dividend, because ordinary dividends are taxed as income, while qualified dividends are taxed at the capital gains tax rate. So what’s the structural difference between these two types of dividends? The company behind them is either qualified or not.

  • Qualified dividends are taxed at a lower rate!

When can Dividends be Qualified? Types of Companies

Whether a company’s dividends can become qualified depends on the origin of the company (i.e. American or not), the type of stock (e.g. REITs are not qualified), and the holding period. That means that the dividends can only be taxed at the lower capital gains tax rate when these requirements are fulfilled.

  • Companies must fulfill requirements to become qualified

What is a Dividend Tax? Rates, Qualification, More

Now we know that a dividend is really just a form of payment from a company in which you have invested. You receive payment because the company grows and you are a shareholder within the company. Now it also makes sense that this is being taxed. Since you are making money, it is in a sense a form of income. But it’s slightly more complicated than that

Dividends Tax Definition: What is Dividends Tax?

Dividends tax is the tax on income made in the form of dividends. This is quite self-explanatory. Dividends are always taxed and there is no way around it. Even if you immediately invest all your dividends back into the same company, you will have to pay taxes on the dividends paid out to you. Dividends taxes themselves don’t actually exist, as they are either income taxes or capital gains taxes. It just depends on whether you have qualified dividends (taxed as capital gains) or ordinary dividends (taxed as income).

  • Can be taxed as income or as capital gains
  • Depends on qualification of dividends

To our article on Capital Gains Taxes: Capital Gains Taxes USA

To our article on Income Taxes: Income Taxes USA

Dividends Tax Example Calculation – How Dividends Tax Works, Formula

As mentioned before, dividends taxes are either income tax or capital gains tax. Either way we will give an example here. Take an income of $8.000 in a year for a unqualified dividend. This falls under the first tax bracket (when filing as a single) in the income tax brackets. That means you will pay 4% tax on this.

$8.000 – ($8.000 x 0.04) = $7.680

That means in the end you receive $7.680, and $320 you give away as part of your dividends tax.

What is Dividends Tax Rate? Tax Brackets, Rates

Depending on the type of dividend you have, you will pay different dividend tax rates. In short, the government taxes dividends either as capital gains or as income. There are two types of dividends, qualified (taxed as capital gains) and unqualified (taxed as income, see below for more). Therefore the tax rate of dividends tax is either the tax rate for your income tax or capital gains tax.

  • Dividends tax rate is the same as either capital gains or income tax rates!
  • Depends on whether a dividend is qualified

For tax brackets for unqualified dividends check out our article on

Income Tax USA

How to Save Money on Dividends Tax – Deductions, Itemizing

If you are receiving dividends, you probably want to pay as little as possible in taxes. Giving away money that you have invested and worked for seems harsh. Better to structure your taxes better and save money. Maybe not save money from your dividends taxes, but just give less away.

Best Trick: Save Dividends Tax with Income

You pay no federal taxes on qualified dividends when your total income is below $39.375! That means if your income is higher, suddenly you have to pay more taxes, and will end up with less money in your pocket in the end. In this case you could actually save money by just working less so as to avoid reaching the point where you have to pay the dividends or capital gains taxes. Remember: This only applies to the federal capital gains taxes.

  • No capital gains tax when income is below $39.375

Tax Deductions of Wealthy Families: Gifts!

Using what is called the annual gift tax exclusion, it is possible for wealthy families to keep money within the family instead of going to the state. The parents give their (adult) children very highly appreciated shares of stocks which pay dividends. This way, the unrealized gain is passed on, without triggering the deferred taxes! This works because the children will most likely not be as high earners, and therefore the dividends will be tax free under the capital gains tax.

  • Pass on appreciated dividends-paying stocks to children whose income is not too high

Use Capital Gains Tax Tricks!

Capital gains taxes are possibly the most lucrative for tax deductions and reducing your tax bill at the end of the year. There are many ways in which you can use dividends taxes on qualified dividends to reduce your tax bill, because they are capital gains taxes!

Transform into Real Estate!

Everyone knows real estate is a lucrative business, even more so thanks to the countless tax incentives. So maybe instead using dividends for income, it is better to transform them into real estate property using a real estate LLC. Read more about real estate tax tricks:

Tax Special! Income Tax

To learn about dividends tax means to learn about income tax as we’ve learned. That’s not a problem though because we have a simple guide for learning about income tax for the very beginners. It is a simple explanation of everything you need to know about paying income tax, how to tax income and everything in between. Income tax is something that will follow you forever, so it’s  best to get to know it now and forever hold peace with it.

Income Tax USA

Tax Special! Capital Gains Tax

Capital gains tax is one of the two sisters of dividends taxes. It is a vital tax to know if you want to invest, and plan on increasing value of capital. Capital gains taxes are among the most important for the welathy, and for good reason. Knowing how to use these to your advantage is critical for multiplying your wealth.

Capital gains tax is a tax on the profit you make with investment in capital assets. If you buy stocks and sell them for more money than you bought them, you have made profit (i.e. capital gains), and this extra money that you are receiving is taxed. If you sell capital for more than you bought it, you will necessarily, by law, pay capital gains tax. Although, it is important to distinguish taxes on capital gains and capital gains taxes. The capital gains tax only applies to long-term capital assets (i.e. owned for longer than a year), while short-term capital assets are taxed as if they were normal income, at the income tax rate like the salary you receive from work. Capital gains tax rates are lower than income tax rates!

USA Capital Gains Taxes

Tax Special! Property Tax

As mentioned, taxes on property are nearly as complicated as on income or capital. Property taxes, where they are taxed, what they tax, and how to pay less property taxes, can all be found in our all-encompassing guide on property taxes.

Property tax is often confused as being a tax on real estate property. Yet this is a misconception. The largest proportion of property taxes come from real estate, because this is the most expensive property most people own. Yet property taxes can also be levied on airplanes, computers, furniture, etc. In the U.S., each person pays an average of $1.617 in property taxes a year. The state which pays the most property taxes is New Hampshire with $3.307.

USA Property Taxes