How to Avoid Paying Taxes on a Savings Bond (2024)

Savings bonds can be a safe way to save money for the long term while earning interest. You might use savings bonds to help pay for your child’s college, for example, or to set aside money for your grandchildren. Once you redeem them, you can collect the face value of the bond along with any interest earned. It’s important to realize, however, that interest on savings bonds can be taxed. If you’re wondering how you can avoid paying taxes on savings bonds there are a few things to keep in mind. Of course, one key thing to keep in mind is that a financial advisor can be immensely helpful in minimizing your taxes.

How Savings Bonds Work

Savings bonds are issued by the U.S. Treasury. The most common savings bonds issued are Series EE bonds. These electronically issued bonds earn interest for up to 30 years. Depending on when you purchase Series EE bonds, they may earn either a fixed or variable interest rate.

You can buy up to $10,000 of EE bonds each year for a particular Social Security number, and that’s based on the first named owner on the bond. So, for example, you could buy $10,000 for yourself and $10,000 for your child as long as your child was listed as the first owner on that bond.

When Do You Pay Taxes on Savings Bond Interest?

When you’ll have to pay taxes on Treasury-issued savings bonds typically depends on the type of bond involved and how long you hold the bond. The Treasury gives you two options:

  • Report interest each year and pay taxes on it annually
  • Defer reporting interest until you redeem the bonds or give up ownership of the bond and it’s reissued or the bond is no longer earning interest because it’s matured

According to the Treasury Department, it’s typical to defer reporting interest until you redeem bonds at maturity. With electronic Series EE bonds, the redemption process is automatic and interest is reported to the IRS. Interest earnings on bonds are reported on IRS Form 1099-INT.

It’s important to keep in mind that savings bond interest is subject to more than one type of tax. If you hold savings bonds and redeem them with interest earned, that interest is subject to federal income tax and possibly federal gift taxes (highly unlikely as the per-person cap is $10,000 and the gift tax exemption is $17,000). You won’t pay state or local income tax on interest earnings but you may possibly pay state or inheritance taxes if those apply where you live.

How Can I Avoid Paying Taxes on Savings Bonds?

Whether you have to pay taxes on savings bonds depends on who owns it. Generally, taxes are owed on interest earned if you’re the only bond owner or you use your own funds to buy a bond that you co-own with someone else.

If you buy a bond but someone else is named as its only owner, they would be responsible for the taxes due. When you co-own a bond with someone else and share in funding it, or if you live in a community property state, you’d also share responsibility for the taxes owed with your co-owner or spouse.

Use the Education Exclusion

With that in mind, you have one option for avoiding taxes on savings bonds: the education exclusion. You can skip paying taxes on interest earned with Series EE and Series I savings bonds if you’re using the money to pay for qualified higher education costs. That includes expenses you pay for yourself, your spouse or a qualified dependent.Only certain qualified higher education costs are covered, including:

  • Tuition
  • Fees
  • Some books
  • Equipment, such as a computer

You can still use savings bonds to pay for other education expenses, such as room and board or activity fees, but you wouldn’t be able to avoid paying taxes on interest.

Additionally, there are a few other rules that apply when using savings bonds to pay for higher education:

  • Bonds must have been issued after 1989
  • Bond owners must have been at least 24 years of age at the time the bonds were issued
  • Education costs must be paid using bond funds in the year the bonds are redeemed
  • Funds can only be used to pay for expenses at a school that’s eligible to participate in federal student aid programs

If you’re married you and your spouse have to file a joint return to take advantage of the education exclusion. Any money from a savings bond redemption that doesn’t go toward higher education expenses can still be taxed at a prorated amount.

There are also income thresholds you need to observe. For 2023, if you’re married and filing a joint return, this tax break starts to phase out when adjusted gross income exceeds $137,800. It’s completely phased out after $167,800. For heads of households and single filers, the 2023 phase-out starts at $91,850 and is completely phased out after $106,850.

Roll Savings Bonds Into a College Savings Account

Another strategy for how to avoid taxes on savings bond interest involves rolling the money into a college savings account. You can roll savings bonds into a 529 college savings plan or a Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA) to avoid taxes.

There are some advantages to either approach. With a 529 college savings plan, you can continue saving money on a tax-advantaged basis for higher education. You won’t pay any taxes on money that’s withdrawn for qualified education expenses. If you have multiple children, you can reassign the account to a different beneficiary if one child decides he or she doesn’t want to go to college or doesn’t use up all the money in the account.

Contributions to 529 college savings accounts aren’t tax-deductible at the federal level, though some states do allow you to deduct contributions. You don’t have to live in any particular state to invest in that state’s 529 and plans can have very generous lifetime contribution limits. Keep in mind that gift tax exclusion limits still apply to any money you add to a 529 every year.

