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Personal Loan Tax Implications

By
Ashley Altus, CFC
Ashley Altus is a personal finance writer who covered financial planning with a focus on money management and household finance for OppU. She is a Certified Financial Counselor through the National Association of Credit Counselors. Her work has appeared with O, the Oprah Magazine; Cosmopolitan Magazine; The Smart Wallet; and Float.Today.
Fact Checked by
Tamara Altman
Dr. Altman has over 25 years of experience in social science, public health, and market research, statistics, evaluation, and reporting. She has held positions with, and consulted for, many government, academic, nonprofit, and corporate organizations, including The Pew Charitable Trusts, the National Park Foundation, Stanford University, UCSF, UC Berkeley, and UCLA.
Read time: 5 min
Updated on March 1, 2022
For the majority of borrowers, personal loans won’t be taxable, but there are a few exceptions. Discover each of the exceptions here!

When tax season rolls around, it usually means collecting all your documentation related to income, expenses, and assets. Many different types of loans have tax implications, but what about personal loans?

Are personal loans considered income?

For the most part, personal loans aren’t considered taxable income and they’re not reported on federal income tax returns.

While personal loan funds bring an increase to your bank account balance and can be used similarly to money that you earn, they’re not the same. Income is money that a person earns, such as wages or investment earnings, while a personal loan is debt that the borrower repays.

Borrowers can acquire personal loans through credit unions, banks, and online lenders. Personal loans can be used to cover all different kinds of expenses, including home improvement, debt consolidation, and unexpected bills. They can be unsecured, relying primarily on a borrower’s credit history for approval, or secured, requiring borrowers to have collateral as a stipulation to borrow.

What happens if a personal loan lender cancels or forgives your loan?

While personal loans are considered debt and not taxable income, that can change if your lender cancels or forgives your debt.

If you fail to repay a loan and a lender forgives the remaining balance, it is likely considered cancellation of debt (COD) income. The forgiven balance of the loan can also be taxable if a creditor can’t collect the debt or gives up collecting it. For example, if a borrower took out a personal loan for $3,000, and failed to pay back $1,000, the balance due would qualify as taxable income.

“Personal loan forgiveness is almost always considered to be taxable income,” says Elizabeth Buffardi, CPA, CFP, president of Crescendo Financial Planners. Talk with a tax or legal representative to see if your discharged debt is considered taxable income.

There are a few expectations where the borrower wouldn’t have to pay taxes on the discharged debt.

1. Bankruptcy

Debts that are discharged during bankruptcy proceedings aren’t considered taxable. This can include Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to the IRS.

2. Federal government intervention

In certain circumstances, the federal government has allowed forgiven debts to be exempt from taxation. Businesses that received a Paycheck Protection Program Loan (PPP) during the pandemic may qualify for forgiveness that wouldn’t be considered taxable income. Other legislation like the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) extended the exclusion of mortgage debt from taxation for qualified homeowners.

“Legislation can specify that forgiven loans are not income, such as what was done in 2020 for the PPP loans with the CARES Act and in the past for homeowners with underwater mortgage loans,” says Sallie Mullins Thompson, CPA, CFP, and CDFA.

3. Insolvency

If a borrower is insolvent, meaning their debts exceed their income and they’re no longer able to pay their bills, they may not have to pay taxes on their forgiven debt. The borrower’s liabilities would have to be more than their assets at the time the debt is discharged.

How do you know if your debt has been canceled?

When a debt is canceled, in this case a personal loan, the lender may issue you a Form 1099-C Cancellation of Debt.  Borrowers may receive this form after a creditor discharges a debt of $600 or more.  Borrowers may also receive a Form 1099-C due to repossession and foreclosure. This Internal Revenue Service (IRS) form details information such as:

  • The amount of canceled debt
  • Date of cancellation
  • Creditor’s and debtor’s contact information
  • Interest

The IRS requires that a borrower report the canceled debt on their federal income tax return the year the cancellation happens. Even if they don’t receive the cancellation of debt form because the debt discharged was less than $600, they’re still responsible for reporting the amount on their tax return. If you have any questions about your debt cancellation, reach out to your tax or legal representative.

Are interest payments or repayments on personal loans tax deductible?

The answer: It depends.

Interest is the cost borrowers incur to borrow money. It can sometimes be deducted or claimed as a credit on your taxes, depending on how the loan was used. Interest on student loans, mortgages, and business loans can be tax-deductible.

However, repayments on personal loans and interest payments are not typically considered tax-deductible. Generally, when a loan is used to pay for personal expenses, it doesn’t decrease your tax liability.

“Principal repayments are not tax-deductible since the loan proceeds are not income taxable nor reported on income tax returns,” Mullins Thompson says.

Loans with tax-deductible interest

There are many different types of personal loans, and it may not be clear which loan repayments qualify for a tax deduction. For example:

“If you took out a loan to consolidate credit card debt or to get a lower interest rate, then that loan interest is not deductible,” Bufardi says. “However, if you used a loan to buy inventory for your business and you can clearly show that the loan proceeds went to pay for the inventory, then that interest would be deductible.”

Discuss the following types of loans with your tax representative to see if you can take a deduction on your taxes:

1. Mortgages

Mortgage interest may be tax-deductible on Form 1040, Schedule A. The taxpayer will need to meet certain qualifications as specified by the IRS to take advantage of this tax benefit.

2. Student Loans

For federal student loans, borrowers may be able to deduct up to $2,500 on their tax return, depending on their adjusted gross income. To take advantage of this benefit, the borrower must have an adjusted gross income of under $70,000 as a single person or under $140,000 as a married couple filing jointly (if the borrower’s adjusted gross income was between $70,000 and $85,000, or between $140,000 and $170,000 if filing jointly, they may deduct less than $2,500). Borrowers who paid more than $600 in interest for the year and qualify for this deduction should expect to receive a Form 1098-E from their student loan servicer.

3. Business Loans

Borrowers who use part of a personal loan for business expenses and part for personal expenses can deduct a portion of the interest. The borrower will need to meet the criteria set by the IRS.

The Bottom Line

For most people, a personal loan won’t have major implications when tax time rolls around. Personal loans aren’t considered taxable income and the interest isn’t considered tax-deductible. If the borrower repays the loan, they probably won’t need to report it on their taxes, with a few exceptions. Thankfully, qualified tax professionals and legal representatives can guide borrowers who have questions about their situation.

Article contributors

Sallie Mullins Thompson is a CPA financial planner, CFP, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), and tax strategist, with over two decades of experience in the financial services industry. She assists families, business owners, and individuals, in the NYC and Washington, DC metropolitan areas, with all elements of their financial lives —from tax to investments to savings to planning to life transitions.

Elizabeth Buffardi, CFP, CPA, is the Founder and President of Crescendo Financial Planners in Oak Brook, Illinois. She is also a certified member of Alliance of Comprehensive Planners, a group of holistic financial planners that are tax focused and adhere to the Fiduciary Standard. You can learn more about ACP and search for advisors at www.acplanners.org.

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