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What Does Tax Deferred Mean (Explained: All You Need To Know)

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What Does Tax Deferred Mean

Tax deferred means that the tax that a person or company will need to pay on investments, revenues, or profits will be deferred to a future point in time.

In other words, tax “deferral” means that the payment of tax obligations is “delayed” or “postponed” to the future.

For example, if you invest in a tax deferred account, you will not be taxed for any earnings, dividends, or profits until you withdraw the funds from the said account (these types of accounts include IRAs and deferred annuities).

Qualified Tax Deferred Investments

With a qualified tax deferred investment, you (as a taxpayer) can defer the taxes you would normally have to pay on your contributions and earnings on the investment in the current year.

In other words, you invest using pre-taxed income.

A qualified tax deferred investment can be made in tax deferred investment accounts such as an IRA account or 401(k) plans.

The advantage of a qualified tax deferred investment is that you can avoid paying taxes in the current year by putting pre-tax salary or wages.

The amount of money that you invest in qualified tax deferred investments will help reduce your tax liability in the current year and delay it to a future point in time. 

Nonqualified Tax Deferred Investments

Nonqualified tax deferred investments are those where your contributions are made using money on which you’ve already paid income taxes in tax-free investments.

In other words, you are using post-tax income to make contributions.

Nonqualified tax deferred investments are those investments and investment accounts that do not allow you to put pre-tax income and defer taxes on it to the future.

The investments you make are with post-tax income or wages that will no longer reduce your tax liability further.

However, the earnings and profits on your investments can accumulate tax free.

For example, deferred annuities are nonqualified tax deferred investments allowing you to use post-tax money to purchase investments that can grow on a tax deferred basis.

A Roth IRA is another example where you use post-tax money but the earnings and profits you make on your investments will be entirely tax-free.

Tax Deferal Definition

According to the Bankrate, the meaning of tax deferral is outlined as:

Tax deferral is when taxpayers delay paying taxes to some point in the future.

In essence, a tax deferral is when a person or company (the taxpayer) is able to avoid paying taxes at the present moment and delays the tax obligation to a future point in time.

In some cases, the tax that is deferred can be for an indefinite period of time.

In other cases, the tax-deferral will allow the taxpayer to pay taxes at a different (possibly lower) in the future.

What Is A Tax Deferred Account

A tax deferred account is a type of investment account where your investment earnings accumulate in the account on a tax-free basis until you withdraw the funds from your account.

Investment earnings that may accumulate tax-free could be dividend earnings, interest payments, capital gains, or other returns.

One of the most common example of a tax deferred account is a 401(k) plan.

401(k) Plan

A 401(k) plan is a tax-deferred retirement account offered by your employer.

In a 401(k) plan, you investments remain tax-free until the person’s retirement. 

Then, upon retirement, the person will constructively withdraw and realize the profits of the 401(k) account and only pay taxes on that income during the year the profits were withdrawn.

In a 401(k) plan, you can invest in company stocks, money-market instruments, fixed income securities, or any other type of investment.

The amount of money that you contribute to a 401(k) plan is on a pre-tax basis that helps reduce your tax liability in the current year.

However, you’ll need to pay the taxes on what you eventually withdraw in the future. 


An IRA is an Individual Retirement Account where you contribute funds in a retirement account and defer your taxes to the future.

For example, if you contribute $10,000 to your IRA account, you will not pay income tax on your contribution this year but you’ll pay income taxes when you pull out your investment in the future.

An IRA is the equivalent of a 401(k) plan with the main difference that you open the account and manage your investments (it’s not done through your employer).

Similar to 401(k) plans, the money that you contribute to an IRA is on a pre-tax basis allowing you to lower your tax liability.

Roth IRA

A Roth IRA is a type of account where you contribute “after-tax money” but your investments and earnings on your investments will be tax-free.

For example, if you earn $50,000 in a year and pay $10,000 in taxes and keep $40,000, you can use some of this after-tax money to contribute to your Roth IRA.

Let’s say you contribute $5,000 to your Roth IRA and this amount grows to $20,000 over time. 

If you withdraw the $20,000, you will not pay any taxes on it.

