What is a Qualified Dividend and How Does it Work?

by | Dec 11, 2023 | Wealth Management

In the landscape of investments, dividends play a significant role, particularly for investors seeking steady income. Among the various types of dividends, “qualified dividends” stand out due to their favorable tax treatment.  Let’s explore what qualified dividends are, how they work, and see an example to better understand their impact.

What is a Dividend?

As a stock shareholder, you are an owner of the company. At the end of the year, the company can choose to take its profits and reinvest them into the company or pay them out to the company owners. If they choose to pay them out to the owners, then the stockholder will receive this payment called a divided. All dividends are the same, but they can be treated differently from a tax perspective. 

Taxation of Dividends

An ordinary dividend is taxed at your normal income tax rates that range from 10% – 37% at the federal income tax level. Qualified dividends benefit investors through reduced tax rates. These rates are significantly lower than ordinary income tax rates and are categorized based on the taxpayer’s income bracket. These rates are 0%, 15%, 18.8%, 20%, or 23.8% at the federal tax level, depending on the investor’s taxable income.

For a dividend to be qualified, it must be paid by a corporation and meet certain holding period requirements. The shares must be held for more than 60 days during the 121-day period that begins 60 days before the ex-dividend date. The ex-dividend date is the day after which new buyers of the stock will not receive the declared dividend.

Example of Stock Qualifying for a Qualified Dividend

To understand how a stock qualifies for a qualified dividend, it’s crucial to delve into the specific criteria set by the IRS. Here’s an example that illustrates the process:

Let’s consider a hypothetical U.S. corporation, TechGrow Inc., which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). An investor, Jane, purchases 200 shares of TechGrow Inc. TechGrow Inc. declares a dividend of $1.50 per share.

Criterion to qualify as a qualified dividend

Holding Period:

  • Ex-Dividend Date: Assume the ex-dividend date is June 15th.
    • **Holding Period Requirement**: Jane must hold the stock for more than 60 days during the 121-day period that begins 60 days before the ex-dividend date.
  • Jane bought the shares on May 1st.
  • The 121-day period for TechGrow’s dividend starts on April 16th (60 days before June 15th) and ends on August 15th.
  • Jane’s holding period starts on May 1st. To meet the requirement, she must hold the shares until at least July 1st (more than 60 days within the 121-day window).

If Jane holds her shares until at least July 1st, the dividends she receives from TechGrow Inc. would be considered qualified dividends, regardless if she decides to keep the shares or sell them afterward.

Tax impact

Jane receives $300 (200 shares x $1.50) as a dividend from TechGrow Inc. Since she met the holding period requirement the $300 dividend is taxed at the lower long-term capital gains rate, rather than the higher ordinary income tax rate. If we assume Jane is in the 15% long-term capital gains rate, she will pay $45 in taxes. In contrast, if these are ordinary dividends taxed at 24% then the tax would be $72.

Key Takeaways

1. Tax Efficiency: Qualified dividends offer a way to reduce the tax burden on investment income.

2. Holding Period: Investors need to be mindful of the holding period to ensure their dividends qualify.

3. Investment Strategy: Incorporating stocks that pay qualified dividends can be a strategic move for long-term investors, particularly those in higher tax brackets.

Qualified dividends represent an attractive aspect of income investing due to their favorable tax treatment. Investors should, however, be aware of the specific requirements to take advantage of this benefit. As always, it’s advisable to consult with a financial advisor or tax professional to understand how these dividends fit into your overall investment strategy.

Disclosure: BFSG does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether linked to BFSG’s website or blog or incorporated herein and takes no responsibility for any such content. All such information is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly. Please remember that different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment or investment strategy (including those undertaken or recommended by Company), will be profitable or equal any historical performance level(s). Please see important disclosure information here.

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