Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Turning Your Tax Refund to a Series I Savings Bond

Are you anticipating a tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service? You can choose to use that money to purchase U.S. savings bonds. I usually try not to have refunds since I do not like the government to use my money, but sometimes my estimates can be wrong.

For some the savings bonds idea may be a good idea. If even a small percentage elect to receive bonds instead of cash, then the United States government will have created a new way of helping to fund its deficits. Is this a novel way of helping people save or a way of funding the US deficit?

Currently, an I Bond provides a higher return than other low-risk investments, Bonds purchased between November 2009 and April 2010 pay an annualized earnings rate of 3.36%, vs. an average rate of 1.5% for a one-year certificate of deposit and 1.03% for a money market fund. The earnings rate for I bonds is a combination of the fixed rate and the inflation rate. The fixed rate is critical because it stays with the bond for its 30-year life. The current bond has a fixed rate of 0.3%. That means you'll get just 30 basis points above inflation on an annual basis as long as you own the bond. The adjustable inflation component changes every May and November. For more information on rate information visit the Treasury Department's Website.

Whatever you may decide, here is some information you may find useful about using your federal refund to purchase savings bonds.

1. You may use a portion of your refund to purchase up to $5,000 in U.S. Series I Savings Bonds.

2. The total amount of saving bonds purchased must be a multiple of $50. Additional refund dollars over the specified amount must be deposited into another financial account – such as a checking or savings account.

3. The bonds will be issued in your name. For married taxpayers filing a joint return, the bonds will be issued in the names of both spouses.

4. You will receive the U.S. savings bonds in the mail.

5. You normally select this option by filing Form 8888, Direct Deposit of Refund to More Than One Account.

6. You must hold an I bond for 12 months before cashing, except in cases of certain emergencies. If you cash before five years, you'll forfeit the last three months' accumulated interest.

7. Savings bond interest is exempt from state and local income tax. Savings bond interest is subject to federal income tax; however, taxation can be deferred until redemption, final maturity, or other taxable disposition, whichever occurs first. You also have the option of claiming interest annually for federal income tax purposes.

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