Similarly, if you get dividends or interest on your investments in the Roth IRA, you will not pay taxes on those as well.

Tax-Deferred Annuities

Tax-deferred annuities are investment vehicles that combine insurance coverages along with investments.

With tax-deferred annuities, you will have the ability to benefit from tax-deferred growth of your investment.

What Is A Tax Deferral Example

Let’s look at what is a tax deferral example to better understand the notion of tax deferral.

Imagine that Mary has an IRA account where she can invest funds on a tax-deferred basis.

This year, Mary is in a 33% tax bracket meaning that for every dollar she earns, she’ll need to pay $0.33 and keep $0.67.

She decides to invest $10,000 of her income in her IRA account.

In that case, Mary does not pay 33% taxes on the $10,000 in the current year thereby saving her $3,333 in taxes.

What Does Tax-Deferred Mean Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s look at some common questions relating to the question of what is a tax deferment or tax deferral.

What are the benefit of tax deferral

The main benefit of tax deferral is that you can use money that you would have lost by paying taxes and investing it now thereby benefiting from compounded growth.

The longer you invest your money, the more the effects of compounding interest and growth work to your advantage.

By deferring taxes, you save in taxes but also give yourself the chance to earn interest, dividends, and capital gains over a long period of time.

With the right tax strategy, if you defer income in years where you are in high tax brack to years that you are in lower tax bracket, you will effectively save on your taxes.

What are the different types of tax deferred products 

There are different types of investment products that you can purchase allowing you to take advantage of tax deferral.

Here are the common examples of tax-deferred investment products:

What is tax deferred income

A tax deferred income is income on which you defer the paying of income taxes.

For example, if you earned $100,000 and you make a $15,000 contribution to your 401(k) plan, you’ll have a $15,000 tax deferred income.

In other words, in the current year, you’ll pay income tax on $85,000 and not $100,000 and you’ll pay income tax on the $15,000 contribution in the future when you withdraw it from your 401(k).

What is taxed deferred wages

Tax deferred wages means essentially the same thing as tax deferred income.

If you earn wages on which you are able to “defer” the payment of your income taxes, you have tax deferred wages.

What is tax deferred account

A tax deferred account is a type of investment account where you can make contributions using pre-taxed income allowing you to reduce your current income taxes payable and defer the earnings and growth of your investments to the future.

For example, a good example is a 401(k) plan.

This is an employer-sponsored retirement account where you make pre-tax contributions from your salary in an account where the investments and earnings are tax-deferred to your retirement.

What Is Tax-Deferred Takeaways 

So, what is tax deferral?

In simple terms, “tax-deferred” means that your tax obligations for this year are put off to another year.

In most cases, if you are able to avoid paying taxes in years where you are in a higher tax bracket and defer the taxes to years where you will be in a lower tax bracket, in that case your overall tax liability will be reduced.

Looking for tax-deferred accounts and investments is a good tax strategy for many to reduce overall tax liability.

The most common forms of tax-deferred benefits in the United States are tax-deferred annuities and certain retirement accounts.

Tax-deferred annuities are investment vehicles that combine insurance coverages with investments allowing to benefit from tax-deferred growth.

The most common types of tax-deferred retirements accounts are 401(k) plans that are generally handled by your employer and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) that is generally handled by yourself.

Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

What Does Tax Deferred Mean Overview

  • Tax deferral means that you are postponing your income taxes to the future
  • There are tax-deferred retirement plans and annuities that allow individuals to reduce their taxable income in a given year and postpone it to the future when the investment is constructively withdrawn 
  • A tax deferred investment that grows is a type of investment where you will not need to pay capital gains or taxes every year, instead, you’ll pay taxes when you withdraw the funds
  • Anyone can work on a tax deferral strategy in an attempt to defer income taxes to the years that you will be in lower tax bracket (such as retirement years)
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Editorial Staffhttps://lawyer.zone
Hello Nation! I'm a lawyer and passionate about law. I've practiced law in a boutique law firm, worked in a multi-national organization and as in-house counsel. I've been around the block! On this blog, I provide you with golden nuggets of information about lawyers, attorneys, the law and legal theories. Enjoy!


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