There is a specific tax definition of passive income, known as “passive activity” to the Internal Revenue Service. Passive income is any income you make without actively working or are materially involved. The IRS defines it as any rental activity or any business in which the taxpayer does not “materially participate.” Nonpassive activities, or active activities, are businesses in which the taxpayer works on a regular, continuous, and substantial basis.

According to Uncle Sam, you need to be "materially involved" in an enterprise to earn active income. With passive income, it's just the opposite, as the IRS deems you to be earning passive income if you're not materially involved with a profit-making enterprise. By and large, expect income to be taxable if you are engaged in a passive income enterprise. You will need to report earnings to the IRS.
Dividends made sense 40 years ago as a relatively simple rule of thumb, but after all the work done by John Bogle with index investing, and academics with Monte Carlo sims and the 4% rule, dividend investing just isn’t the simplest, cleanest way to invest or receive passive income anymore. It’s actually significantly more risky compared to index investing, because dividend companies are a much smaller share of the total global economy compared to the broader indices.
In focusing on your wealth management goals, investment income is obviously critical but you might fund your goals from wider sources of income.  A typical long-term portfolio might produce about half its return as income and the other half as capital growth, though in times of duress the capital growth component wanes.  In this low-interest rate climate, some sources of income have become quite expensive and may prove disappointing against your spending needs.  But by tax efficiently and sustainably drawing income from wider sources, you might meet your goals while more prudently balancing risk against reward.
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