Which Is Better, A Brokerage Account Or An Individual Retirement Account?

Dec 07, 2023 By Triston Martin

If you're starting in the investment world, looking into brokerage accounts and IRAs is a good idea. Stocks and other assets may be purchased with any budget, so why choose one over the other?

Brokerage accounts are taxable accounts that remove the restrictions on making deposits and withdrawals, allowing you to purchase and sell investments anytime you choose.

However, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) provide tax deferral or even tax-free earnings growth, subject to stringent contribution limitations and potential penalties for early withdrawal.

An Overview of Brokerage vs. IRA

Trades in stocks, ETFs, bonds, mutual funds, REITs, and other assets can be made and received through investment accounts, including IRAs and brokerage accounts.

Investors use brokerage accounts for various purposes, including day trading, long-term investment, and saving for immediate purchases like homes and cars. Meanwhile, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) provide a tax-deferred method of putting money down for the future.

Maintaining both types of accounts may be a prudent financial choice depending on your circumstances. You may enjoy the flexibility of the brokerage account and the tax advantages of the IRA in this way.

Brokerage Account: What Is It?

To purchase and sell stocks and other securities, you need a brokerage account, which is a taxable account. There are no limits on the amount you may invest, and you can sell your assets at any moment with no penalties.

You must generally report and pay taxes on interest, dividends, and capital gains in the same year you receive them. Investing styles, preferred investments, and desired trading platform features all play a role in determining which brokerage firms are the best option for you.

When you've settled on a brokerage business, opening an account and depositing funds may be done entirely online in a matter of minutes.

What Is An Individual Retirement Account?

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) provide tax benefits to encourage retirement savings. Depending on whether you have a Roth or regular IRA, contributions and profits grow tax-free or tax-deferred, but investment options are more limited than with brokerage accounts.

The maximum amount you may put into an IRA is far lower than the minimum required by a brokerage account. To your IRA, you may put up to $6,500 yearly or $7,500 if you're 50 or older.

Additionally, there are income restrictions for a Roth IRA: The whole amount can be contributed in 2023 if your adjusted gross income is less than $138,000 for a single filer or $218,000 for a married couple filing jointly.

What Is the Tax Treatment of 401(k)s and IRAs?

Selecting assets likely to generate a return is crucial for building wealth. Investing in a way that minimizes your tax liability is vital if you want to keep as much of your hard-earned money as possible. One significant distinction between brokerage accounts and IRAs is whether or not interest, dividends, and capital gains are subject to taxation.

Paying Taxes On A Brokerage Account

Investments held in a broker's account are subject to taxation. Your investment income is subject to taxation. Income sources are taken into account while determining tax obligations.


Bonds, CDs, and even plain old cash can all be good investment options that could yield income. With two exception which are not subject to state which are often free from federal taxation—interest income is taxed as ordinary income.


Shares of a company's profits are distributed to shareholders as dividends. Dividends can be either qualified or nonqualified, and the tax treatment differs. Most dividends distributed by publicly traded corporations qualify for the preferential long-term capital gains tax rate.

Contributions To An IRA

If an employer-sponsored retirement plan does not cover you or your spouse, conventional IRA contributions are made using pre-tax money and may be tax-deductible.

Because contributions to a Roth IRA are made using after-tax money, the contributor receives no tax benefit in the year the donation is made.

The tax benefit occurs in retirement when withdrawals are no more prolonged and subject to taxation. Depending on the sort of IRA you have, your earnings can grow tax-free or tax-deferred.

The Roth Individual Retirement Account

Contributing does not reduce your taxable income immediately because of the lack of a tax deduction. Contributions can be withdrawn at any time for any reason, and eligible withdrawals in retirement are not subject to taxation. And unlike standard IRAs, Roth IRAs do not have RMDs.

Accounts for Retirement Savings

Contributions to a typical IRA may be tax deductible in the year they are made. However, you'll owe income tax on any money you take out, and there's often a 10% penalty for withdrawing it early. Use the funds toward eligible first-time homebuyer expenditures, for example, and you can avoid the penalty.

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