Kiddie Tax Explanation and Rules for 2024

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Kathryn Flynn

By Kathryn Flynn

February 15, 2024

The “Kiddie Tax” is a law that stipulates how investment and unearned income are treated for minors or full-time college students under the age of 24. Before the Kiddie Tax, parents could save on taxes by putting investment accounts in a child’s name. Parents would gift stocks and other assets to their children, and income earned on the assets would be taxed at the child’s (lower) income tax rate, instead of the parent’s (higher) income tax rate. The Kiddie Tax closed this loophole by taxing children’s passive income at higher rates.

History of the Kiddie Tax

The Kiddie Tax was created as part of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 to prevent parents from shifting income-producing assets into the child’s name to take advantage of the child’s lower tax rate. Under the Kiddie Tax, all unearned income above a certain threshold is taxed at the parent’s marginal income tax rate instead of the child’s tax rate.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 temporarily changed the rules effective with the 2018 tax year, substituting the tax rates that apply to trusts and estates for the parent’s tax rate, making the Kiddie Tax much more expensive for some families. This caused an uproar because of the impact on Gold Star families and scholarships.

In response to the backlash, Congress included a provision in the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (SECURE Act) to retroactively revert the Kiddie Tax to the old rules.

For the 2023 tax year, the first $1,250 of a child’s unearned income qualifies for the standard deduction, the next $1,250 is taxed at the child’s income tax rate, and unearned income above $2,500 is taxed at the parent’s marginal income tax rate. 

Who Does the Kiddie Tax Apply To?

The Kiddie Tax applies to dependent children who are younger than 19 years old, or who are full-time students who are between the ages of 19 and 23. An exception to the Kiddie Tax is a child with earned income totaling more than half the cost of their support. Another exception is for children who file tax returns as married filing jointly. Income from wages, salary, tips or self-employment is not subject to the Kiddie Tax. 

A child’s unearned income may include:

  • Taxable interest
  • Dividends
  • Capital gains
  • Taxable scholarships
  • Income produced by gifts from grandparents
  • Income produced by custodial accounts under the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA)

How to Calculate the Kiddie Tax for Tax Year 2023 (Filed in 2024)

To calculate the Kiddie Tax, first determine the child’s taxable income:

Child’s Net Earned Income + Child’s Net Unearned Income – Child’s Standard Deduction = Child’s Taxable Income

The first $1,250 of a child’s unearned income is tax-free, and the next $1,250 is subject to the child’s tax rate. Any additional earnings above $2,500 are taxed at the child’s parents’ marginal tax rate. 

For this year, a child’s standard deduction amount is the greater of $1,250, or the sum of $400 plus the child’s earned income, if the child can be claimed as a dependent. Otherwise, the standard deduction for a single filer is $13,850.

For example, if a dependent child has no earned income and $3,500 of unearned income, $1,000 would be subject to the Kiddie Tax and is taxed at their parent’s marginal federal income tax rate. 

2023 Federal Income Tax Brackets 

Tax Rate
Married Filing Jointly
Head of Household
10%
0 to $22,000
0 to $15,700
12%
$20,001 to $89,450
$15,701 to $59,850
22%
$89,451 to $190,750
$59,851 to $95,350
24%
$190,751 to $364,200
$95,351 to $182,100
32%
$364,201 to $462,500
$182,101 to $231,250
35%
$462,501 to $693,750
$231,251 to $578,100
37%
Above $693,750
Above $578,100

Families who have unearned income that is subject to the Kiddie Tax must file IRS Form 8615 with their federal tax return. A separate tax return must be filed for children who have unearned income that is greater than $13,850 or any amount of earned income. If a child’s unearned income is less than $13,850 and greater than $1,250, the child’s unearned income can be included on their parent’s income tax return. 

Are 529 Plan Earnings Subject to the Kiddie Tax?

Interest earned on 529 plans and custodial 529 plan accounts is not subject to the Kiddie Tax. 529 plans are investment accounts designed to help individuals save for college. Contributions are made with after-tax dollars, and any interest earned on the investment grows tax-deferred. Distributions are completely tax-free when the funds are used to pay for qualified higher education expenses.

Investment earnings in other custodial accounts, however, are subject to the Kiddie Tax. Custodial accounts used for college savings may be converted to custodial 529 plan accounts to take advantage of the tax benefits. Savings held in a custodial 529 plan account also have less of an impact on a student’s need-based financial aid eligibility than traditional custodial accounts.

Kiddie Tax Capital Gains

When someone receives a profit, or increase, from an investment then it is considered to be a capital gain. Any capital gain from an investment can be taxed as either a short-term or long-term capital gain.

When a minor, or full-time college student under the age of 24, receives investment income then it must be reported. Either the child can report the capital gains on their own tax return or the gains can be reported on their parent’s return.

The Bottom Line

The kiddie tax prevents a potential tax loophole that parents used to be able to take advantage of by putting investments in their child’s name. Once minors receive investment income, now, they will be taxed accordingly. The tax can apply to either their own individual return of the return of their parent. Income from a 529 plan is not taxed with the kiddie tax.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When does the kiddie tax apply for the 2023 tax year?

The kiddie tax applies once the dependent’s unearned income surpasses the $2,500. Their own marginal tax rate will apply for unearned income between $1,250 and $2,500. It is something that must be accounted for with income from investments, except for income that comes from 529 plans. That money can still be used for college without additional tax penalties.

What date is the cutoff for the age under the kiddie tax?

Investments of minors and full-time college students will be applied to individuals based on their age on December 31st of the considered tax year. For example, if you’re 23 on December 31st, 2022 then the kiddie tax can apply to you if you’re a full-time college student.

How can I avoid the kiddie tax?

The kiddie tax must be applied if the requirements are met with investment income. The only way to avoid the tax is by investing in tax-free investments, such as a 529 plan.

A good place to start:

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