What Does Passive Interest Mean?

what does passive interest mean
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Most of you have wondered about your investments and earnings, and you may not know all the terms even if you handle those types of strategies. Thus, we take an in-depth look at what does passive interest mean.

The answer may surprise you. Since we want you to have a full understanding, we will also talk about passive investing and how it might be beneficial to you.

What Does Passive Interest Mean?

When talking about finances and investing, passive interest indicates what type of earnings you have. Passive income is that which is derived from limited partnerships, rental properties, and other enterprises where you aren’t materially involved. Generally, passive income is taxable, just like non-passive income.

However, the IRS tends to treat it differently. For example, portfolio income is often considered passive by analysts. Therefore, interests and dividends would both be passive.

In a sense, passive interest can indicate that the business has limited liability since the investor doesn’t assume any responsibilities. For example, as the investor, you’re not operating or managing the company. You’re just putting money into it in the hopes of seeing high ROI.

The Full Definition

Passive interest is defined as a common or preferred equity interest that’s held by a company or the controlled affiliate. It’s generally not considered Debt-Like Preferred Equity. Such options entitle the controlled affiliate or company to less than five percent of the fully-diluted equity.

To qualify as a passive interest, the controlled affiliate or company cannot advise, consult, or work for the investor. Plus, the company or affiliate can’t have voting rights that are more than five percent of the voting interest as the investor.

The company isn’t allowed to be part of a managing body that the investor also manages. Along with that, the affiliate or company can’t have consent or veto rights in regard to the actions of the investor(s).

Understanding Passive Income and Passive Interest

As the investor, you may be looking for passive income in which to invest. The term passive income has become an umbrella term for anything that isn’t an active income. That’s where you perform services and earn commissions, wages, salaries, and/or tips.

Usually, the term is used to define any monies that have been regularly earned with no or little effort on the person getting it. This includes dividend stocks, real estate, and P2P lending. Sometimes, people who collect such income are the be-your-own-boss or work-from-home types.

There are other types of earnings associated with passive income. These include retirement pays, interests, stocks, capital gains, lottery winnings, and online jobs. Though most people consider these to be passive interest, the IRS has a different take on what that is.

In technical terms, it’s defined as income from businesses where taxpayers don’t materially participate or net rental income. Sometimes, it can also include self-charged interest. That said, salaries, investment income, and portfolios aren’t considered passive interest by the IRS.

How Does Self-Charged Interest Come into Play?

If you lend money to an S-corporation or partnership and act as the pass-through entity, any interest income can qualify as passive. Pass-through entities are often businesses that reduce the risk of double taxation.

The IRS does allow you to consider self-charged interest and deductions as passive activity in some cases. The loan proceeds, though, have to be used if it's regarded as passive.

How Does Property Become Passive Income?

Generally, rental properties are always defined as passive income, but there are some exceptions. For example, real estate professionals have to call it rental income, which is considered as an active income.

If you self-rent, it’s not considered passive income unless the original lease was signed before 1988. Self-renting means that you own the space and rent it to a partnership or corporation where you regularly conduct business. Based on the IRS rules, a lease can also be a service contract or another type of arrangement.

That said, income from leasing your land doesn’t qualify as passive income. Despite that, landowners can still benefit from the IRS loss rules in place for passive income. If your property nets a loss during the tax year, it qualifies as passive income loss.

No Material Participation and Passive Interest

Let’s say that an investor puts hundreds of thousands of dollars into a candy shop. He agrees that the owners will pay the investor a percentage of its earnings. This can be considered passive income if the investor doesn’t help to operate the company in any other way but to put money into it.

Material participation is defined as dedicating over 500 hours to the business or an activity where you profit. Involvement in activities must be "substantially all" for that tax year, as well. Along with that, if both parties have participated up to 100 hours, it’s also considered material participation.

How Beneficial Is Passive Income or Interest

When taxpayers record losses on passive activity, only the profits can have offset deductions, so the income as a whole is not touched. Plus, all passive activities should be classified as such to make the most out of your tax deduction.

Those deductions are then allocated for the next year. They can be applied reasonably and takes into account that next year’s losses and earnings.

Grouping Activities and Passive Interest

Most people prefer to save effort and time by grouping two or more passive activities into a larger one. Of course, everything has to form a similar economic unit, according to the rules. When taxpayers do this, they have one whole activity instead of being involved in material participation in many activities.

Plus, you can dispose off one of your activities without doing away with a significant part of it. For example, if you have three activities and treat them all separately, it seems like a bigger loss if you cut one. If those three activities are all grouped together, you still have the other two.

This has a unique organizational feature, but you need to understand similar economic units. They are appropriate if the activities are in the same geographical area or if they have similarities between the businesses. Plus, they’re considered similar if the activities have the same employees, customers, or all use a single set of accounting books.

