- Are Business Credit Card Rewards Taxable?
- Are business credit card rewards taxable?
- The difference between awards and rewards
- How to treat business expenses purchased with your rewards credit card
- How to best use your business credit card rewards
- Sign up for a business credit card that earns flexible travel rewards
- Earn cash back to spend however you want
- Earn hotel or airline rewards
- Are Credit Card Rewards Taxable?
- Do Rewards Count as Income?
- Travel & Gifts
- Credit Card Rewards Taxes
- Business Credit Cards
- Tax Planning for Credit Card Rewards
- More Tax Questions?
- Are Credit Card Rewards Classified as Taxable Income? – TaxAct Blog
- What has the IRS previously said about this?
- Some issuers may now be taking a different stance
- How are consumers responding?
- More to explore:
- Are my credit card rewards taxable?
- Cash back, points and miles
- Sign-up bonuses and other awards
- Are business credit card rewards taxable?
- Bottom line
- Court Rules Some Credit Card Rewards Are Taxable
- Why credit card rewards usually aren’t taxable
- Couple gets taxed for 0K+ in credit card rewards
- My take on this case
- Points and Miles Aren’t Usually Taxed, But Some Rewards Might Be
- Rewards Earned from Credit Cards
- “Refer-a-Friend” Bonuses
- Bank Account Signup Bonuses
- Miles Earned from Traveling
- Bottom Line
Are Business Credit Card Rewards Taxable?
Signing up for a business credit card can be smart since a dedicated business card can help you keep personal and business expenses separate. Not only that, but business credit cards come with an array of benefits ranging from consumer protections to cash back and travel rewards for each dollar you spend.
Still, it’s easy to get confused about the rewards you earn with a business credit card and how they’re treated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You may even be wondering, “Are my business credit card rewards taxable?”
In plain language, no, your business credit card rewards are not considered income and, therefore, are not taxable. Instead, credit card rewards are considered a rebate on the items you bought with your credit card.
If you purchase a product and then submit the manufacturers’ rebate form to receive a check, that money is also not taxable. Similarly, if you use an app such as Ibotta to earn cash rebates on your purchases, this is also not taxable income.
So, rest easy. Whether you receive your credit card rewards in the form of cash back, a statement credit, a gift card or a travel credit, you won’t pay taxes on those rewards.
Are business credit card rewards taxable?
It’s nice to know cash back earned with a rewards credit card for business won’t be taxed if you earned those rewards a percentage of your spending. Fortunately, this general rule also applies to other types of rewards you earn with a business credit card as a rebate, including hotel points and airline miles.
According to the IRS, there are a number of issues related to the benefits from business credit cards, such as how and when income is valued and how to identify “personal use benefits attributable to business (or official) expenditures versus those attributable to personal expenditures,” for which there are no official guidelines. As a result, the IRS “has not pursued a tax enforcement program with respect to promotional benefits such as frequent flyer miles.”
The difference between awards and rewards
However, there are some instances where rewards could be taxed. For example, you do typically have to pay income taxes on bonuses earned for opening a new checking or savings account, including business bank accounts. That’s because these accounts don’t require you to spend money to receive a rebate.
And, for the most part, that’s the main difference between rewards that are taxable and those that are not. Credit cards require you to spend money to earn cash back or travel rewards, which are then returned to you as a rebate on your spending.
If you’re earning any kind of bonus from a financial institution and you don’t have to spend any money to receive it, on the other hand, you should expect to receive a 1099-INT tax form in the mail.
Note: This is the same form banks send you to report interest you’ve earned in a checking account or high-yield savings account.
How to treat business expenses purchased with your rewards credit card
For the most part, business expenses covered with your rewards credit card aren’t any different than if you had paid with a check or cash. However, there is one difference to be aware of if you use rewards to cover some of your business-related expenses.
Namely, if you redeem rewards to cover part of a business-related purchase, you can only deduct the amount you actually paid for the purchase as a business expense on your taxes. For example, if you redeem $200 in cash back to pay for part of a $600 flight to a business meeting, you could only deduct the $400 you paid out-of-pocket as a business expense.
