# De Minimis Tax Rule: Definition, Calculation, and Example

## Definition

The De Minimis Tax Rule is a federal tax regulation that applies to the discount on tax-exempt municipal bonds purchased in the secondary market. The rule states that if the discount is less than 0.25% of the bond’s face value, multiplied by the number of full years remaining until the bond’s maturity, the discount is considered negligible or de minimis, and not subject to capital gains tax. However, if the discount exceeds this threshold, the bondholder must pay capital gains tax on the difference between the purchase price and the bond’s face value.

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## Key Takeaways

1. Definition: The De Minimis Tax Rule is a regulation in the United States that pertains to municipal bonds. It states that when a bond is purchased at a discount (below its face value) and that discount is less than a minimal amount called the de minimis amount, the discount is not considered taxable when the bond is sold or redeemed. This rule helps differentiate between the capital gains treated as tax-exempt interest income and taxable gains on municipal bonds.
2. Calculation: To determine whether the discount is treated as tax-exempt or taxable, the de minimis threshold must be calculated. This threshold is the product of multiplying the bond’s face value by the remaining years to maturity of the bond and then multiplying that number by 0.25%. If the discount is less than the calculated de minimis threshold, the discount will be tax-exempt. Otherwise, the discount will be considered taxable and treated as capital gains.
3. Example: Assume an investor purchases a municipal bond with a face value of \$10,000 and a 5-year maturity for a discounted price of \$9,500. To determine the de minimis threshold, multiply the bond’s face value (\$10,000) by the years to maturity (5) and then by 0.25%. This calculation results in a de minimis threshold of \$125. Since the actual bond discount (\$500) is greater than the de minimis threshold, the discount will be considered taxable when the bond is sold or redeemed.

## Importance

The De Minimis Tax Rule is an important concept in the realm of business and finance as it helps investors and financial institutions to maintain the tax-exempt status of their municipal bonds when trading in the secondary market. The term refers to a minimal or insignificant change that occurs when bond prices fluctuate that does not affect tax exemptions. By requiring investment professionals to calculate and apply the De Minimis threshold, it ensures that investors are not inadvertently subject to taxes on the capital gains generated from the sale of a tax-exempt bond. Additionally, this rule aims to protect the integrity of the municipal bond market by preventing aggressive price manipulation. Ultimately, the De Minimis Tax Rule is crucial in safeguarding investor interests and fostering a fair, transparent, and stable financial market.

## Explanation

The de minimis tax rule serves as a safeguard designed to protect investors from potential adverse tax implications associated with the purchase of discounted bonds. Its primary purpose is to establish limits for specific thresholds beyond which the purchase of a bond at a discount would result in the price being treated as an original issue discount (OID) bond, leading to tax implications for the investor. By setting these thresholds, the de minimis tax rule ensures that investors in the bond market are not inadvertently penalized for decisions made based on reasonable market fluctuations or other market-driven factors that could impact the bond’s price.

Calculating the de minimis threshold involves multiplying the bond’s initial par value by 0.25% (one-quarter of one percent) and then by the number of complete years remaining until the bond’s maturity date. If the bond’s purchase price is lower than the par value minus the de minimis threshold, the bond will be considered an OID bond, and the investor will need to recognize the discount as ordinary income, rather than capital gains, when the bond is sold or reaches maturity.

To illustrate this with an example: if an investor buys a bond with a par value of \$1,000 and five years remaining to maturity, the de minimis threshold would be calculated as \$1,000 * 0.0025 * 5, which equals \$12.50. If the investor then purchases the bond at a discounted price of \$970, it exceeds the threshold (\$1,000 – \$12.50 = \$987.50), so the bond is considered an OID bond and subject to the tax implications. By understanding the de minimis tax rule, investors can factor in potential tax consequences when making decisions in the bond market, ensuring a more informed approach to their investment strategies.

## Examples

The De Minimis Tax Rule is a provision in the United States federal tax code that exempts small amounts of market discount on a bond from being treated as taxable income. The rule states that if the market discount is less than 0.25% of the bond’s face value, multiplied by the number of complete years remaining until maturity, it will be considered too small to be taxed. Here are three real-world examples of how the De Minimis Tax Rule can apply:

1. Municipal Bond Trading at Slight Discount:An investor purchases a municipal bond with a face value of \$10,000 and a remaining term of 10 years. The bond is bought at a price of \$9,800, resulting in a market discount of \$200. To determine if the De Minimis Tax Rule applies, the following calculation is made: 0.25% x \$10,000 x 10 = \$250. Since the market discount (\$200) is less than the calculated threshold (\$250), the bond is exempt from taxes under the De Minimis Tax Rule.

