Applicable Federal Rate (AFR)

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF® | Reviewed by Editorial Team

Updated on December 13, 2022

Applicable Federal Rate (AFR) Definition

The Applicable Federal Rate, or AFR, is the minimum rate of interest that can be charged on private loans without incurring taxes.

If a loan's interest falls below the Applicable Federal Rate, the loan can trigger a taxable event.

The AFR is published monthly by the IRS based on aggregated data from the market yields of US marketable debts, such as US Treasury Bills.

AFR Conditions

The IRS publishes a document each month which outlines the Federal Short Term Rate for various conditions:

1. Length of loan

There are three Applicable Federal Rates, depending on the length of the loan.

  • Short-term -- loans of three years or less
  • Mid-term -- loan terms between three and nine years
  • Long-term -- loans longer than nine years

Other AFR conditions include:

2. The time frame which the loan compounds

Shorter compounding time frames result in higher annual interest, so the AFR decreases for compounding interest on shorter time frames.

3. Rates for Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, or LIHTC

The rates at which low-income households receive a tax credit on the value of their loans.

4. Rate for Valuation of Annuities

120% of the annually compounding mid-term Applicable Federal Rate.

5. The Sale-Leaseback Rule and Exceptions

This is where an asset is sold and leases it back for use. Exceptions include the sale of small businesses and farms.

Example of Applicable Federal Rates

If the IRS Applicable Federal Rate for a short-term loan is 2.5% and $20,000 is lent for one year, then $500 in interest should be incurred when the loan is repaid.

If less than $500 in interest is charged, the IRS may add imputed interest to the income to reflect the AFR rather than the interest paid by the borrower.

Also, if $20,000 is above the annual gift tax exclusion, income taxes may be incurred on the amount in excess of the annual gift tax exclusion.

AFR (Applicable Federal Rate) FAQs

What does AFR stand for?

AFR stands for applicable federal rate.

What is the applicable federal rate?

The applicable federal rate is the minimum rate of interest that can be charged on private loans without incurring taxes

What are the 3 lengths of a loan, according to AFR regulations?

Short term - loans of 3 years or less; Mid-term - loans between 3 and 9 years; Long-term - Loans longer than 9 years.

How often is the AFR published?

The AFR is published monthly by the IRS based on aggregated data from the market yields of US marketable debts, such as US Treasury Bills.

Can I set my own interest when loaning to a family member?

To be in compliance with the IRS, you need to charge at least the applicable AFR rate, depending on the length of time the loan runs for.

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website, view his author profile on Amazon, or check out his speaker profile on the CFA Institute website.

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