Also, if you redeem rewards to cover a business-related purchase entirely, then you cannot deduct that expense on your taxes at all. Considering how valuable travel rewards can be, this is actually a fairly common occurrence.
It’s not too difficult to earn enough airline miles to cover a flight entirely with miles or to pay for several nights at a top tier hotel or resort for a business stay.
There’s a lot of value in redeeming your rewards for personal or business travel, however, so redeeming your points this way can still be a good deal.
How to best use your business credit card rewards
There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to redeem rewards you earn with a business credit card, and they’re truly yours to spend. If you’re a business owner wanting to maximize business-related tax write-offs, however, it can be smart to pay for business expenses with cash and use your rewards for personal splurges and travel for your family. For example, you could:
Sign up for a business credit card that earns flexible travel rewards
Then redeem your points for travel, gift cards and more.
The Ink Business Preferred Credit Card is an excellent option to consider since the rewards you earn can be redeemed for 1:1 transfers to airline and hotel partners World of Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy, United MileagePlus and Southwest Rapid Rewards.
You can also cash in points for travel through the Chase portal (and get 25 percent more toward travel when you redeem rewards), or for cash back, gift cards, merchandise or experiences.
Earn cash back to spend however you want
The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business is an excellent card for this effort since you earn 2 percent cash back for each dollar you spend and you can redeem rewards to cover any purchase made to your card.
Earn hotel or airline rewards
If you’re a business traveler who is constantly on the road or in the air, it can make sense to focus your loyalty with a specific airline or hotel program — and perhaps even both. You can earn more points for your spending and reach elite status faster with an airline credit card or hotel credit card made specifically for small businesses.
Are Credit Card Rewards Taxable?
Many lenders offer credit card rewards as an incentive to attract customers. These bonus goodies come in the form of cash, account credits, airline “miles”, and much more.
Previously, only the most exclusive credit cards offered rewards, but now almost every major card offers some form of bonus program.
Getting rewarded for spending is a nice perk, however, some consumers are starting to wonder about the tax impact of their rewards.
Image Credit: Simply Business, https://bit.ly/2CyoDPH
Do Rewards Count as Income?
The determining factor in establishing if credit card rewards are taxable is whether or not your rewards are considered income.
As you are probably aware, the IRS wants all income reported so it can be taxed accordingly. When it comes to credit card rewards, the income factor will depend on the type of reward you receive.
A cash-back reward may be viewed differently than a travel reward.
Click here to see official IRS guidance on credit card rewards.
If you receive a cash-back reward in the form of cash paid directly to you, this could be considered income, and therefore taxable. However, if you elect to take the cash-back in the form of an account credit it is generally considered a rebate and not considered income.
Travel & Gifts
Travel rewards and accumulated points you can use to purchase gifts are viewed as a rebate as well if you are spending your own money to earn them. This is viewed as simply getting a discount on your purchases.
However, if they come in the form of a huge sign-on bonus they may be considered income. Some credit card companies offer a massive bonus just for signing up.
In this case, if you receive the bonus without actually spending the money it could be viewed as income by the IRS.
When it comes to “income” earned from credit card rewards programs, one thing to consider is if you received a 1099 MISC. A 1099 MISC is issued whenever the payor pays more than $600 to the payee.
In this case, you receive a 1099 MISC for your credit card rewards, you must report the income. Issuers of 1099’s are also required to send a copy of the 1099 MISC to the IRS.
Failing to accurately report the income could raise a red flag with the IRS.
Credit Card Rewards Taxes
Cardholders generally receive rewards for personal purchases, so they’re treated as rebates unless you receive a cash bonus. The IRS generally doesn’t count personal credit card rewards as income. Most reward programs only offer 1% to 2% cash-back so, in most cases, they don’t amount to much anyway.
Business Credit Cards
On the other hand, business credit card rewards can affect your taxes. If you’re using your card for deductible purchase, cash rebates could affect your expense totals.
Rebates on deductible expenses are subtracted from your deduction expense because the credit card company gave you back the money.
