Is IRA Interest Income Taxable Income?

by Mike Parker

    Congress authorized individual retirement arrangements to allow people with earned income to set aside a portion of their earnings in a tax-advantaged account. The kinds of tax advantages you get depend on the type of IRA you contribute to. All IRAs allow your investments to grow without creating a current tax liability, regardless of whether that growth comes from interest, dividends or capital gains.

    Taxable Interest Income

    The Internal Revenue Service considers most interest that you receive, or that is credited to an account that you can access, to be taxable income in the year you receive it. That includes interest on your bank savings accounts, certificates of deposit, corporate bond and government securities. If you have money in a credit union share account, you might receive dividends, but the IRS treats these payments as interest income. Interest on some securities, such as municipal bonds, is exempt from federal income taxes. You can hold any of these interest-bearing investments in your IRA.

    Tax Deferral

    The taxes on all types of interest on investments in your individual retirement account are deferred for as long as the money remains in your IRA. This allows more of your money to be reinvested into additional investment products, which can make the value of your IRA increase more rapidly. You don't report interest income generated by investments held in your IRA when you file your federal income tax return.

    Traditional IRA Distributions

    Distributions from your traditional IRA are typically taxed as ordinary income. This includes the portion of your distribution that comes from your contributions as well as earnings produced by investments held in your IRA. Non-deductible contributions you made to your traditional IRA are not taxed when distributed, but any earnings produced by those contributions are taxable. Non-qualified distributions, those taken before you reach age 59 1/2, may be subject to an additional 10 percent tax penalty. The interest income generated by your IRA investments is not taxed as interest, but as ordinary income. If you put a tax-exempt municipal bond into your IRA, the interest paid by that bond, which would normal be exempt from federal income taxes, will be taxed as ordinary income.

    Roth IRA Distributions

    Any interest earned by investments in your Roth IRA grows tax-deferred as long as those earnings remain in the IRA. Once those earnings become qualified, typically after you have had a Roth IRA for at least five years and are at least 59-1/2-years-old, you can withdraw the earnings tax-free. If you withdraw the earnings from your Roth IRA before they become qualified, the earnings will be taxed as ordinary income and you might be subject to an additional 10 percent tax penalty. In either case, the interest earned by investments in your Roth IRA is not taxed as interest. It is treated as a Roth IRA distribution, which may or may not be taxable.

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    About the Author

    Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.

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