CARRIED INTEREST: What Is It, Rules & Deductions

Photo Credit : The New York Times

Carried interest acts as a performance fee that ties the general partner’s pay to the fund’s earnings. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA), also known as the climate, health, and tax reconciliation package, was reached on July 27, 2022, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV).

If the IRA were to become law in its current form, it would further restrict carried interest’s ability to receive long-term capital gains by, among other things, extending the holding period from three to five years.

What Is Carried Interest 

Carry is another name for the portion of profits that general partners in private equity, venture capital, and hedge funds receive. General Partners are eligible to receive the carried interest in lieu of making a first investment in the Fund. It acts as a performance fee that ties the general partner’s pay to the fund’s earnings. 

The hurdle rate is a minimum return that the fund must meet to receive carried interest. Because they regard it as a long-term capital gain, the tax rate on carried interest is typically lower than the tax rate on a regular income. Similar to how an unrealized capital gain delays taxes, carried interest also delays taxes since you can typically distribute it several years later

Carrying interest on investments held for longer than three years is subject to long-term capital gains tax, which has a top rate of 20%, as opposed to the top rate on ordinary income, which is 37%. It takes a minimum of three years of holding the investment to qualify the carried interest as a long-term capital gain. 

The general partner’s share of the profits can come in a variety of forms, depending on the investment, including interest, royalties, long- or short-term capital gains, and dividends. It is up for debate whether partners will be eligible for the lower tax rates offered to regular investors if they receive long-term capital gains and qualified dividends as carried interest. It is the general partner compensation for its investment management services.

What Is Carried Interest Loophole

Due to a loophole, instead of taxing them at the highest rate of 37%, you can treat the earnings as capital gains, which are therefore subject to a top rate of 20%. The way you tax it is another factor contributing to its current controversy. Since they don’t regard it as ordinary income, general partners must pay significantly less tax than they otherwise would. This raises the question of whether carried interest is a tax deduction. Most people consider it to be a tax break for the wealthy.

Changes to carried interest taxation started in 2008. A loophole used by Wall Street private equity and hedge fund managers to evade taxes was said to be closed by legislation requiring carried interests to be taxed at ordinary income rates. This would disproportionately affect the real estate industry as a result of the fact that it is a common component of development venture structures for many real estate partnerships, which make up a sizable portion of partnerships.

There was a mandate by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that requires a three-year holding period before it could give tax treatment as a capital gain to allay concerns regarding hedge funds. Therefore, this characterizes service income, which is subject to ordinary income tax rates, as opposed to carried interests, which are subject to lower capital gains rates. Despite this modification, H.R. 1068, also known as “The Carried Interest Fairness Act of 2021,” sought to end the capital gains tax treatment of carried interests in the 117th Congress. 

Understanding Carried Interest

The Biden Administration also included a clause that would end capital gains treatment for carried interests in its American Families Plan. However, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) tried to reintroduce a carried interest tax increase in the Inflation Reduction Act during Senate negotiations over the budget reconciliation bill in August 2022. The House did not approve any provision.

Investment executives in private equity, hedge funds, etc. receive carried interest as a form of payment.

The managers receive a share of the fund’s profits, typically 20% of the total, which they divide among themselves proportionally. You can refer to the terms “carry” or “profit interest” as profit. A private investment fund’s carried interest or income goes to the general partner. You can regard it as capital gains for tax purposes. Some people consider these tax advantages to be unfair loopholes that distort the market. Others counter that it is consistent with how they tax other entrepreneurial income.

According to many commentators, you can tax it at the same top rate of 37% that applies to wage and salary income. They draw comparisons between general partners and investment bankers, who pay regular tax rates on their pay, salaries, and bonuses. In addition, they contend that the majority of service providers are unable to categorize their income as capital gains. According to some commentators, if we treat carried interest as wage and salary income for the general partners, we should also permit the limited partners to write it off as an ordinary expense.

How Carried Interest Works 

Usually comprising 20% of a fund’s returns, it is the general partner’s main source of payment. The fund’s managers receive the general partner’s gains. The annual management fee is typically 2% for general partners. Unlike management fees, you pay carry interest only when a fund achieves a certain minimum return threshold.

In addition, you may lose it if the fund performs poorly. According to the terms of their investment agreement, limited partners may be able to “claw back” a portion of the carry paid to the general partner to make up the difference when the fund closes, for instance, if the fund’s target annual return was 10% but it only produced returns of 7% for a while.

Carried interest is subject to ordinary income taxation, despite the fact that the clawback clause is not common industry practice. A general partner’s carried interest compensation typically vests over several years.