As a result, claiming credit card rewards on deductible expenses could raise your taxable income.
For example, you attend a business conference and use 200 airline miles to discount your Without the discount, the tickets would cost $1,000, but after the rebate, you pay only $800.
However, you can only claim $800 as a deductible travel expense. Instead, it might be better to pay full price and use your miles to fund a personal trip.
That way, you get your rewards and there’s no impact on your deductions.
Tax Planning for Credit Card Rewards
If you have earned a lot of points using your credit cards over the tax year and want to minimize your tax liability, it is important to pay attention to the fine print.
Some credit cards offer cash bonuses as incentives, and these could qualify these as income. However, if you have to spend money to earn the bonus, it’s typically viewed as a rebate.
Rebates don’t count as income so they don’t usually affect your tax profile.
However, rebates can count against your deductions. If you want to maximize deductions, you should use your rebates wisely. If you take your rebates for a tax-deductible purchase, they will reduce your overall deduction totals.
Make sure you’re taking your rebates in a way that doesn’t have a negative impact on your tax profile.
Timing purchases and rebates strategically can help lower your tax liabilities, but you should speak to a tax advisor for more detailed advice.
More Tax Questions?
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Are Credit Card Rewards Classified as Taxable Income? – TaxAct Blog
What’s considered taxable income?
Just about anything you can think of, according to this list on the IRS website.
However one thing you will find notably absent are credit card rewards. At least for now, but will that soon change?
The reason credit card rewards have typically not been counted as taxable income is because they are viewed as a rebate.
For example, if you spend $100 with a card that gives 1% cash back, the $1 you receive is merely a rebate on the money you spent.
That’s the same reason why manufacturer mail-in-rebates aren’t counted as taxable income, either.
Both scenarios are usually viewed as price adjustments, not income or free money.
What has the IRS previously said about this?
Not much has been officially published about the tax treatment of credit card rewards. Perhaps the closest thing was a private letter ruling (here is the PDF) from 2012 which stated:
…the IRS will not assert that any taxpayer has understated his federal tax liability by reason of the receipt or personal use of frequent flyer miles or other in-kind promotional benefits attributable to the taxpayer’s business or official travel.
You may breathe a sigh of relief reading that, but the paragraph underneath it could be cause for concern:
This relief does not apply to travel or other promotional benefits that are converted to cash, to compensation that is paid in the form of travel or other promotional benefits, or in other circumstances where these benefits are used for tax avoidance purposes.
Does that mean converting miles to cash back might create a tax liability?
While the aforementioned letter was only applicable to one private tax situation, these types of rulings are generally considered to be a clue as to what the IRS is thinking.
Whatever the case, that little snippet of a clue is over ten years old. Since then a lot has changed in the credit card world.
Most notably, the signup bonuses have gotten significantly larger.
Back then, you would be lucky to get $50 and now, it’s possible to score up to $500 or more.
There have even been some targeted mail offers for the American Express Gold which gave 50,000 points (if converted to miles, that possibly would yield a value of over a thousand dollars).
The 5% cash back cards Discover It and Chase Freedom didn’t exist back then, either.
With more at stake, is there now more incentive to tax?
Some issuers may now be taking a different stance
In 2013, Bank of America began including this statement in the fine print on some of their credit card applications:
The value of this reward may constitute taxable income to you. You may be issued an Internal Revenue Service Form 1099 (or other appropriate form) to you that reflects the value of such reward. Please consult your tax advisor, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide tax advice.
The vagueness of saying “you may be issued” a 1099 – without saying under what circumstances – has led to a great deal of speculation on CreditCardForum.
Some members theorize they may only issue 1099’s if the rewards redeemed during the year are $600 or more in value (since a 1099 is required for prizes and awards of $600 or greater).
However with Bank of America remaining mum on the subject – and their phone reps not knowing the answer – it looks we will just have to wait and find out.