2. Corporate Bond Exceeding De Minimis Threshold:An investor buys a corporate bond with a face value of \$5,000 and a remaining term of 5 years for \$4,600. The market discount amounts to \$400. The De Minimis calculation would be: 0.25% x \$5,000 x 5 = \$62.50. In this case, the market discount (\$400) exceeds the De Minimis threshold (\$62.50), and therefore the discount is taxable as ordinary income.

3. Treasury Bond Below De Minimis Threshold:An investor purchases a Treasury bond with a face value of \$50,000 and a remaining term of 15 years at a price of \$48,500, resulting in a market discount of \$1,500. The De Minimis calculation would be: 0.25% x \$50,000 x 15 = \$1,875. In this scenario, the market discount (\$1,500) is less than the calculated threshold (\$1,875) and the De Minimis Tax Rule applies, exempting the bond from taxes.In each of these examples, the De Minimis Tax Rule is used to determine whether the market discount on a bond should be treated as taxable income. By applying this provision, investors can be certain if their bond investments will incur taxes based on the size of the market discount relative to the bond’s face value and the remaining years till maturity.

What is the De Minimis Tax Rule?

The De Minimis Tax Rule is a guideline set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that determines whether or not a discount bond should recognize the difference between the purchase price and the face value as capital gain or as interest income. If the discount is considered “de minimis” (too small to be concerned with), it is treated as a capital gain. If the discount is significant, it is treated as taxable interest income.

How is the De Minimis Tax Rule calculated?

To determine if the discount is considered de minimis, the following formula is used:De Minimis Amount = (Face Value x 0.25%) x (Number of Full Years to Maturity)If the discount is less than or equal to the calculated de minimis amount, it is considered de minimis and treated as a capital gain. If the discount is greater than the de minimis amount, it is considered interest income.

Can you provide an example of how the De Minimis Tax Rule is applied?

Sure! Let’s say, Investor A buys a \$1,000 face value bond for \$980, with three years left to maturity. We can calculate the De Minimis amount as follows:De Minimis Amount = (\$1,000 x 0.25%) x 3 = \$7.50The difference between the face value and the purchase price is \$1,000 – \$980 = \$20. Since \$20 is greater than the de minimis amount of \$7.50, the discount is treated as interest income for Investor A.

Why is the De Minimis Tax Rule important?

The De Minimis Tax Rule is important because it affects how investors are taxed on their bond investments. Since capital gains and interest income are subjected to different tax treatments, it is crucial for investors to understand whether they will be taxed on the bond discount as interest income or as a capital gain, in order to maximize their tax efficiency and make informed investment decisions.

Are there any exceptions or exclusions to the De Minimis Tax Rule?

Yes, certain types of bonds, such as tax-exempt municipal bonds, do not have to adhere to the De Minimis Tax Rule. In cases where bonds are exempt from federal taxation, the rule’s implications do not apply, and investors should consult with their financial advisors or tax professionals to understand the specifics of their bond investment tax situation.

## Related Finance Terms

• Definition: The De Minimis Tax Rule refers to a principle in taxation that disregards small amounts of interest income or capital gains on the sale of securities when calculating federal tax liability. This rule is in place to simplify tax calculations and minimize the impact on taxpayers.
• Calculation: To determine if the De Minimis Tax Rule applies, the taxpayer must calculate the bond’s adjusted acquisition price (AAP) and compare it to the amount at which the bond was converted. If the difference does not exceed the De Minimis threshold, the capital gain can be considered tax-exempt.
• Example: An investor buys a bond for \$950 and later sells it for \$1,000. The bond’s AAP is \$980, and the difference between the sale price and AAP is \$20. If this amount does not exceed the De Minimis threshold, the investor does not need to pay taxes on the \$20 capital gain.
• De Minimis Threshold: The threshold amount for the De Minimis Tax Rule is determined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This amount varies depending on the bond and its tax implications. Additionally, the threshold may be adjusted periodically.
• Importance: The De Minimis Tax Rule is significant because it simplifies tax filing for taxpayers while ensuring that tax liability does not become overly burdensome for investment gains resulting from small market price fluctuations.