What is Tax-Deferred? Definition, Overview, and How it Works

There are numerous ways to postpone paying income taxes in some jurisdictions. With regard to tax deductions, some expenses may be eligible for deduction in the current year rather than in the future, for example.

According to a 2010 survey, a high percentage of American taxpayers prepay their deductible state income taxes in December rather than in January, when they are due. It is common to see reduced taxes paid in jurisdictions where tax rates are progressive.

The proportion of income tax as a percentage of the total amount of income taxed is higher for those with higher incomes or tax categories.

Many jurisdictions provide tax-deferred retirement plans that allow individuals to disclose income later in life; if the persons also have lesser income in retirement, taxes paid may be significantly lower.

Only withdrawals from RRSPs are taxed as income in Canada; contributions to RRSPs are deducted from income; profits (interest, dividends, and capital gains) in these accounts are not taxed.

Taxes are not deferred on contributions to other forms of retirement funds, only on the income received within the account. A variety of retirement savings accounts are available in the United States, including 401ks, IRAs, SEP IRAs, and more.

Taxes will be cheaper as long as withdrawals are made in a lower tax bracket (i.e., with a lower marginal tax rate).

In this article, we will get answers to the question “what is tax-deferred?”

What is Tax-deferred?

In finance, “tax-deferred” refers to the fact that investment earnings like interest, dividends, and capital gains don’t have to be taxed until the investor takes “constructive receipt” of them.

Individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and deferred annuities are two examples of tax-deferred investments that are common.

People who make money with tax-deferred investments enjoy the tax-free growth of their earnings. The tax savings can be very big for investments that aren’t sold until after you retire.

At retirement, the retiree is likely to be in a lower tax bracket and no longer have to pay early taxes and penalties for taking money out of a savings account. People who invest in qualified products, like IRAs, can take some or all of their contributions as a tax break.

Tax-deferred investments are attractive because they allow you to take deductions now and pay less tax later.

Hope you better understand the question “what is tax-deferred?”

See Also: Do you Have to Pay Taxes on Stocks? All You Need to Know

What are the types of Tax-deferred Accounts?

The question “What is tax-deferred?” has been answered. Now let’s take a look at the types of Tax-deferred accounts. You can choose from a few tax-deferred account options. In these, you can own just about any business.

Assets in these accounts could be mutual funds, stocks, or bonds. They could also have CDs, fixed or variable annuities, and other types of money. In the accounts, you might find:

1. Traditional IRAs.

Traditional IRA contributions grow tax-deferred. If you meet the IRA contribution limits and rules, your contributions are tax-deductible.

In 2022, if you are single or head of household and have a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) between $68,000 and $78,000 (up from $66,000 to $76,000 in 2021), your deduction starts to phase out.

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If you file jointly and are covered by a workplace retirement plan, your deduction for contributions begins to phase out if your MAGI is between $109,000 and $129,000.

In 2021, this rises to $125,000. In 2021 and 2022, the phase-out range for married people filing separate returns who are covered by workplace retirement plans is $10,000.

2. Retirement plans like 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, and 457 plans.

These are employer-sponsored schemes. Your contributions may be tax-deductible or made with pre-tax monies. Nonprofits offer a 403(b), and government employees get a 457.

3. Roth IRAs.

A Roth IRA is funded with post-tax dollars. So these accounts aren’t entirely tax-free. Still, they grow tax-free, and you can withdraw money tax-free because the money was taxed.

To qualify, follow the Roth IRA withdrawal regulations. No money can be withdrawn until five years have passed since the account was opened.

In 2022, a Roth IRA can earn up to $144,000 for a single individual or head of household. And $214,000 for a married couple or widow.

4. Fixed deferred annuities.

This type of insurance lets you save money without having to pay taxes on it. A fixed annuity has a fixed rate, which makes it popular with people who don’t like risk.

5. Variable annuities.

This means that variable annuities are insurance contracts with a range of interest rates, as the name implies. It lets you choose from a wide range of ways to invest your money, with a wide range of possible returns.

You don’t have to pay taxes on the money you make in a variable annuity until you take money out of the account.

See Also: What Is Tax Planning? Definition, Overview, And How It Works

6. I Bonds or EE Bonds.

People who get money from bonds don’t have to pay taxes until they sell them. Interest is paid on Series I bonds for 30 years, and they keep up with the price of food and clothing.

You get money back for 30 years or until you sell them, whichever comes first. Neither can be taxed if they are used for school.

7. Whole life insurance.

Earned interest is not taxed until you cash in your whole life insurance plan or make a withdrawal from your policy’s cash value that includes gains that have been made.

Tax-deferred and Tax-exempt

The first time you start planning for your retirement, tax planning should be a part of the process. Tax-deferred and tax-exempt retirement accounts are two of the most common types of accounts that help people keep their tax bills down.

Both types of retirement accounts cut down on how much tax someone will have to pay for the rest of their lives, making it more appealing for people to start saving for retirement at a young age. They are very different in terms of when tax advantages come into play.

Check out these two types of accounts and the main difference that will help you decide which account to have or whether to have both.

Tax-deferred accounts

Tax-deferred accounts allow you to get tax deductions right away up to the full amount of your contribution. There will still be a tax on future withdrawals from the account, though. A tax-deferred retirement account in the United States is called a “traditional” IRA.

In Canada, the most common is a “registered retirement savings plan,” which is also called an “RRSP” (RRSP).

As the account’s name implies, taxes on income are put off until later.

Suppose your taxable income this year is $50,000. If you put $3,000 into a tax-deferred account, you would only pay tax on $47,000.

