An Important Component Of International Dividend Investing: Withholding Taxes

By: ispeculatornew
Date posted: 12.22.2011 (5:00 am) | Write a Comment  (4 Comments)

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Last week, we took a look at some of the better dividend payers from all around the world. Many pay considerable dividends and offer good diversification which certainly makes them attractive picks. A few visitors were quick to point out that withholding taxes can have a significant impact on those dividends.

What are withholding taxes? 

When a foreign company decides to pay back its investors through dividends, there is often a part of that amount that is taken by the government where that tax is being paid. For example, foreign investors that decide to a buy a French stock will receive a dividend like any others but the French government (and almost every other government in the world) takes part of that income. Why? There are many reasons but it’s a form of tax on money leaving the country. These are not necessarily easy to track but they are generally between 0% and 30% depending on the country.

An Example

Suppose that an investor receives a dividend of $100 from that French stock.  The investor will end up only receiving $75 as the French government will take a 25% cut. That is one of the most expensive countries to buy stocks in and is certainly worth considering when looking at those attractive dividend yields.

It’s Not All Bad Though

It’s important to remember that you end up paying taxes on US dividends as well. The main difference is the rate (lower in this case but that’s not always the case) so you are simply paying this amount of taxes upfront rather than when filing your taxes.  Another key point is that in almost all cases, there will not be “double taxation”. That means that the dividend that you receive will not be taxed by the US government since you already paid your share to the French government.

Each Country Is Different

It’s important to look carefully at the rules for each country. Some have higher rates, others are lower, for some you don’t get hit by withholding taxes in your non-taxable accounts, etc. I don’t think that these things make a huge difference in most cases and it still makes a lot of sense to add international dividend stocks to almost any portfolio.

Have You Had Any Experience With Withholding Taxes?

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4 Comments

  1. Comment by Robber Baron — December 22, 2011 @ 7:04 pm

    But for those who buy international dividend payers in their IRA and other tax-defered accounts, no exemption from US taxes applies, so you lose. (US stocks with dividends, the taxation is deferred as per IRA, of course.)

  2. Comment by Stephen — December 23, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

    I have five meager shares of Fairfax Financial. On January they paid, I think, $60 in dividends. Out of that I think they withheld $9.00 or $11.00. I don’t quite remember the exact figure. I didn’t know why they did that and was going to call the brokerage company to ask about it, then promptly forgot about it. Now I know what happened.

  3. Comment by IS — December 24, 2011 @ 7:12 am

    @Robber & Stephen – It really depends on each country. Some countries such as Canada have tax agreements so dividends in IRA accounts on Canadian companies do not have withholding taxes.

  4. Comment by william — April 26, 2013 @ 6:42 am

    If your IRA receives foreign dividends, from which funds are withheld, you can take the credit when you start withdrawing from the IRA, and the money is taxed. You probably won’t get a 1099, so keep a copy of the transactions from your account, for future use. As always, you are screwed by the Federal Reserve, via inflation making your tax credit less valuable.

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