What Is a Carried Interest Deduction 

In the context of alternative investments, such as private equity and hedge funds, carried interest is a portion of an investment’s profits that is paid to the investment manager over and above the manager’s contribution to the partnership. It is a performance fee that the manager receives in exchange for raising performance.

 But under Section 1061 of the Tax Code and the rules promulgated thereunder, the General Partner may treat such compensation as a capital gain. As opposed to the highest ordinary income rate of 37%, this can result in significant tax savings thanks to the preferential capital gain rate of 20% and investment income tax of 3.8%. 

For instance, 10 investors have invested $100 million in a hedge fund. Investors should plan on receiving a minimum 5% return on their investment. In addition, the fund manager will also receive a 20% carry on any profits that exceed the 5% hurdle rate. Also, he will receive 20% of any sum above $105 million.

The fund has a $125 million value at the end of the year. The fund earned $25 million, in profit. To make up the entire $100 million fund, ten investors each contributed $10 million. The minimum return that each investor should aim for is 5%, or $500,000 each. This equals $5 million total for the ten investors. The fund manager will therefore receive 20% of any amount over $105 million, according to the hurdle rate.

So take away $5 million to account for the hurdle rate. You are now left with $20 million. The fund manager currently receives 20% of the $20 million. This turns out to be $4 million. After that, divide the remaining $16 million among the investors.

What Is a Carried Interest in Real Estate

The term “carried interest” (also known as a “promote” or “promoted interest” in the real estate industry) refers to a financial interest in the future capital gains of a project. The limited partners (LPs), or partnership’s investors, transfers it to a general partner (GP), typically the developer. 

It is paid if the property is sold for a profit greater than the returns to investors that have been previously agreed upon and is meant to give the developer a stake in the venture’s eventual success. The interests of the GP and the investors are thus in alignment because the GP has the opportunity to share in the “upside” of the real estate venture. 

It also compensates for the material risks assumed during project development and the period prior to the GP’s sale of the property. Since you can regard carried interest as income from capital gains, you can tax it at favorable capital gains rates.

What Is the Purpose of Carried Interest?

The general partner of an investment fund has a legal right known as carried interest that entitles him to a portion of the fund. These funds make investments in a wide variety of assets, including private companies, natural resources, publicly traded stocks and bonds, and real estate.

Who Benefits From the Carried Interest Loophole?

20% of a fund’s profits are typically allocated to carried interest, which is the general partner’s main source of payment. The general partner transfers profits to the fund managers. 

How Do You Qualify for Carried Interest?

Rather than making an initial investment in the fund, general partners are entitled to the carried interest based on their participation. This functions as a performance fee that connects the general partner’s compensation to the fund’s success. It frequently only accrues if the fund achieves the hurdle rate, which is a minimum return.

Is Carried Interest Income or Capital Gains?

Capital Gains Tax applies to the carried interest. It is taxed just like an equity investment would be. The return on the fund manager’s investment is taxed as capital as well, just like if he were a third-party investor.

What Is the Holding Period for Carried Interest?

As a result, to be eligible for long-term capital gains treatment concerning a carried interest, a holder must generally have held it for three years. 

How Many People Benefit From Carried Interest?

Sadly, general partners do not always retain all of the carried interests. A parent company, minority shareholders, or retired general partners receive a portion of it.

Do You Pay Carried Interest Every Year?

Since they invest in liquid securities, hedge funds are frequently able to pay carried interest on an annual basis if the fund is profitable. You can use the term “performance fee” to describe carried interest in the hedge fund industry. Carry typically vests over several years (often five years, back-loaded, but occasionally up to ten), and it is based on the percentage of the total pool for each fund. You can typically pay once the fund has recovered invested funds and reached its overall hurdle rate; in the absence of that, clawbacks might be necessary.


Carry-forward interest continues to be one of the most divisive topics in the US tax code. Although carried interest has proven to be a lucrative source of income for some investment managers, it is also important to take into account the possible effects that changing the current tax laws could have on the overall American economy, including the potential for a new source of tax revenue.

What Is a Carried Interest FAQs

What Is Carried Interest?

It is the general partner compensation for its investment management services.

How Do You Qualify for Carried Interest?

Carried interest functions as a performance fee that connects the general partner’s compensation to the fund’s success. It frequently only accrues if the fund achieves the hurdle rate, which is a minimum return

What Is the Holding Period for Carried Interest?

As a result, to be eligible for long-term capital gains treatment concerning a Carried Interest, a holder must generally have held the interest for three years

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