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Exempt-Interest Dividend


An exempt-interest dividend is a distribution from a mutual fund that is not subject to federal income tax. This dividend derives from interest earned on municipal bonds held by the fund. Although it’s exempt from federal income tax, it may still be subject to state or local taxes.


The phonetics of the keyword would be: ɪɡˈzɛmpt ˈɪn.tər.ɪst ˈdɪv.ɪˌdɛnd

Key Takeaways

  1. Tax Advantages: Exempt-interest dividends are not subject to federal income tax. This makes them an attractive option for investors looking to minimize their tax liabilities. Some states may also exempt these dividends from state income taxes.
  2. Source of Income: Exempt-interest dividends are typically paid from the interest earned on municipal bonds. These bonds are issued by local governments, typically to fund public initiatives like infrastructure projects, schools, or hospitals.
  3. Reporting Requirements: Although exempt-interest dividends are not taxable, they still must be reported on your federal income tax return. They may affect the amount of Social Security benefits that are taxable or the calculation for the Alternative Minimum Tax, so it is crucial to keep track of this type of income.


Exempt-interest dividends are significant in the realm of business and finance due to their tax implications. These are dividends paid to shareholders by mutual funds from interest earned on tax-free municipal bonds held by the fund. The key feature of exempt-interest dividends lies in their tax exempt status i.e., they are not taxable on federal income tax and, potentially, state income tax. This makes them attractive to investors, especially those in high tax brackets, providing a means of generating tax-free income. Consequently, understanding the role and implications of exempt-interest dividends could significantly impact investment decisions and financial planning strategies.


Exempt-Interest Dividends mainly serve to pass on the waiver on tax liabilities that relate to interest incomes from municipal bonds to investors or shareholders. Municipal bonds typically are exempt from federal taxes and potentially state and local taxes as well, a characteristic that is very appealing to many investors, particularly those in higher-income tax brackets. When mutual funds or investment companies invest in these types of securities, they accrue interest that is free from certain taxation – this is termed as exempt interest. By distributing these gains to shareholders in the form of exempt interest dividends, the tax advantages of the original municipal bond investments are conferred to the fund’s shareholders. This type of dividend functions as a conduit by which shareholders can receive the tax benefits attached to municipal bonds without having to purchase these bonds directly. It primarily helps mutual or investment funds to attract investors by exploiting the tax-efficient nature of certain types of income. For the investor, it’s a strategic way to evade certain tax liabilities without having to concern oneself with managing individual securities. Investors not only appreciate the diversified investment portfolio that these types of funds provide but also the added benefit of such tax exemption characteristic of the exempt-interest dividends.


Exempt-interest dividends are dividends paid out of the income earned by a mutual fund on tax-exempt securities, such as municipal bonds. Here are three real-world examples to illustrate:1. Exempt-Interest Dividend from Municipal Bond Funds: One of the most common examples of exempt-interest dividends comes from mutual funds that invest in municipal bonds. These bonds are issued by local and state governments and they are tax-exempt. For instance, Vanguard’s Tax-Exempt Bond Index Fund (VTEB) invests in a variety of municipal bonds. The dividends earned by investors from this fund can be considered exempt-interest dividends.2. Money Market Mutual Funds: Another example could be the Fidelity® Municipal Money Market (FTEXX), which invests in short-term, high-quality municipal securities whose income is generally exempt from federal income taxes. Here, investors receive a share of the tax-exempt income earned by a money market mutual fund in the form of exempt-interest dividends.3. Exempt-Interest Dividends from Tax-Advantaged ETFs: Certain tax-advantaged ETFs can also generate exempt-interest dividends for their investors. For example, the iShares National Muni Bond ETF (MUB) is an exchange-traded fund that focuses on investment-grade municipal bonds. The dividends distributed by this ETF are often exempt from federal income taxes, thus qualifying as exempt-interest dividends.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an Exempt-Interest Dividend?

An Exempt-Interest Dividend is a dividend that is paid to shareholders of a mutual fund that is gotten from tax-exempt interest income. Essentially it’s income from investments that are exempt from federal income tax.

From where do Exempt-Interest Dividends come?

Exempt-Interest Dividends are generally derived from tax-exempt municipal bonds held by mutual funds.

Are Exempt-Interest Dividends tax-free?

Yes, Exempt-Interest Dividends avoid federal taxes. However, they may not be exempt from state and local taxes, which depends on the specific tax laws of your locality or state.

How are Exempt-Interest Dividends reported?

If you receive $10 or more in Exempt-Interest Dividends in a year, the fund company will report it to the IRS and send you a Form 1099-DIV.

Are there potential Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) implications with Exempt-Interest Dividends?

Yes, certain exempt-interest dividends may trigger the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The mutual fund company will specify this in the 1099-DIV form they send you.

Do shareholders have to do anything special to qualify for Exempt-Interest Dividends?

No. As long as you hold shares in a mutual fund that invests in tax-exempt securities, you may receive Exempt-Interest Dividends.

How often are Exempt-Interest Dividends paid out?

Dividends are usually paid out on a regular basis such as monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually. The specific frequency depends on the policy of the specific mutual fund.

How are Exempt-Interest Dividends shown on a shareholder’s year-end tax form?

Exempt-Interest Dividends are shown in Box 10 of the Form 1099-DIV.

Does my state of residence impact the tax status of Exempt-Interest Dividends?

Though exempt at the federal level, depending upon your state’s tax law, Exempt-Interest Dividends may be subject to state and local taxes. You should consult a tax advisor to understand your specific tax situation.

Related Finance Terms

  • Exempt-Interest Dividend: A distribution from a mutual fund or other regulated investment company that is not subject to federal income tax.
  • Municipal Bonds: These are bonds issued by local governments, the interest earned on these bonds is usually exempt from federal income taxes, which would be part of an exempt-interest dividend if held in a fund.
  • Regulated Investment Company (RIC): A broad term relating to the investment structure that allows the production of exempt-interest dividends, such as mutual funds or real estate investment trusts.
  • Distribution: The payment of dividends or capital gains that are returned to investors from mutual funds or other RIC.
  • Tax Exemption: A financial exclusion that lowers a taxpayer’s taxable income, which would result from receiving an exempt-interest dividend.

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