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Are personal loans taxable and considered income?

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Personal loans can be used to cover nearly any type of expense and are generally not considered taxable income unless the loan is forgiven. If your personal loan is forgiven, the money you borrowed becomes cancellation of debt (COD) income. You must report the COD income when you file taxes for the year the loan was forgiven.

What is taxable income?

Taxable income generally includes any salaries, wages, freelance earnings, tips and bonuses a person brings in during a given year.

Some income is nontaxable, including:

  • Accident and personal injury compensation
  • Alimony
  • Child support
  • Federal tax returns
  • Grants
  • Money gifts
  • Scholarships
  • Veteran and welfare benefits

A forgiven personal loan sum is money the taxpayer received and never paid back. Therefore, it can be considered a source of income and is often taxable.  Generally, you will have to pay taxes on a forgiven personal loan unless the loan was forgiven as a gift from a private lender.

When are personal loans considered taxable income?

Income is classified by the IRS as money you earn, whether through work or investments. A personal loan must be repaid and cannot be classified as income unless your debt is forgiven.

If you do not intend to seek debt cancellation for your personal loan, you do not have to worry about reporting it on your income taxes. If you have canceled debt, it is important to understand how that could impact your taxes this year.

Cancellation of debt (COD) income

If you are struggling to pay outstanding debt, you can do some things to get that debt forgiven. These options include negotiating with the lender, utilizing debt settlement programs and filing for bankruptcy.

If the lender agrees to cancel your debt, they will issue a COD and send you a 1099-C form. You are required to report the canceled amount on this form and submit it to the IRS when you file taxes.

Exceptions to the COD income rule

You do not have to report the forgiven loan amount as income in some situations. If the amount is forgiven as a gift from a private lender, or if the debt is forgiven in the lender’s will, the amount does not have to be reported as income.

Additionally, taxpayers do not have to pay taxes on forgiven mortgage debt up to $750,000 due to the Mortgage Debt Relief Act passed during the Great Recession. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 extended these tax exemptions for forgiven mortgages to 2025 in light of the COVID 19 pandemic.

Are interest payments on personal loans tax deductible?

A tax-deductible expense is money a taxpayer can subtract from their overall gross income to reduce their reported income and therefore the taxes they have to pay. Personal loans, unlike other types of loans, are generally not tax deductible.

Interest payments on student loans, mortgages and business loans can be reported as tax deductions. However, personal loan interest payments only qualify as tax deductible under certain circumstances. If you can prove that a personal loan was used to pay for business expenses, for example, the interest payments for that loan may qualify as tax deductible.

The bottom line

If you took out a personal loan last year and are unsure how it will impact your taxes, consider whether the debt was forgiven. If your personal loan was canceled and it was not done so as a gift by a private lender, you do have to report the unpaid balance as income for that year using a 1099-C form provided by the lender.

If you are struggling to pay off a personal loan and would like to try to have your debt forgiven, there are resources available to help you figure out how to negotiate with lenders and work with debt relief companies.

For more information and resources on how to file your taxes, check out Bankrate’s tax resources page.

Written by
Raija Haughn
Raija Haughn is an associate writer for Bankrate.com specializing in personal and home equity loans. She is passionate about helping people make financial decisions that will benefit them long term.
Edited by
Loans Editor