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Certificates of deposit (CDs) provide a safe place to earn a fixed return on your money, but any interest earned totaling $10 or more is generally taxable and must be reported to the IRS.
Paying tax on CD interest puts a dent in your overall return. Ultimately, you may be able to save money by knowing in advance how CD interest is taxed and what the IRS counts as income.
How CD interest is taxed
The IRS treats interest you earn on a CD as income, whether you receive the money in cash or reinvest it in a new CD. The interest is taxable, the IRS says, in the year it is paid.
If you’ve earned more than $10 in interest in a year, the bank or credit union that issued the CD will typically send you a 1099-INT statement. Box 1 shows how much interest you earned that year from the CD.
Even if you don’t receive a 1099-INT form from the bank, you’re obligated to report earnings of $10 or more.
Keep in mind that the tax rate on CD interest depends on the dollar amount of your gain and what income tax bracket you fall under.
When do you pay taxes on CDs?
You’re obligated to report interest from a CD on your taxes for the year in which the interest was earned, no matter the term length of your CD.
CDs with terms longer than one year: Any CD with a term longer than one year will earn interest in more than one calendar year — and you’ll need to pay taxes every year on the interest accrued in that particular year.
The rule applies even though you’re not able to cash in most CDs until their maturity date.
If, for example, you opened a five-year CD with $10,000 on Jan. 1, 2023, that pays 4 percent APY, the $400 in interest you earn in 2023 will be taxable in that year. Interest earned in each of the remaining four years qualifies as income and is taxable in the year it’s earned.
CDs with terms of one year or less: If you purchase a short-term CD that matures the same year it was purchased and earn $10 or more, you’ll have to pay taxes on it for that year.
If the term of such a CD spans over two calendar years, you’ll pay taxes on the interest you earn on two consecutive tax returns.
When a CD matures, your options include:
- Withdrawing the money
- Transferring the money to a savings or checking account
- Rolling it into another CD
Regardless of what you do with the money, you have to pay tax on any CD interest the year it was earned.
Does cashing in a CD count as income?
You earn interest on the principal amount of your CD over time, yet only the amount that exceeds your initial investment usually counts as income.
Let’s say you purchase a one-year CD for $10,000 that pays a 5 percent APY. When your CD matures, you will have earned about $500. The issuing bank will give you a total of $10,500 (your principal investment plus interest earned) at maturity. Yet only the $500 in interest qualifies as income, and that’s the amount you’ll see in box 1 on the 1099-INT received from the bank at tax time.
How early withdrawal penalties affect taxes owed
In some cases, early withdrawal penalties may reduce your tax obligation.
Most traditional CDs charge penalties for taking out money before the maturity date. If you pay an early withdrawal penalty, you can deduct the full amount from your taxes, even if it’s an amount that’s greater than the interest earned. So, if you earned $50 in interest, but you paid an early withdrawal penalty of $100, the full $100 can be deducted on taxes.
Any early withdrawal penalties will be included in box 2 of your 1099-INT form from the issuing institution and clearly labeled “early withdrawal penalty.”
How to avoid taxes on CD interest
One way to postpone being taxed on CDs is to put them in a tax-deferred individual retirement account (IRA) or 401(k). As long as money placed in a traditional IRA is below the annual contribution limit, interest you earn may be tax deductible. The annual limit for 2023 is $6,500 for those under age 50 and $7,500 for those 50 or older.
When CDs are placed in these accounts, no 1099-INT is issued until distributions are taken from the retirement account.
Generally, CD interest earnings of $10 or more must be reported to the IRS. But CD taxes aren’t always clear-cut. If you’re unsure if you’ve received interest earnings, or if you have other questions about CD tax-related issues, consult a tax professional.