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What Are Stock Dividends?


When considering the profit they make on stocks, many investors assess the gains they have obtained based on the appreciation of the stock on the open market or the gains they obtained after selling the stock for more than the original purchase price. However, it’s also wise to include the income acquired from stock dividends, if any.

Dividends are taxable payments to shareholders from a company’s earnings. These payments generally come from retail profits and tend to be distributed in the form of cash or stock. They are usually paid quarterly, and the amount is determined by the company’s board of directors.

Dividends are most often quoted by the dollar amount each share receives, put simply, the dividends per share. They can also be stated in terms of a percent of the current market price, designated as a dividend yield. The dividend yield is the annual dividend income per share divided by the current stock price.

To Pay or Not to Pay

Many mature, profitable companies offer regular dividends to shareholders. However, a company with losses during the year or the need to reinvest back into the business could suspend dividends. Earnings can be influenced by economic, market, and political events. It’s important to remember that a company can decide to increase, decrease, or stop paying dividends at any time.

Rather than pay stock dividends to shareholders, many companies with current high growth rates choose to reinvest earnings back into their businesses. On the other hand, some stable companies that haven’t experienced much growth might pay dividends. This is an incentive for investors to purchase their stock.

Ordinary dividends are taxed as ordinary income.

Qualified dividends meet the requirements to be taxed as capital gains, at either the 0%, 15%, or 20% rate (or breakpoint).

Higher-income taxpayers should be aware that they may be subject to an additional 3.8% Medicare unearned income tax on net investment income (unearned income includes dividends) if their adjusted gross income exceeds $200,000 (single filers) or $250,000 (married joint filers).

When investing in the stock market, it’s important to remember that the return and principal value of stocks fluctuate with changes in market conditions. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

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