Publication 525

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Taxable and Nontaxable Income

Overview

You can receive income in the form of money, property, or services. This publication discusses many kinds of income and explains whether they are taxable or nontaxable. It includes discussions on employee wages and fringe benefits, and income from bartering, partnerships, S corporations, and royalties. It also includes information on disability pensions, life insurance proceeds, and welfare and other public assistance benefits. Check the index for the location of a specific subject.

Generally, an amount included in your income is taxable unless it is specifically exempted by law. Income that is taxable must be reported on your return and is subject to tax. Income that is nontaxable may have to be shown on your tax return but is not taxable.

Constructively received income. You are generally taxed on income that is available to you, regardless of whether it is actually in your possession.

A valid check that you received or that was made available to you before the end of the tax year is considered income constructively received in that year, even if you do not cash the check or deposit it to your account until the next year. For example, if the postal service tries to deliver a check to you on the last day of the tax year but you are not at home to receive it, you must include the amount in your income for that tax year. If the check was mailed so that it could not possibly reach you until after the end of the tax year, and you could not otherwise get the funds before the end of the year, you include the amount in your income for the next tax year.

Assignment of income. Income received by an agent for you is income you constructively received in the year the agent received it. If you agree by contract that a third party is to receive income for you, you must include the amount in your income when the third party receives it.

Example: You and your employer agree that part of your salary is to be paid directly to your former spouse. You must include that amount in your income when your former spouse receives it.

Prepaid income. Prepaid income, such as compensation for future services, is generally included in your income in the year you receive it. However, if you use an accrual method of accounting, you can defer prepaid income you receive for services to be performed before the end of the next tax year. In this case, you include the payment in your income as you earn it by performing the services.

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