Imputed Interest Overview, Calculation, Tax

What is imputed interest

Therefore, you might assume that the loan doesn’t have any tax implications for you. The tax code expects you to charge a certain amount of interest for a loan—and even if you don’t, you can be taxed as if you did. Upgrading to a paid membership gives you access to our extensive collection of plug-and-play Templates designed to power your performance—as well as CFI’s full course catalog and accredited Certification Programs. Over 1.8 million professionals use CFI to learn accounting, financial analysis, modeling and more. Start with a free account to explore 20+ always-free courses and hundreds of finance templates and cheat sheets. Answer simple questions and TurboTax Free Edition takes care of the rest.

  1. Imputed interest is the rate the IRS assigns to a loan with a significantly below-market rate.
  2. The value of the bond at any point in time depends on the amount of time left until maturity, calculated as the starting value of the loan plus accrued interest.
  3. • If you charge interest at a rate below the AFR, you are required to report the difference between the interest you actually received and the interest the government assumes you collected as taxable income.

In essence, this means that goods or services shall be recorded at their fair value. Any difference between the present value of the note and the fair value of the goods or services shall then be accounted for as a change in interest expense (i.e., as a note discount or premium) over the life of the note. For example, a borrower issues a zero-coupon bond at a discount of $2,500 with a face value of $10,000, quarterly accruals, and a maturity of two years. At inception, the lender purchases the bond for $7,500, and in two years’ time, they will receive a lump sum of $10,000.


The three real-world examples mentioned below will illustrate how imputed interest works and how to calculate it. Imputed interest is the estimated interest rate on a financial transaction, usually a loan or investment, where no explicit interest is stated or charged. To calculate imputed interest, you can use a commonly accepted rate, such as the Applicable Federal Rate (AFR), to determine the fair market value of the interest on a transaction. Frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding imputed interest often revolve around its implications on taxes, legal requirements, and appropriate scenarios for application. The AFR for short-term loans of three years or less is 1% at the time, compounded annually. Your friends will have to calculate a made up amount of interest income to report as if they actually received the interest.

What is imputed interest

• If you charge interest at a rate below the AFR, you are required to report the difference between the interest you actually received and the interest the government assumes you collected as taxable income. The IRS also uses imputed interest rates to determine if payments need to be made on zero-interest bonds. For example, zero-coupon bonds are sold at less than face value and mature at par value. An $800 zero-coupon bond that will pay out $1,000 when it matures in 10 years means recipients will have to pay taxes on the $200 gain. As of September 2020, the short-term federal interest rate hovers around 0.14% annually. The revenue service would determine that the proper amount of interest paid would be $1,400 ($100,000 x 0.14%) annually.

Related Finance Terms

It’s always best to consult with a tax professional if you have questions about imputed interest and how it may apply to you. Don’t start worrying over that $500 you contributed to your daughter’s rent last month. The IRS really isn’t interested in keeping track of every last cent of income that changes hands. The tax code exempts gift loans of under $10,000 from the imputed interest rule. The same threshold of $10,000 goes for employment-related loans and those made to shareholders.

What is imputed interest

Assuming you make no payments in year 1, and the principle balance is still $30,000, your friends would have to report $450 of taxable interest income ($30,000 x 1.5%). Below-market loans occur when lenders charge below the minimum interest rate, most common in cases of lending to friends and family. The minimum interest rate for private loans is determined on a quarterly basis by the tax collection agency. Imputed interest is an important concept in the realm of business and finance, as it pertains to the implicit or assumed interest rate embedded in transactions, such as below-market loans or non-interest-bearing financial instruments.

Do I Need to Pay Tax on Imputed Interest?

This can happen when a lender charges a lower interest rate than the market rate, or when a borrower receives a loan from a family member or friend at a below-market interest rate. In such cases, the IRS may require the lender to pay taxes on the difference between the actual interest rate and the imputed interest rate. Because there were many low-interest or interest-free loans that went untaxed, the IRS established applicable federal rates through the Tax Act of 1984. The applicable federal rate (AFR) determines the lowest interest that one may charge on loans below a specific interest rate threshold and considers the amount of potential income generated from the interest rate as imputed income. Because of the creation of AFR, the IRS may collect tax revenue from loans that are otherwise untaxed.

Imputed Interest on a Zero-Coupon Bond

This prevents people from, for example, taking a loan and drawing interest on it from a bank. It was also implemented  to stop money-laundering through no-interest loans. It’s not just zero-interest loans that are impacted by the imputed interest rules. If your business makes or receives below-market interest loans, you also can be taxed. It’s important to note that the rules and exemptions for imputed interest can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the loan and the applicable tax laws.

This difference is then multiplied by the loan principal to determine the amount of imputed interest. Imputed Interest is an estimated interest rate applied to a financial asset, particularly when the actual interest rate is not clearly stated or specified in the agreement. This concept is typically used for tax purposes, as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires that certain transactions must include a fair market interest rate.

What Kinds of Loans Have Imputed Interest?

Zero-coupon bonds are bonds that pay no interest over the duration, only a lump sum at maturity. Lenders make a profit because zero-coupon bonds are sold at a discount to the face value. It means that at any point before maturity, the bond is sold for less than the lump sum received at maturity. This concept applies to financial instruments with favorable interest rates that do not meet the minimum federal guidelines as outlined by the IRS. Owners of privately held companies might loan money to their companies; this is particularly common in the startup phase. Shortfalls might be funded by the owner’s personal funds rather than taking out a loan from a financial institution.

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