But if they’re handling it the same way as Citi’s ThankYou Rewards program (which most Citi credit cards participate in) then the $600 threshold will be the trigger. Per Citi’s website:
Value of rewards from redeemed points may be reported to the IRS as miscellaneous income to the ThankYou Member on Form 1099-MISC in the year redeemed, if the value of the rewards is $600 or greater or the value of the rewards plus other taxable miscellaneous income awards received from Citibank, N.A., is in the aggregate $600 or greater for a calendar year, as required by applicable law. ThankYou Member is responsible for any taxes.
Meanwhile with travel rewards, the value isn’t as clear cut.
As we all know, due to blackout dates and other restrictions, the actual value you get from your frequent flyer miles can vary greatly, depending on how and when you redeem them.
Although it didn’t involve credit cards, in 2011 Citibank ran a promotion for new bank accounts. A limited number of customers received a bonus of 25,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles.
Much to their surprise, at the end of the year they received 1099’s which assigned a $600 cash value to the bonus (that’s almost 2.5 cents per mile).
At least two customers have sued Citibank for this, alleging this information was not disclosed upfront and that the assigned value per mile was inflated.
One can only imagine how messy it will get if the whole industry starts treating miles as taxable income.
How are consumers responding?
Since Bank of America and Citi have added that language, a number of posters on CreditCardForum and other forums have stated they will no longer be applying for their cards.
Instead they will be opting for American Express, Capital One, Discover, and other issuers who don’t have that 1099 language, or at least not yet.
Others who already have Bank of America and Citi cards have mentioned they will stop using their accounts in a given year before the rewards tally hits $600.
But something to keep in mind is that taxpayers are required to declare all income, even that which is below $600.
Therefore if these rewards are indeed taxable income, it will still need to be declared, even if a 1099 form isn’t provided.
Do your credit cards state any of the above language? Will you continue to use it? Would love to hear your thoughts below in the comments.
Photo credit: Alex E. Proimos via photopin cc
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More to explore:
Are my credit card rewards taxable?
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As a rewards credit card holder, you may be wondering if the cash back, miles or points you earned over the last year are considered taxable income.
The IRS taxable and nontaxable income list does not directly address credit card rewards. However, the experts say that the answer depends on the type of rewards you’re collecting, as well as the type of credit card you have.
Cash back, points and miles
For regular, ongoing rewards cash back or travel points, you’ll have to spend money in order to get the rewards. So you’re not really getting “free” money you would with a cash prize or bonus, which are taxable.
“Credit card rewards for individuals are usually not taxable,” says Susan Allen, senior manager for tax practice and ethics at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
“The logic is that the reward is almost using a coupon or getting a discount on the purchase,” Allen says, so by getting cash back, “it’s really reducing the purchase price.” The same logic applies to travel points and miles.
Sign-up bonuses and other awards
Usually, in order to receive a sign-up bonus, you’ll have to spend a certain amount on the card within a specified timeframe. In this case, the reward is still more a rebate than a prize or award, making it nontaxable.
The exception is when you receive a bonus or gift without having to spend any money, a sum of cash back just for opening an account or a cash bonus for referring a friend.
In these cases, the reward is more a prize or award, which are taxable. If the total of the award amount exceeds $600, you will probably receive a Form 1099-MISC from your credit card company, in which case you’ll need to include that amount on your tax return.
See related: How to get the most a rewards credit card
Are business credit card rewards taxable?
It’s a different story if you have a business credit card and you use your rewards, such as cash back or a gift card, to help offset your business expenses. While the rewards themselves aren’t taxable, they can reduce your deductible expenses, increasing your tax burden.
Meredith Tucker, a principal at the CPA and advisory firm Kaufman Rossin, cites the example of a business owner who charges $1,000 on their credit card for business travel and uses $200 they earned in cash back to reduce their out-of-pocket cost to $800. In that case, they can only write $800 off their taxes.
And if you use only your rewards to cover the price of a purchase, you won’t be able to deduct the cost of the item from your business expenses, Tucker says.
As a business owner, you may prefer to use rewards to cover the cost of an item. That way you “don’t have to pay for something, rather than just get a deduction for it,” she says.
Along with tracking your business expenses, business owners need to keep track of how they are using business credit card rewards to offset their business expenses when tax time rolls around.
