What Difference Between Dividends and Capital Gains

Nov 25, 2023 By Susan Kelly

A dividend is a periodic interest payment paid to investors holding stocks. Dividends are not particularly fascinating, but it is a payment by the business to the investor that is a part of the earnings of a business. Dividends are determined by a committee of directors in the business. Then they are approved by the shareholders. What difference between dividends and capital gains? If the investor sells his investments for more than their original purchase amount, the difference is known as a capital gain. A capital gain could be long-term or short-term. Short-term refers to a term that is the year of one or less. In contrast, longer-term is a term that lasts longer than one year.

Key Differences

Let's examine the main distinctions between dividends and capital gains.

The Sale of The Underlying Asset

The sale of the stock/asset is the most vital difference between these two types of income. For dividends, we don't need to sell the primary stock or asset to collect dividends. Companies declare dividends at regular intervals based on their earnings at the declaration. Anyone who has a share prior to the announcement/record date for the dividend is eligible for it.

The Nature of Income

The dividend is a portion of the earnings of a business that the Board decides to distribute to its company's shareholders. It's typically a small proportion of profits, but the company keeps the rest to satisfy its own needs and fund its development initiatives. Capital gain is the amount of profit an investor receives following the sale of the investment or asset. It is in no way part of the realizable value, or anything gets reclaimed from this to meet future needs or growth.

The Number of Beneficiaries

If there is a corporation's dividend distribution, the number of shareholders who receive the dividend is huge. It could be as high as millions, based on the number of investors belonging to the eligible category for the company. However, in the case of capital gains, the beneficiaries' number is limited to the asset's owner or co-owner if held jointly.


There is a fixed tax rate for dividends. However, this isn't the case concerning capital gains. Tax rates are different between long-term and short-term capital gains.


Investors can receive dividend income multiple times if it is decided by the business to give it away. No obligation or law requires companies to declare and pay dividends to shareholders. It's entirely dependent on the Board to decide whether they would like to declare dividends or not. Therefore, the frequency of dividends isn't certain. Even with huge profits, the business could decide to keep the earnings and not distribute any dividends by dividends. Investors can, however, earn profits from an asset once he has traded the item to make it. This is why it's a one-time gain.

Control of the Income

Dividends are not under the control of investors. The Board of Directors at a corporation decides when, when, and how much of profits they intend to pay dividends and what percentage they want to retain as dividends. A shareholder or investor can't influence the decision of the Board.

If it is a case of capital gains, the decision to dispose of the asset in question and earn the gains is entirely in the hands of the owners. The owner is the only person who has input in the sale process and controls the time and the price at which he wishes to market the assets. Therefore, he is the sole decision-maker to sell and receive the proceeds from the sale and then an investment gain on the asset.

Influence on the Cost of the Asset That Serves as the Basis

Dividends impact a company's stock price. It rises when market rumors arise concerning a company's payout. After dividends, the stock price drops. If the dividend declaration is greater than expected, the stock price may rise.

Capital gains don't affect the underlying asset or stock price. This is because the asset or stock that the loan was based on was sold and is no longer held. The seller/investor is unaffected by price fluctuations.


The goal is to provide an income stream to investors annually. Since the earnings can be unpredictable, they can be a target for the tax authorities and, therefore, must be handled prudently and according to investing objectives. Both have their treatment within taxes in the U.S. tax code, and understanding how to incorporate these different rules into the financial plan can help maximize the use of the funds over the long haul. They also can help reduce taxes and help reduce tax-deductible income.

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