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Then, when you retire in 30 years, when you have a taxable income of $40,000, but you decide to withdraw $4,000 from the account, your taxable income would rise to $44,000.

2020 and 2021 are the two years when people can contribute up to $19,500 to their own 401(k) plans.

They can also make a $6,500 catch-up contribution if they are 50 or older. As of 2022, the catch-up amount is still the same, but the contribution could be up to $20,500.

Tax-exempt accounts

You don’t get a tax break when you contribute to tax-exempt accounts. Instead, they give future tax benefits; withdrawals at retirement do not have to be taxed. Because contributions to the account are made with money already taxed, there is no tax benefit right away.

One of the main advantages of this type of structure is that investment returns don’t have to be taxed.

The most popular tax-free accounts in the United States are the Roth IRA and the Roth 401(k), both tax-free (k). The most common savings account in Canada is a tax-free account that you can use (TFSA).

If you put $1,000 into a tax-free account today, and the funds are invested in a mutual fund that earns 3% a year, the account would be worth $2,427 in 30 years.

At retirement, you won’t have to pay any tax at all on any of the money you take out.

See Also: 9 States With No Income Tax in 2022

Pros and Cons of Tax-deferred

Knowing the pros and cons of tax-deferred accounts will help us get more answers to the question “what is tax-deferred?”

Pros of tax-deferred Accounts

1. There are no contribution limits.

While traditional IRAs and 401(k) plans can be financed with pretax cash and provide for tax-deferred growth of investment returns, contribution limits apply.

Contributions to tax-deferred annuities are made after-tax monies, and there are no deposit limits.

2. Deferred Taxation

Earnings within the deferred annuity are not taxable until withdrawals are made. This means that the entire growth of your investment is compounding and generating returns. The ramifications for a long-term investment can be substantial.

From age 35 to 65, if you invested $1,000 per year and earned an average rate of return of 6%, your tax-deferred accumulated value would be $83,801.68.

Those same funds would total only $60,431.76 if you were in the 30% tax bracket in a taxable investment.

3. Security

Tax-deferred annuities are insurance firms’ savings contracts that include certain protections against market losses.

Certain annuities that allow you to invest in investment funds that are linked to the performance of stocks and bonds include a guarantee that your investment losses will be limited when markets decline.

Cons of tax-deferred accounts

1. Fees

Typically, annuities have a high fee structure to cover agent commissions, administration fees, investment charges, and guarantees.

Certain annuities may have yearly fees of up to 4%, which may negate the tax-deferral benefit.

2. Insufficiency of Liquidity

Annuities typically include an early withdrawal penalty during the first seven to fifteen years of the contract. This may present difficulties for older investors or those in need of emergency funds.

Bear in mind that annuities are long-term investment contracts.

Therefore, if one of your primary needs is short-term liquidity, consider allocating some of your savings to more liquid investments such as money market funds or short-term certificates of deposit.

3. Withdrawals are taxed

When you make withdrawals, you will be taxed on your tax-deferred investment earnings at your ordinary income tax rate.

This includes all investment earnings, even if they are derived from mutual fund capital gains.

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This can be detrimental, as capital gains are often taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income.

How Tax-deferred works

In this example, let’s say you put $1,000 into an account that isn’t taxed until you get your money back. This year, account value would rise by 5 percent if investments or interest income raised their value or earned more money.

At the end of the year, your account would have $1,050 in it.

There is no need to report the $50 as investment income on your tax return this year. This type of account doesn’t work this way. A tax-deferred account or annuity earned the $50 that was not taxed at the time it was earned.

Even more, interest will come your way next year thanks to the original $1,000 and the $50 that you earned from it. This is because of compound interest, which means that if the account grows by 5% again next year, you’ll get $52.50 in tax-deferred earnings because of that.

This money is for when you retire, and that’s why it can stay in the account tax-free. The IRS will charge you a 10% penalty tax if you take money from these accounts before the age of 5912.

If you want to use the money for something, there are some exceptions. It will depend on what you use the money for.

Your taxes would be on the whole amount of money you took out if your contributions to your IRA were also tax-deductible.

Use tax-deferred accounts when you build your portfolio for long-term planning so that you can put away as much money as possible and take advantage of years or decades of compounding.


A personal budgeting or investment management decision would be incomplete without considering taxation issues.

Accounting for tax-deferred and tax-exempt accounts is among the most widely available solutions for achieving financial independence during retirement.

When weighing your options, keep in mind that you will always have to pay taxes, and it is only a matter of when, not if, based on the type of account you choose.

Hope you now have sufficient answers to the question “what is tax-deferred”?

See Also: How Much you Have to Earn to File Taxes in 2022

FAQs on What is Tax-Deferred? Definition, Overview, and How it Works

How do I pay back my payroll tax deferral?

Employers and individuals can make deferral payments through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System or by credit or debit card, money order, or with a check. To be sure these payments are credited properly, they must be made separately from other tax payments.

Is tax-deferred worth it?

When setting aside funds for long-term goals such as retirement, tax-deferred accounts are an incredibly valuable device for effective and tax-efficient retirement savings.

Who is eligible for payroll tax deferral?

The employee deferral applied to people with less than $4,000 in wages every two weeks or equivalent to other pay periods.

How much does it cost to defer taxes?

There’s no additional fee to set this up, but interest and any applicable penalties will continue to accrue (you may avoid the failure to file a penalty though).

Can employers defer payroll taxes?

The Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) allows employers to defer the deposit and payment of the employer’s share of Social Security taxes and self-employed individuals to defer payment of certain self-employment taxes.



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