You also need to pay attention if you open up a new credit card and receive a cash bonus for signing up (rather than meeting a minimum spend), or get cash for referring a friend for a credit card. That extra cash you scored could be considered as taxable income.
“Some credit card issuers may report the bonus as income on (IRS) Form-1099,” which reports miscellaneous income, Allen says. “You would need to report that income on your tax return.”
See related: Tax season guide to small business expense deductions
- Most credit card rewards are considered rebates, making them nontaxable.
- Awards and sign-up bonuses that require no spending are taxable.
- Business credit card holders should deduct the value of credit card rewards from their business expenses.
The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.
Court Rules Some Credit Card Rewards Are Taxable
Historically credit card rewards haven’t been taxable. However, extreme greed by a couple caught the attention of the IRS, and has set an interesting precedent.
Why credit card rewards usually aren’t taxable
Generally speaking credit card rewards aren’t taxable. The reason is because the IRS views these rewards as being rebates on purchases you’re making. That’s because you’re earning these rewards for spending money on products, so these rewards are considered a discount on your purchase, rather than income.
As it’s described more legally:
“Generally, when a payment is made by a seller to a customer as an inducement to purchase property, the payment does not constitute income but instead is treated as a purchase price adjustment to the basis of the property.”
Couple gets taxed for $300K+ in credit card rewards
Here’s an interesting tax court ruling. In 2013 and 2014 a couple did a significant amount of manufactured spending on the Blue Cash from American Express Card — we’re talking about well over $6 million worth of spending.
I don’t talk about manufactured spending much here because it’s not something that I do or find particularly enjoyable. But this couple’s example is probably a pretty good representation of how this concept works:
- The couple had credit cards offering 5% cash back in certain spending categories
- The couple then purchased Visa gift cards with the credit cards (we’re talking about $6+ million worth of these)
- Then the couple converted the gift cards into money orders
- The couple then profited off of the exchange, earning 5% cash back minus some fees
The couple generated well over $300,000 in rewards in two years, though unfortunately for them, the amount of spending caught the attention of the IRS. The IRS has demanded that the couple recognize an additional $312K+ worth of income — we’re talking about $35,665 in 2013, and $276,381 in 2014.
The argument here is that in this case these purchases can’t be viewed as a purchase price adjustment:
“In this case, however, petitioners did not purchase goods or property to which a basis adjustment may apply.
Rather, they purchased cash equivalents, in the form of Visa gift cards, Reloads for the Green Dot card, and money orders, to which no such adjustment can apply.
As a result, the Reward Dollars paid to petitioners as statement credits for the charges relating to cash equivalents are an accession to wealth and income to petitioners.”
The court made an interesting distinction here, and decided that:
- Rewards related to Visa gift card purchases wouldn’t be considered income
- Rewards related to direct purchases of money orders and reloadable gift cards would be considered income
As the ruling goes on to explain:
“This case rests squarely in the legal chasm between the basic principle to broadly define income and respondent’s own policy.
Petitioners’ aggressive efforts to generate Reward Dollars have created a dilemma for respondent which is largely the result of the vagueness of IRS credit card reward policy. Petitioners clearly acquired economic benefits by cleverly and relentlessly manipulating the Rewards Program.
Their actions never offended American Express and had Mr. Anikeev not been so successful in his efforts he ly would have been ignored by the IRS.
However, the scale of his success in acquiring rewards makes this case an extreme test of the longstanding nontaxability of credit card reward programs. To avoid offending his own longstanding policy respondent seeks to apply the cash equivalence concept. As we will explain herein we do not find it is a good fit.”
My take on this case
I’m neither a lawyer nor a tax professional, but rather just someone who s points.
Points and Miles Aren’t Usually Taxed, But Some Rewards Might Be
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I haven’t stopped accidentally writing “2020” behind the date yet and it’s already time to start preparing for tax season. Unfortunately for those of us who to procrastinate, we’re going to have a shorter period to file tax returns this year than we did in 2020.
