If you have lent money someone and you are charging interest on that loan, you will earn interest income that you must report to the Internal Revenue Service. There are exceptions and conditions attached to this rule, but the IRS essentially considers all interest earned from loans of any kind as taxable income.
If more than $10 in interest is collected from a promissory note during the year, this income must be reported on your tax return. This money must be reported regardless of whether or not the individual paying the interest completes their Form 1099-INT.
What are Promissory Notes?
A promissory note is a signed and legal contract to repay a loan. The borrower and the lender agree to terms spelled out in the note, including the rate of interest and the repayment schedule. Some promissory notes come with "balloon" payment clauses, acceleration clauses if a payment is missed, or "on demand" conditions that allow the lender to demand repayment in full at any time. However, none of these specifics change the the fact that, no matter the terms, any interest earned from a promissory note is taxable income.
Reporting Requirements for Loan Interest Income
To report this income, the borrower who pays the interest completes a Form 1099-INT and submits one copy to the lender and one to the IRS. The form spells out the total amount of interest paid to the lender during the tax year. However, the IRS waives this requirement if the interest amounts to less than $10 for the year.
Whether or not the borrowing party files a 1099-INT, you still owe the IRS taxes on the interest earned. Any party drawing interest on a personal loan, a mortgage, a savings account, a corporate or municipal bond, or any other investment is earning taxable income.
Reporting Requirements for Non-Business Transactions
The IRS makes another exception for "non-business" transactions – those carried out between individuals or private parties. For example, if you contract a loan and execute a promissory note outside of a business or trade relationship, the interest is exempt from the Form 1099-INT reporting requirements. Nevertheless, exemption from this reporting does not mean the interest is tax-free for the lender.
The IRS requires that any interest you earn in a non-business transaction be included in your gross income and declared on your Form 1040 tax return, even if you don't receive a Form 1099-INT. If you fail to meet this requirement and the IRS discovers the payment of interest (through the borrower deducting the interest on his tax return, for example), the agency will recalculate your taxes and levy interest and penalties for any unpaid tax.
Reporting Interest Income on Schedule B
If you earned more than $1,500 in interest from all sources, you must itemize this income on IRS Schedule B. You still must file Form 1040 or 1040A, and if you're filing a Schedule B you can't file the shorter Form 1040EZ. The IRS also requires Schedule B if you earned interest from the sale of a home that you financed yourself, no matter how much interest the borrower paid.
Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.