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Tax Implications on Promissory Notes


Promissory notes are fundamental tools. As they can represent significant financial obligations or assets, any individual or entity involved needs to comprehend their tax implications. This article studies the complexities of promissory notes. We will explore the requirements for filing, reporting and the specific tax implications involved. The following insights from Dimov Tax & CPA Services will ensure compliance with relevant tax laws while optimizing fiscal strategies whether you are a lender, borrower or a financial intermediary.

Promissory Note

A promissory note is a written promise to pay a specified sum of money to a specified person at a predetermined time or on demand. These documents are used in both personal and business finance. Tax implications of promissory notes can arise in various forms, depending on whether you are the issuer, payee or holder of the note.

In the United States, the Internal Revenue Service governs the taxation aspects of promissory notes. Specifically, the interest income received from a promissory note is taxable and should be reported, whereas the principal amount usually does not have tax implications unless the note is forgiven or canceled.


In the United States, the tax implications of promissory notes are primarily regulated under the Internal Revenue Code. They are multifaceted and depend on the roles of the parties involved (i.e., lender or borrower) and the specific terms of the note. Key aspects of the tax treatment of promissory notes might be classified as below:

1. Interest Income

Under IRC Section 61, all income from whatever source derived, including interest received on promissory notes, is considered gross income and is taxable.

  • Lenders: Interest received from a promissory note is considered taxable income. Lenders must report this income on their tax returns. The IRS requires the interest income to be reported annually using Form 1099-INT if it exceeds $10 a year. This form is sent by the payee (lender) to the IRS and the payer (borrower).
  • Borrowers: Generally, the payment of interest on a promissory note is not taxable to the borrower. Yet, it often qualifies as a tax deductible expense, particularly in business contexts or qualified personal scenarios like mortgage interest deductions.

2. Original Issue Discount (OID)

The rules governing the taxation of OID are detailed in IRC Sections 1271 through 1275.

  • If the promissory note is issued at an original issue discount, the repayment amount is greater than the received amount. The OID is considered interest and must be amortized over the life of the note. 
  • This accrued interest is taxable to the lender and must be reported each year as it is earned, not just when the note matures or is paid.

3. Cancellation of Debt (COD)

In cases where a promissory note is forgiven, the cancellation of debt income is considered taxable income to the debtor unless specific exclusions apply (such as bankruptcy or insolvency). This is governed by IRC Section 108.


  • Borrowers: If a promissory note is forgiven or cancelled, the amount forgiven qualifies as income for the borrower. Under the IRS rules, this income is taxable unless specific exclusions apply, such as insolvency or bankruptcy. This situation requires filing a Form 1099-C (Cancellation of Debt) by the lender.

  • Lenders: The cancellation results in a loss if the loan’s basis is higher than the amount recovered (if any). This loss could be treated as a capital loss or a business loss, depending on the circumstances.

4. Transfer or Sale of the Note

  • If a promissory note is sold or transferred, the seller may need to recognize a capital gain or loss based on the difference between the sale price and the adjusted basis in the note.

  • This transaction must be reported on the tax return, and capital gains tax rules apply.

5. Gift Tax

If a promissory note is transferred as a gift, gift tax rules may apply, according to IRC Section 2501.

  • If a promissory note is gifted, gift tax implications may arise if the value of the note exceeds the annual gift tax exclusion amount ($16,000 for 2023). The giver may need to file a Form 709 (United States Gift Tax Return) if the amount of the note (plus any other gifts to the same recipient) exceeds the annual exclusion.

6. Estate Tax

  • Promissory notes held by a deceased person at the time of death can be included in the taxable estate. 
  • The value of the note, particularly if it is between private parties, must be assessed and included in the estate’s total value for estate tax purposes.

Given the complexities and various scenarios in which tax implications of promissory notes can arise, it is advisable for parties dealing with promissory notes to consult with tax professionals. Compliance with these regulations is has vital importance to avoid penalties and optimize tax outcomes.

Filing and Reporting

Tax responsibilities regarding promissory notes primarily rest with:

  • Issuers (borrowers) are typically not taxed on the receipt of the loan but may face tax implications if the note is forgiven.
  • Holders (lenders) must report interest received as income and may have additional reporting responsibilities if the note is sold or transferred.