Last year, because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the IRS extended tax deadlines to July, but so far it looks the deadline for filing tax returns is going back to its normal date of April 15.
To make matters worse, the IRS won’t begin to accept returns until February 12 because of last-minute changes Congress made to the tax law.
This means it’s more important than ever to get ready for tax time early. An important part of doing so is figuring out how much income was earned during the year.
Those rolling in points and miles might ask: What exactly counts as income? For example, do we have to report cash back we earn from a credit card? What about frequent flier miles, or bank rewards points?
There’s good news here: In many cases, rewards earned from using a credit card don’t need to be reported to the IRS and there’s no need to pay taxes on them. However, there are some cases where taxes must be paid on points earned. If you have questions about your specific situation and whether or not rewards you have earned are taxable, consult your tax professional.
Rewards Earned from Credit Cards
In many cases, there’s no need to pay taxes on miles, points or cash back earned from a credit card—regardless of whether it’s a bonus for opening a new account or rewards for everyday spending.
That’s because purchases must be made to earn those rewards—and as a result, the IRS considers them a rebate or a discount rather than income.
So just we don’t have to pay taxes on the value of a coupon code, we don’t have to pay taxes on rewards we earn in exchange for buying something.
This also applies to welcome bonuses received for opening a new credit card, since generally customers have to spend a certain amount of money or make a certain number of transactions before receiving the bonus.
For those running a small business, however, credit card rewards may have tax implications.
If I buy something for my business and deduct it on my taxes, or sell it later, the dollar amount I need to use for calculating my business’ deduction or profit should be the price I actually paid after discounts and rebates—including credit card rewards earned on the purchase.
(This would also apply to items paid for with rewards points.) So while my business is still not paying tax on the rewards themselves, I may still pay a bit more because I can’t deduct the full value of the item—only the net cost.
Additionally, a new U.S.
Tax Court ruling states that credit card rewards can sometimes be taxed—specifically in cases where the cardholder set out to earn rewards by purchasing cash equivalents prepaid debit card reloads and money orders.
This isn’t ly to affect anyone making an occasional cash equivalent purchase—the couple in question had redeemed over $300,000 in cash back rewards earned by spending over $6 million on their credit cards over the course of two years.
If a bank or credit card offers rewards points or a cash bonus in exchange for referring other people who open a new account, taxes must be paid on the rewards earned from doing so.
That’s because these are issued in exchange for performing a service—helping the bank get a new customer or sell a new product.
These bonuses are treated as income and depending on the amount earned, referring customers may receive a 1099 “miscellaneous income” tax form from the institution. However, customers are required to report the income even if they don’t receive a form.
If the bonus was in the form of points, they are generally valued at 1 cent each—If I received 50,000 points during the year for referring new customers, I’d report $500 in income.
Bank Account Signup Bonuses
Many banks offer incentives for signing up for a new account—usually this comes in the form of cash deposited into an account, but some banks also offer rewards points and frequent flier miles to new account holders.
Regardless, receipts of this type will be considered interest income for a bank account, and customers should receive a 1099-INT form showing the value received.
As with referral bonuses, rewards points and airline miles are generally valued at 1 cent each for this purpose.
Miles Earned from Traveling
Miles, points and other rewards earned from traveling are almost never taxable.
If rewards are earned for personal travel, they’re treated a rebate (just credit card rewards); while miles earned from business or government travel could theoretically be treated as income, the IRS issued guidance all the way back in 2002 saying essentially that there are so many details that would have to be figured out that it’s not worth their time, and promising not to go after anyone because they didn’t report their frequent flier miles as income. (While the IRS could change their position on this, it’s been this way for nearly 20 years, and any changes would only apply to future years.)
In most cases, when earning rewards for spending money—with a credit card, for example, or on a plane ticket or hotel room—there’s no need to worry about paying taxes on them, since they’re treated as a rebate or discount on purchases.
Earning rewards or cash for something else though, opening a new bank account or referring a new customer—those are considered taxable income—and remember that while the bank should send a tax form in most cases, we’re all required to report the income on our taxes whether or not a form is received.