Coverdell ESAs have lower annual contribution limits, capped at $2,000 per child. You can only contribute to one of these accounts on behalf of a child up to their 18th birthday. Withdrawals are tax-free when the money is used for qualified education expenses. But you have to withdraw all the funds by age 30 to avoid a tax penalty.

Bottom Line

Savings bonds typically offer a lower rate of return compared to stocks, mutual funds or other higher-risk securities. But they can be a good savings option if you want something that can earn interest over the long term. Minimizing the taxes you pay on that interest may be possible if you have children and you plan to use some or all of your savings bonds to help pay for college. Talking to a tax professional can also help with finding other college tax savings strategies.

Tips for Investing

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about the best ways to manage savings bonds in your portfolio. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Savings bonds purchased on behalf of grandchildren don’t receive the same tax treatment for higher education purposes. Generally, the education exclusion only applies if the grandparent is claiming a grandchild on their taxes as a dependent. If your parents are interested in helping pay for your child’s college expenses, you may encourage them to open a 529 college savings account instead, then roll the bonds into it to avoid paying taxes on interest earned.

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How to Avoid Paying Taxes on a Savings Bond (2024)

FAQs

How to Avoid Paying Taxes on a Savings Bond? ›

You can exclude the interest from your series EE and series I U.S. savings bonds on Form 8815 of the 1040. Form 8815 helps calculate the amount of interest that you can exclude from your tax return. If all the interest was not used for a qualified higher education expense you will stay pay taxes on that amount.

How can I avoid paying taxes on savings bonds? ›

You can skip paying taxes on interest earned with Series EE and Series I savings bonds if you're using the money to pay for qualified higher education costs. That includes expenses you pay for yourself, your spouse or a qualified dependent. Only certain qualified higher education costs are covered, including: Tuition.

How much tax will I pay on my EE savings bonds? ›

The interest on EE bonds isn't taxed as it accrues unless the owner elects to have it taxed annually. If an election is made, all previously accrued but untaxed interest is also reported in the election year. In most cases, this election isn't made so bond holders receive the benefits of tax deferral.

Does cashing savings bonds count as income? ›

In general, you must report the interest in income in the taxable year in which you redeemed the bonds to the extent you did not include the interest in income in a prior taxable year.

Do you have to pay taxes on savings bonds you inherit? ›

As a result, when inheritors redeem inherited bonds on which the tax has been deferred, they will owe tax on all the interest that has accumulated.

Are savings bonds reported to IRS? ›

For paper savings bonds

The interest will be reported under the name and Social Security Number of the person who cashes the bond or who owns it when it matures. The 1099-INT will include all the interest the bond earned over its lifetime.

How do I file taxes on cashed savings bonds? ›

When you redeem it, you'll receive a Form 1099-INT that shows the full amount of interest the bond earned. You can report the interest earned every year. If you do, you can subtract the interest you paid tax on in prior years from your taxable income.

Will I get a 1099 for cashing in savings bonds? ›

At a bank: If a bank cashes your savings bond, they are responsible for getting you a 1099-INT. They may give or mail you the 1099-INT as soon as you cash the bond or they may wait until the following January.

How much is a $100 savings bond worth after 30 years? ›

How to get the most value from your savings bonds
Face ValuePurchase Amount30-Year Value (Purchased May 1990)
$50 Bond$100$207.36
$100 Bond$200$414.72
$500 Bond$400$1,036.80
$1,000 Bond$800$2,073.60

Who pays tax on savings bonds after death? ›

If the executor doesn't include predeath interest on the decedent's final return, then the beneficiary owes federal income tax on all pre- and post-death interest on the earlier of the bond's maturity or redemption.

Is there a penalty for not cashing in matured EE savings bonds? ›

While the Treasury will not penalize you for holding a U.S. Savings Bond past its date of maturity, the Internal Revenue Service will. Interest accumulated over the life of a U.S. Savings Bond must be reported on your 1040 form for the tax year in which you redeem the bond or it reaches final maturity.

Which bonds are tax free? ›

Income from bonds issued by state, city, and local governments (municipal bonds, or munis) is generally free from federal taxes.

What happens when you cash in a savings bond? ›

Most bonds can be cashed in after one year, but you will lose three months' worth of interest if you cash them in before five years.

Do I need to report I bonds on my tax return? ›

Yes, you are required to pay federal income taxes on the interest earned by inherited series I savings bonds. The interest is taxed in the year it is earned and must be reported on the beneficiary's tax return.

Can a beneficiary cash a savings bond? ›

The surviving co-owner or named beneficiary can choose to do nothing, cash in the bond, or get it reissued in their name.

What happens to savings bonds when someone dies? ›

Typically, bonds become a part of the owner's estate and are distributed according to their last will and testament. Probate can be avoided if there is a designated beneficiary or a surviving co-owner.

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