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Applicable Federal Rate (AFR)


The Applicable Federal Rate (AFR) is a term from U.S. tax law that refers to the minimum interest rate that must be charged for family or private loans to avoid gift tax implications. These rates are established monthly by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The AFR can apply to various lending scenarios including intra-family loans and loans for installment sales.


The phonetics for “Applicable Federal Rate (AFR)” would be:Applicable – /əˈplɪkəbəl/Federal – /ˈfɛdərəl/Rate – /reɪt/AFR – /ˌeɪ.ˌef.ˈɑr/

Key Takeaways

<ol><li>The Applicable Federal Rate (AFR) is the minimum interest rate that the Internal Revenue Service allows for private loans. It is set by the federal government to prevent potential tax issues arising from loans with low or no interest.</li><li>Each month, the IRS provides various prescribed rates for federal income tax purposes, referring to interest rates. These rates, known as Applicable Federal Rates, are regularly published as revenue rulings.</li><li>AFR can have significant tax implications. If a loan is given with an interest rate lower than the AFR, the IRS may deem the lender as having made a gift to the borrower, which might impact their gift and estate tax liability.</li></ol>


The Applicable Federal Rate (AFR) is a crucial term in the field of finance and business as it signifies the minimum interest rate that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows for private loans. This is critical because when a loan is given at a rate less than the AFR, the IRS might assess tax implications on both the lender and the borrower. Furthermore, it plays a vital role in establishing the original issue discount for certain debt instruments like bonds. AFR rates are also used in various financial and tax calculations. These rates are determined by the U.S. Treasury and reviewed monthly, hence compliant businesses and individuals regularly monitor these rates to stay updated. Consequently, it is pivotal in understanding and planning financial transactions and legal arrangements.


The Applicable Federal Rate (AFR) primarily serves as a baseline interest rate established by the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which is used in various financial and legal circumstances to minimize the occurrence of tax evasion due to interest-based transactions. The IRS sets this rate monthly, adjusting it based on market fluctuations, and it becomes the minimum interest rate that should be charged for family loans to avoid tax implications. Essentially, its purpose is to discourage taxpayers from making loans with interest rates lower than the AFR—often referred to as below-market loans—which they could leverage for tax benefits.Furthermore, the AFR is integral in determining the imputed interest on certain transactions between related parties. For example, if a taxpayer sells assets such as property to a relative and finances the deal with a loan charging less than the AFR, then IRS might regard the transaction as a gift rather than a bona fide loan. In this case, the lender could potentially be subject to gift tax. The AFR also guides the creation of original issue discount (OID) tables used by taxpayers to amortize OID over the life of a bond or other debt instruments. In a nutshell, AFR is a critical component in maintaining the integrity of financial transactions and preventing tax evasion.


1. Estate Loans: When a parent loans money to a child, they have to charge the minimum interest rate set by the Internal Revenue Service, known as the Applicable Federal Rate. If the interest charged is less than the AFR, the IRS might consider the loan a gift and it could be subject to gift tax.2. Seller Financing: In real estate, seller financing or a private mortgage often involves AFR. When a seller finances the purchase of property for a buyer instead of a traditional mortgage company, they have to charge at least the AFR to avoid tax implications. If they charge a rate lower than AFR, there could be tax consequences that the IRS considers as income or a gift.3. Intra-Family Loans: Such loans are often used for managing and passing on the family wealth. For example, a high-wealth individual may loan money to their heir to invest, with the expectation that the investment yield would be higher than the AFR. Since the loan interest is lower than a commercial loan and the heir retains investment profits above the AFR, it becomes an efficient way of shifting wealth within the family. However, the interest rate for the loan can’t be lower than the AFR without facing potential gift tax consequences.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Applicable Federal Rate (AFR)?

The Applicable Federal Rate (AFR) is the minimum interest rate that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows for private loans. Each month the IRS provides these rates which are recognized as the minimum market rates.

How does the IRS determine the AFR?

The IRS determines the AFR on a monthly basis based on current market conditions. It uses the average market yield on outstanding marketable obligations of the U.S. government to calculate these rates.

How is the AFR used?

The AFR is used in various tax-related purposes, such as creating a promissory note with an interest rate equal to the AFR, determining the original issue discount on loans, pricing certain employee fringe benefits, and in various estate and gift tax situations.

What happens if a loan is set below the AFR?

If a private loan’s interest rate is set below the AFR, the IRS might deem it a gift for tax purposes, which may have tax implications for the lender.

Are there different types of AFR?

Yes, there are three types of AFR rates: short-term (for loans with a term of up to 3 years), mid-term (for loans with a term between 3 to 9 years), and long-term (for loans with a term above 9 years).

Who is most impacted by the AFR?

The AFR most commonly impacts individuals making private loans, including family loans, intra-family loans, and other similar financial arrangements.

Where can I find the current month’s AFR?

The IRS usually publishes the AFR rates through its revenue rulings on its official website.

How does AFR influence financial planning decisions?

The AFR can influence decisions on a variety of transactions, including the sale and purchase of property, structuring intra-family loans, and creating fixed-term annuity trusts. By understanding the AFR, individuals and entities can make informed financial decisions.

How often does the AFR change?

The AFR is determined monthly to reflect the evolving market conditions so it changes every month.

How does the AFR affect mortgages and other large loans?

The AFR doesn’t directly affect mortgages or other commercial loans but they provide a benchmark for what the IRS considers an acceptable interest rate for loans. Lower-than-AFR loans may face unexpected tax implications.

Related Finance Terms

  • Interest Rate
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  • Imputed Interest
  • Below-Market Loans
  • Tax Implications

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