Finance

5.5% APY Surge: How High-Yield Savings Affect Your Taxes in 2024

Dan Nicholson

Thanks to rising inflation and volatile interest rates in 2023, high-yield savings accounts are offering returns that haven't been seen in years. While this is a welcome change for savvy savers, it's crucial to remember that increased earnings also come with increased tax implications. Understanding these implications is key to maximizing your savings potential and avoiding unpleasant surprises come tax season.

Understanding Rising Interest Rates

Since the beginning of 2023, the United States has been grappling with rising inflation, driven by factors like supply chain disruptions and the war in Ukraine. To combat this inflation, the Federal Reserve embarked on a series of interest rate hikes throughout the year. 

When the Fed raises interest rates, it affects the entire financial system, including banks. Banks borrow money from the Fed at a higher rate, and in turn, they charge borrowers (like individuals and businesses) higher interest rates on loans. However, they also offer higher interest rates to depositors on savings accounts to attract and retain funds. 

This is why we're seeing a rise in high-yield savings account rates, offering savers a more attractive return on their money. The highest nationally available savings account rate soared from 0.70% APY in January 2022 to 5.50% in January 2024, as reported by Investopedia.

It's important to note that the interest rate environment is dynamic and can change based on economic conditions and the Fed's monetary policy decisions. While high-yield savings accounts offer a better return than traditional savings accounts, they may not keep pace with inflation entirely.

What Tax Do I Pay on Savings Interest?

The basic rule is straightforward: interest earned on savings accounts, including high-yield accounts, is considered taxable income. This means the IRS will take a percentage, just like with your salary or other forms of income. The tax rate you pay depends on your individual tax bracket, which can range from 10% to 37% in the United States for 2023.

 “For small investors, the amount is usually not significant. However, with the return of high-yield savings accounts and good market returns, some people may be in for a shock,” warned accountant Chip Capelli in an article for Investopedia.

Take as an example someone with a high-yield savings account earning 2% interest, who falls into the 24% tax bracket. In one year, they earn $200 in interest, but then pay $48 of that as taxes, leaving them with $152 in net earnings. While still a gain, it's important to factor in the tax bite when calculating your true return.

Unfortunately, the tax story doesn't end with the federal government. Depending on your location, you might also face state and local taxes on your savings account interest. This can significantly impact your bottom line, especially if you live in a state with high income tax rates.

Omar Qureshi, investment strategist at Hightower Wealth Advisors, explained to USA Today, “If you’re in a high tax bracket, about 50% of your interest income may go back to the government,” after factoring in federal and state taxes.

California ranks top in state taxes with rates as high as 13.3%, meaning you could lose an additional $26.6 on your $200 interest earnings. Researching your state and local tax rates is crucial for accurately assessing the true impact of taxes on your savings account returns.

How Can I Minimize the Tax Impact on My Savings?

While completely avoiding taxes on savings interest is generally not possible, there are a few strategies you can employ to minimize the impact:

  • Leverage tax-advantaged accounts: Consider investing some of your savings in tax-advantaged accounts like Roth IRAs or health savings accounts (HSAs). These accounts offer tax-free growth and withdrawals, shielding your earnings from immediate taxation.
  • Optimize tax deductions: Explore other tax deductions you might qualify for, such as business expenses or charitable contributions. Reducing your overall taxable income can indirectly minimize the taxes you pay on your savings interest. Angelica Leicht of CBS’ Moneywatch writes, “While savings account interest itself may not be deductible, exploring other deductions, such as education expenses or homeownership, can help offset the overall tax liability.”
  • Strategize your withdrawals: If possible, time your withdrawals to coincide with periods when you're in a lower tax bracket. This can help reduce your tax liability on the interest earned.
  • Diversify with tax-efficient investments: Consider incorporating tax-efficient investments like municipal bonds or index funds into your portfolio. These options are designed to minimize taxable events, ultimately reducing your overall tax burden.
  • Minimize state taxes: U.S. government-backed securities like T-bills, notes, or bonds, are not liable for state tax.“You’ll still pay federal tax on the interest income, but if you live in a high-tax state like California, a T-bill could be a great investment because you can save on the state side of the house,” explained Rob Keller, tax partner at tax advisory firm KPMG, to USA Today.

Conclusion

Soaring savings account earnings are a positive development, but don't let the excitement cloud your understanding of the tax implications. By educating yourself on the relevant tax rules and exploring available strategies, you can make informed decisions to maximize your returns and minimize your tax burden. Remember, consulting with a qualified tax professional is crucial for personalized advice tailored to your specific financial situation and tax bracket.

Sources

Investopedia

IRS

USA Today

Morgan Stanley

CBS

Dan Nicholson is the author of “Rigging the Game: How to Achieve Financial Certainty, Navigate Risk and Make Money on Your Own Terms,” deemed a best-seller by USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. In addition to founding the award-winning accounting and financial consulting firm Nth Degree CPAs, Dan has created and run multiple small businesses, including Certainty U and the Certified Certainty Advisor program.

No items found.
Top
Nth Degree - Safari Dan
Next Up In
Finance
Top
Nth Degree - Safari Dan
Mid
Pinnacle Chiropractic (Mid)
Banner for Certainty Tools, Play your Game.  Blue gradient color with CertaintyU Logo
Top
Nth Degree - Safari Dan
Mid
Pinnacle Chiropractic (Mid)