Words you may need to know (see Glossary)
When to report your interest income depends on whether you use the cash method or an accrual method to report income.taxmap/pubs/p550-004.htm#en_us_publink100010036
Most individual taxpayers use the cash method. If you use this method, you generally report your interest income in the year in which you actually or constructively receive it. However, there are special rules for reporting the discount on certain debt instruments. See U.S. Savings Bonds
and Discount on Debt Instruments
On September 1, 2006, you loaned another individual $2,000 at 12% compounded annually. You are not in the business of lending money. The note stated that principal and interest would be due on August 31, 2008. In 2008, you received $2,508.80 ($2,000 principal and $508.80 interest). If you use the cash method, you must include in income on your 2008 return the $508.80 interest you received in that year.taxmap/pubs/p550-004.htm#en_us_publink100010038
You constructively receive income when it is credited to your account or made available to you. You do not need to have physical possession of it. For example, you are considered to receive interest, dividends, or other earnings on any deposit or account in a bank, savings and loan, or similar financial institution, or interest on life insurance policy dividends left to accumulate, when they are credited to your account and subject to your withdrawal. This is true even if they are not yet entered in your passbook.
You constructively receive income on the deposit or account even if you must:
- Make withdrawals in multiples of even amounts,
- Give a notice to withdraw before making the withdrawal,
- Withdraw all or part of the account to withdraw the earnings, or
- Pay a penalty on early withdrawals, unless the interest you are to receive on an early withdrawal or redemption is substantially less than the interest payable at maturity.
If you use an accrual method, you report your interest income when you earn it, whether or not you have received it. Interest is earned over the term of the debt instrument. taxmap/pubs/p550-004.htm#en_us_publink100010040
If, in the previous example, you use an accrual method, you must include the interest in your income as you earn it. You would report the interest as follows: 2006, $80; 2007, $249.60; and 2008, $179.20.taxmap/pubs/p550-004.htm#en_us_publink100010041
Interest on coupon bonds is taxable in the year the coupon becomes due and payable. It does not matter when you mail the coupon for payment.