A Scenario

Let’s say that someone owed a sneaker store and also owned a pretzel store. Both stores were in malls with one in California and the other in Texas. There would be three different options to group them and classify them as passive income:

  • Activity: They’re both in shopping malls.
  • Geography: They’re both large states and in generally the same area.
  • Business Type: They’re both retail stores.
what does passive interest mean

What Is Passive Investing?

Of course, passive income has to come from investing passively in corporations and the like. This investment strategy can maximize your returns by minimizing how much you buy and sell. As an example, index investing allows investors to purchase representative benchmarks and hold them over long periods.

Passive investing options can help you avoid limited performance and fees associated with trading frequently. The goal here is to build your wealth gradually.

Sometimes, it’s called the buy-and-hold strategy because you buy something to own it for the long term. Passive investors rarely desire to profit from short-term fluctuations in price or market timing. Generally, the assumption here is that the market will show positive returns with time.

Usually, passive managers try to match the sector or market performance instead of out-think it. Passive investing works the same way where you try to replicate market performances by constructed single stock portfolios. Doing it individually would require a lot of research, but doing it this way makes it a little easier.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Passive Investing

When investing, it is essential to maintain a well-diversified portfolio, and passive investing can help you achieve that. Index funds tend to spread risks more broadly because they hold all or most of their securities in target benchmarks. These index funds track target indices instead of finding winners, so they don’t have to buy and sell constantly.

As a result, index funds can have lower operating expenses and fees than active management. Plus, index funds are simple and easier to invest in a particular market because of the tracking. You don’t have to monitor or select individual investment themes or managers.

Nonetheless, you also have to worry about total market risk with passive investing. The index funds track the whole market, so they can fall when overall stocks and bonds decline. Plus, there’s a lack of flexibility.

Index fund managers can’t use defensive methods, such as by reducing shares position, even if the manager believes the prices will go down. Passively managed funds can also face performance limitations because they focus on providing returns that relate to the benchmark. They very rarely beat the ROI for the index because of operating costs.

The Key Benefits and Drawbacks

Some of the primary benefits of passive investing can include:

  • Transparency: You will always know which assets are included in the index fund.
  • Ultra-Low Fees: Nobody is there to pick stocks, so there are fewer oversights, which leads to lower costs. Plus, passive funds always follow their benchmark index.
  • Tax Efficient: The buy-and-hold strategy rarely results in a massive capital gain for the year. This means you don’t have to pay as much tax on them.
  • Simple: It is easier to understand and implement an index or group than it is to own one that requires much adjustment and research.

Those who prefer active investing may site these issues with passive investing:

  • Smaller Returns (Potential): Passive funds aren’t ever likely to beat the market, even in times of turmoil. The core holdings are primarily locked into its market for tracking. Though they can sometimes go above and beyond the market, it’s never going to help you see big ROIs unless the entire market booms.
  • Too Many Limitations: Usually, passive funds are limited to specific indices or predetermined investments that don’t vary. Therefore, investors must stay locked into the holdings, regardless of the market.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Active Investing

To give you a better idea of their differences, we thought we’d include the primary benefits and drawbacks associated with active investment strategies.

The benefits include:

  • More Flexibility: Since active managers don’t have to follow a particular index, they can buy up-and-coming stocks in which they believe.
  • Tax Management: This strategy can sometimes trigger a capital gains tax. However, advisors can tailor their tax-management strategies to investors. For example, they can sell investments that are currently losing money to offset big-winner taxes.
  • Hedging: Active managers can hedge the bet using a variety of techniques. These include put options and short sales. Plus, they can offset particular stocks when the risks get too big.

Of course, active strategies have shortcomings, including:

  • More Expensive: Fees tend to be higher because buying and selling can trigger more transaction costs. Plus, you’re paying the analyst’s salary so that they can research your equity picks. Those fees add up and can kill your return in the long run.
  • Poor Track Record: Data indicates that few active-management portfolios beat passive benchmarks, especially when you add in fees and taxes. Over the long haul, only a handful of active investment strategies surpass benchmark indices.

Is Passive Interest Right for You?

Only you can decide which investment options are right for you. Most people do but choose to use passive interest, even if they also use active strategies. The goal here is to have a well-rounded portfolio that meets your needs.

Often, it makes sense to work with a financial consultant or broker. These professionals can help you make the right choices if you’re unsure of what to do.


What does passive interest mean? To give you a better idea, we focused on what it is and why it’s used. Of course, we also explained passive income and passive investing, which go hand-in-hand and are all interconnected.

You learned what things are considered passive interest according to IRS rules, as well as what isn’t passive income. Plus, we talked about the benefits and drawbacks of both passive and active strategies to help you see where they are similar and different. Learn more about investing and finance with these helpful magazines.

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