What Is Carried Interest: Everything You Need To Know About Carried Interest

Jan 17, 2024 By Triston Martin

A lot of thought has been paid to the so-called "carried interest loophole" over the previous several years. It is a strategy that hedge fund managers employ to their benefit. Some have argued that this tax loophole permits hedge fund managers to avoid paying taxes on enormous gains made in the securities markets.

Even while carried interest might be seen as a tax deferral for managers of certain investment funds, this is not the case for many managers of genuine "hedge" funds. Let's discuss what carried interest is and how it functions in detail.

What Is A Carried Interest?

A carried interest gives its holder significant influence, as it can alter the tax rate applied to income and the year it is declared. A carried interest is, at its core, an application of the rules that regulate transactions between partners in a partnership and the partnership itself.

A partner's relationship with the partnership can take several forms, the most frequent of which are those of supplier, owner, and provider. Transactions between a partnership and a partner who contributes services are often categorized as guaranteed payments or distributive shares.

In contrast to the changeable nature of the distributive share, which is determined by the activities conducted by the partnership, guaranteed payments are tied to a predetermined and secure cash flow (not guaranteed).

Guaranteed payments are subject to the same taxation as regular income generated. Although a distributive share can also be taxed as regular earned income, a more advantageous treatment applies to many of the classifications that it falls under.

How Carried Interest Work?

The carried interest that a general partner receives as their principal remuneration amounts to twenty percent of their fund's earnings. The fund's managers are the ones who ultimately benefit from the earnings made by the general partner.

In addition, most general partners assess a yearly management fee of 2%. In contrast to the management fee, carried interest is only collected if a fund meets a minimum return requirement previously agreed upon.

The fund may lose carried interest if it does not meet its objectives. The carried interest component of a general partner's pay will normally become fully vested over some time equal to or greater than three years.

Carried interest has been a contentious political issue for a very long time. It is sometimes referred to as a "loophole" since it enables private-equity managers to obtain a lower tax rate.

Non-Taxation Of Carried Interest As Income

The difference between long-term capital gains and regular income taxation is crucial to understand the carried interest discussion fully. The highest tax bands apply a much higher rate to ordinary income than long-term capital gains.

For instance, the highest rate for long-term capital gains is 20%, which means that a $1 million return on investments in 2020 will be subject to taxation. If you declare that sum as income, your marginal tax rate would be 37%.

The Tax Code classifies carried interest as a capital gain instead of income generated by the general partner for managing the fund, which is one source of the debate surrounding carried interest. Long-term capital gains are earnings on assets held for more than a year, such as real estate, stocks, or a company.

New Tax Rules And Carried Interest

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act legislation altered how carried interest is taxed in the United States. For a general partner to be eligible to obtain treatment of realized profits as long-term capital gains under the new law's provisions, a holding period of at least three years is required.

The impact of this new regulation will be felt most strongly by managers of hedge funds who typically keep their investments for more than one year but less than three years. These managers ought to give some thought to changing some of the general partner interest they have in the fund into a limited partner interest.

Alternatively, exchanging the incentive allocation for a fee is possible. However, this alternative would need to be thoroughly investigated to see whether or not it would be advantageous for the fund management and the investors.

Considerations For Using Carried Interest

Depending on the type of fund, the carried interest calculation may vary. General Partners benefit from carrying on a deal-by-deal basis. As a rule, agreements will total losses and gains to arrive at a net figure from which profits will be divided.

Deal-by-deal carry, on the other hand, permits general partners to retain only carry-on assets that ultimately prove profitable. They need not take potential losses into account. Although reimbursing limited partners is obligatory, general partners benefit far more from a carry calculated deal-by-deal basis.

Venture capitalists should avoid deal-by-deal carry for the same reason. It occurs when general partners focus solely on the portfolio's top performers. This practice is not novel for traditional equities and hedge funds, but it is novel for venture capital firms.

Those who favor this method argue that calculating carry is not a horrible approach because there are so few winners in a fund. The amount of shareholder equity is also used to carry interest. Earnings are proportional to the amount of money contributed by limited partners. Carry receives 20% of this total.


When a private equity firm sells a company at a profit, the fund's general partner receives carried interest as payment for their contribution to the fund. Traditionally, carried interest was taxed at the regulated prices to long-term capital gains, sometimes lower than the rates applicable to ordinary income.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enacted regulations that prevent taxation at more advantageous capital gains rates for funds until the fund has held the firm for at least three years. This provision was included in the bill that slashed taxes and created jobs.

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