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What is the dividends received deduction?

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Dividends Received Deduction

The dividends received deduction (DRD) is a tax deduction that C corporations can receive on the dividends distributed to them by other companies whose stock they have ownership rights to. As a C corporations’ interest in a company that is distributing dividends increases above certain percentage thresholds, the amount of the dividends received deduction that the corporation can take will also increase.

Why Are Dividends Received Deductions a Big Deal for C Corporations?

Imagine a scenario where every dollar a corporation invests in another company’s stock not only potentially earns dividends but also offers tax savings. That’s the DRD in a nutshell! Specifically tailored for C corporations, this deduction allows them to deduct a portion of the dividends they receive from their investments in other companies. The rationale? To encourage companies to keep their investment dollars within U.S. borders, fostering a stronger, more interconnected domestic economy.

How Dividends Received Deductions Work:

For small business investment companies and corporations with strong ties (affiliates), the IRS offers a potent financial incentive: the ability to deduct 100% of dividends received from other taxable domestic corporations. What defines an affiliate, you ask? It’s all about control—owning at least 80% of the voting power of another corporation’s stock opens the door to this lucrative deduction.

The Unaffiliated Territory

On the flip side, if your corporation holds less than 20% ownership in another company, it’s considered unaffiliated or unrelated. This distinction is crucial, as the percentage of ownership can significantly impact your deductible amounts under various IRS rules.


However, not all dividends qualify for such generous treatment. Here are some critical exceptions you need to keep an eye on:

  • Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs): Dividends from REITs are off the table for deductions.
  • Tax-Exempt Organizations: Any corporation that is tax-exempt under Section 501 or 521 for the tax year in question or the year before isn’t eligible.
  • Short-Term Holdings: If you’ve held the stock for less than 46 days during the 91 days surrounding its ex-dividend date, you can’t claim deductions on those dividends. The rule extends to 91 days for preferred stock if held less than 91 days within a 181-day window when dividends span over 360 days.
  • Tied-Up Finances: Watch out if you’re obligated to make payments related to substantially similar or related property—this could also disqualify you from deductions.

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Deduction Caps Based on Ownership

The amount you can deduct from the dividends received deduction depends significantly on your ownership stake in the dividend-paying corporation:

  • Less than 20% Ownership: You’re entitled to deduct up to 50% of your taxable income.
  • 20% to less than 80% Ownership: The deduction cap rises to 65% of your taxable income.
  • 80% or More Ownership: In this case, you can deduct 100% of the dividends received, offering the most substantial tax relief.
Dividend received deduction percentage limitations


Dividends received deduction example

Eligibility for Deductions

First things first, C corporations can claim a deduction for charitable contributions, whether in cash or other property types, but only if the contributions are made to qualified organizations. However, it’s important to note that if any net earnings from the charity benefit a private shareholder, the corporation cannot claim a deduction. This ensures that the contributions truly serve public or charitable purposes without indirect personal gains.

Image of dividends received deductions and the impact from donating to a charity

Further Limitations on DRD Deductions

C corporations can deduct up to 10% of their taxable income in charitable donations each year. But how is this taxable income calculated? It excludes several key figures:

1) The charitable contribution deduction itself.

2) Dividends received deductions.

3) Any net operating loss or capital loss carrybacks.

4) Deductions allowed under Section 249, such as premiums on bond repurchases.

These exclusions help maintain the focus on the corporation’s operational profitability when assessing its capacity for charitable giving.

Carryforward of Excess Contributions

What happens if a corporation is particularly generous in one year and its donations exceed the 10% limit? The good news is that excess contributions aren’t lost. They can be carried forward for up to five years, allowing corporations to plan their charitable activities without losing the financial benefits of their goodwill.

Special Rules for Property Contributions

Donating property rather than cash can complicate things a bit. If a C corporation donates property, it must adjust the contribution amount by:

1) The ordinary income or short-term capital gains that would result if the property were sold at its fair market value (FMV).

2) Long-term capital gains, under certain conditions like donating tangible personal property used outside the charity’s main function, or property to certain private foundations.

These adjustments ensure that the deduction accurately reflects the economic benefit transferred to the charity, minus any potential income the property might have generated.

Enhanced Deductions for Certain Contributions

In some cases, C corporations can claim an even more favorable deduction formula:

1) The basis of the donated inventory or property plus half of the appreciation gain if the item was sold at FMV on the date of the donation.

2) Or, up to two times the basis of the donated inventory or property.

This enhanced deduction applies to contributions that meet specific criteria, such as inventory given for the care of the ill, needy, or infants, scientific equipment made by the corporation, or computer technology donated to educational organizations for educational purposes within the U.S.

Why It Matters

For C corporations, engaging in charitable activities not only supports the community but also provides substantial fiscal benefits. By navigating the nuances of the tax code regarding charitable contributions, corporations can effectively align their philanthropic strategies with their financial goals, ensuring that every dollar donated not only helps the cause but also brings optimal tax relief.

In essence, charitable contributions offer a win-win for C corporations—bolstering their community presence while optimizing their tax positions.

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