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Private-Purpose Bonds: Definition, Tax Implications, and Investor Considerations

Last updated 03/15/2024 by

Alessandra Nicole

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Private-purpose bonds, a subset of municipal bonds, allocate funds to benefit private entities, with over 10% directed towards non-governmental activities. Unlike public-purpose bonds, interest payments from private-purpose bonds are taxable, affecting investor appeal.

The basics of private-purpose bonds

Municipal bonds traditionally finance projects benefiting public interests like infrastructure or community facilities. However, private-purpose bonds deviate by allocating a significant portion of their funds to benefit private, nonpublic activities or entities.

Defining private-purpose bonds

When more than 10% of a municipal bond’s proceeds are earmarked for private, nongovernmental activities or entities, it qualifies as a private-purpose bond. For instance, if a city builds a football stadium with economic benefits expected for both the city and franchise owners, it constitutes a private-purpose bond.

Tax implications

Unlike public-purpose municipal bonds, interest payments from private-purpose bonds are subject to taxation, diminishing their appeal to investors seeking tax-exempt income.

Investing in private-purpose bonds

Investors often choose municipal bonds for their tax advantages. However, private-purpose bonds lack these benefits, making them less attractive options. Before investing, reviewing the offering statement is crucial, as it discloses whether the bonds are categorized as public or private purpose.

Reviewing offering statements

Offering statements legally require an opinion by a qualified tax attorney regarding the bonds’ purpose—public or private—as defined by relevant laws. This helps investors assess the tax implications of their investment.

Considerations for investors

Private-purpose bonds may also be referred to as taxable municipal bonds, signaling their tax status. Understanding this distinction is essential for investors seeking tax-efficient investment opportunities.

The broader impact

Before the Tax Reform Act of 1986, municipalities commonly issued bonds to stimulate private economic investment. However, changes in tax laws reduced the appeal of certain municipal bonds, impacting their attractiveness to investors.

What is a private activity bond? How does it differ from private-purpose municipal bonds?

A private activity bond is issued by governments on behalf of private sector entities to finance projects primarily benefiting the private sector. While private-purpose municipal bonds may offer some private benefits, private activity bonds explicitly fund projects with significant private sector involvement, impacting their tax-exempt status.

The bottom line

Private-purpose bonds fund projects benefiting private entities but offer fewer tax benefits compared to other municipal bonds. Investors should carefully assess the tax implications and purpose of bonds before investing.
Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.
  • Provide funding for projects benefiting private entities
  • May offer higher yields compared to other municipal bonds
  • Interest payments are taxable
  • Less appealing to investors seeking tax-exempt income

Frequently asked questions

Are private-purpose bonds a type of municipal bond?

Yes, private-purpose bonds are a subset of municipal bonds, but they allocate funds to benefit private entities rather than public interests.

How is a private-purpose bond defined?

A private-purpose bond is characterized by allocating over 10% of its proceeds to private, nongovernmental activities or entities.

Do private-purpose bonds offer tax benefits to investors?

No, unlike public-purpose municipal bonds, interest payments from private-purpose bonds are taxable, reducing their attractiveness to investors seeking tax-exempt income.

Key takeaways

  • Private-purpose bonds allocate most funding to benefit private entities, with over 10% of proceeds directed towards non-governmental activities.
  • Interest payments from private-purpose bonds are taxable, reducing their attractiveness to investors seeking tax-exempt income.
  • Before investing, review offering statements to determine whether bonds are classified as public or private purpose, affecting their tax implications.

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