Several key filings and reports are required for tax compliance in the U.S. These requirements ensure that both the interest income and any capital gains or losses are correctly documented with the Internal Revenue Service. Filing and reporting obligations may be classified as below: 

1. Interest Income Reporting

Form 1099-INT: Lenders who receive interest payments totaling more than $10 in a year must issue a Form 1099-INT to both the IRS and the borrower. This form reports the amount of interest income earned from the promissory note during the tax year.

Taxation: Interest received by the lender from a promissory note is taxable. This is the most common tax implication associated with promissory notes. The interest income must be reported on the lender’s tax return as ordinary income. This includes both stated interest and any accrued interest, such as in cases of Original Issue Discount (OID).

2. Original Issue Discount (OID) Reporting

Form 1099-OID: If a promissory note is issued at a discount (the note’s face value is greater than the price paid for it), the difference is considered OID, which is a form of interest. Lenders must issue a Form 1099-OID to report the amount of OID that accrues each year to the IRS and the borrower.

Taxation: This OID is recognized as interest income over the life of the note, even if no actual interest payments are made until maturity. The annual accrual of OID is taxed as interest income to the holder of the note.

3. Cancellation of Debt 

Form 1099-C: If a lender forgives or cancels the remaining balance of a promissory note, they must file Form 1099-C, COD, with the IRS. They should also provide a copy to the borrower. This form reports the amount of the forgiven debt, which may be considered taxable income to the borrower unless specific exclusions apply.

Taxation: COD income is taxable to the borrower unless certain exceptions apply, such as insolvency or certain bankruptcies. The lender must issue a Form 1099-C to the borrower, who must then include this amount in their taxable income.

4. Capital Gains or Losses

Schedule D (Form 1040): If a promissory note is sold or otherwise disposed of, the lender should report the transaction on Schedule D, which is used to report capital gains or losses. The difference between the sale price of the note and its adjusted basis (usually the purchase price plus any OID included in income) is the gain or loss.

Taxation: If a promissory note is sold by the lender for more than its purchase price or adjusted basis, the excess is treated as a capital gain. Similarly, if the note is sold for less, this may result in a capital loss. The tax treatment depends on whether the note was held as a personal investment or as part of a business operation, affecting whether the gain or loss is considered capital or ordinary.

5. Gift Tax Reporting

Form 709: The form reports the gift value of the note.

Taxation: If a promissory note is given as a gift, and the value of the note exceeds the annual exclusion for the gift tax, the giver must file Form 709, United States Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return. 

6. Estate Tax Inclusion

If the owner of a promissory note dies, the value of the note must be included in the estate for estate tax purposes. The executor of the estate is responsible for reporting the value of the note on the federal estate tax return if required.

Taxation: If the holder of a promissory note passes away while owning the note, the value of the note is included in their estate for estate tax purposes.

Important Steps on Fulfilling Obligations Related to Promissory Notes

The process for handling the tax implications of promissory notes includes several critical steps:

  1. Documentation: Maintaining comprehensive records of all promissory notes issued or held including terms, payments received and interest calculated is the primary step to be in line with the regulations.
  2. Interest Income: Interest income from promissory notes must be reported annually using IRS Form 1099-INT by the holder of the note.
  3. Dealing with Forgiveness: If a promissory note is forgiven, the forgiven amount might be considered income to the borrower and can be reported using IRS Form 1098.
  4. Transfer or Sale: Any gain realized from the sale or transfer of a promissory note must be reported as a capital gain or loss.

Dimov Tax & CPA Services offers a comprehensive suite of services tailored to the unique challenges presented by promissory notes. These services include:

  • Tax Planning and Compliance: We offer to ensure that all tax implications related to promissory notes are anticipated and managed efficiently.
  • Interest Calculation and Reporting:  We are ready to assist you with the calculation of interest and preparation of necessary tax forms such as 1099-INT.
  • Debt Forgiveness Consulting: Providing guidance when a promissory note is forgiven, including potential income recognition and tax mitigation strategies.
  • Audit Support and Representation: In the event of an IRS audit, professional representation can be provided to address any issues related to promissory notes.

Dimov Tax & CPA Services stands ready to assist with all aspects of your financial needs related to promissory notes. Individuals and businesses can ensure that they not only comply with applicable laws but also optimize their financial strategies related to these instruments. Understanding and managing the tax aspects of promissory notes can lead to significant financial benefits and minimize the risks. Trust in the guidance provided here and consider enlisting professional assistance to navigate the complexities of promissory notes taxation.

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