Capital gains vs. dividends: What’s the better option?

Capital gains and dividends are common ways businesses build wealth through investments. They both efficiently affect a business's growth but with different methods. They involve, impact, and are managed by different people and teams and have different tax implications.

You must understand dividends vs. capital gains to manage your tax liabilities and investments. To understand dividends and capital gains, what are their fundamental differences, and which is better for shareholders and investors, get through the read. And don't forget to know about the help gini can provide in your investment plans.

What are dividends?

A company's distribution method of earnings to its shareholders is known as a dividend. A dividend is a reward or interest payment received by investors who hold shares in the company. It can be cash, warrants for stock purchase, or additional stock shares.

Both private and public companies pay dividends to their shareholders, but it is not applicable for all companies to pay them. Over 84% of companies in the S&P 500 pay dividends regularly. If you want to earn dividends, be sure to purchase dividend-paying stocks.

The dividend payout can be quarterly, monthly, or yearly depending on the company's policies. Only special dividends have irregular payments. Here are the most common types of dividends:

Preferred Dividend

A fixed dividend that a shareholder receives on its preferred stocks is known as a Preferred Dividend. It means a preferred shareholder will receive a fixed dividend percentage annually. Preferred shareholders hold great importance and get higher dividend rates.

To calculate the preferred dividend, you can use the following formula:

Preferred Dividends = Par Value x Rate of Dividend x Number of Preferred Stocks

Common Dividend

A company's cash or stock dividend payout for common stock owners is called a common dividend. Common stock size can be regulated by law, especially if the dividend payment is in cash distribution, equivalent to liquidation. Compared to common stock, preferred stock is more likely to receive dividends.

Special Dividends

A one-time bonus payout of a dividend is known as a special dividend. A company with no regular dividend schedule can offer it to its shareholders for one time only. Or it may be an additional dividend in the already scheduled dividends.

Shareholders receive special dividends when the company gets great profit. It is not a lifelong commitment by a company that will always continue to pay it at the same rate.

For instance, Microsoft's regular quarterly rate for dividend stocks is 13 cents per share, but in 2004, it distributed a one-time dividend payout of $3 per share.

Cash Dividends

A company's periodic distribution of dividends in the form of cash to its shareholders is called a cash dividend. Cash dividends can be given monthly or quarterly but regularly. Sometimes, it can also be a one-time dividend payment after a great profit or settlement.

Stock Dividends

A stock dividend's function is the same as an automatic dividend reinvestment program. When shareholders receive a dividend payout in the form of shares of stock and not cash, it's called dividend stocks. Shareholders can immediately sell their stock dividends or keep them for a long.

What are capital gains?

A company's profit from its capital assets is known as a capital gain. Capital gain is always received when an asset or share is sold at a higher cost than its original price.

Gains in capital assets are either realized or unrealized. These gains are realized by the individual or a company when the asset gets sold in the market. While unrealized gains mean the current price surpasses the asset's purchase price, the capital asset remains unsold. It is important to note that only capital gains realized are taxable.

Once an owner or investor decides to sell an asset or share, the price other than its capital value is the investor's profit. These realized gains fall into two categories.

  • Short-term capital gains: You held an asset for less than a year before selling it for a profit.
  • Long-term capital gains apply to assets sold for profit after you had them for more than a year.

After the sale of a capital asset, your gains become part of a taxable income. The tax rate for capital gains is higher compared to dividends. Also, short-term capital gains and long-term capital gains have different levels of tax liability.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) taxes a short-term capital gain at the ordinary income tax rate. If the ordinary tax rates are 35%, the capital gain will have a favorable tax option or tax rate of 20%. Long-term capital gains, however, are often taxed at a lower rate.

What are the key differences between Dividends and Capital Gains?

Both capital gains and dividend income are beneficial for investors and shareholders. As you know, capital is the initial amount for investment. Likewise, a capital gain is the profit gained after selling an asset at a higher price than the original cost.

On the other hand, a dividend is a reward or interest payment received by investors who hold shares in the company. Dividend payouts are typically shared quarterly and can come either in cash or in the form of more stock reinvestment.

Dividends vs. capital gains have some key differences. Let's take a look:


When an investor or company sells off its long-term asset and receives a profit, it is known as a capital gain. In comparison, a dividend income is a reward or income distributed to shareholders acquired from the company's net profit.

How are the values determined

Capital gains are determined by market conditions or macroeconomic variables that impact capital asset value. In contrast, dividend distributions are determined by voting and by a company's top management.

Capital gain is the only profit after investing an asset or share. It does not bring any additional benefits or perks. Still, dividends are good for the company and include benefits like bonus shares and stock splits. Also, dividends are rewards from a company's net profits, which can only be possible with a good company's performance.


Dividend income is given to shareholders according to the company's policies. It can be on a periodical basis, such as manually, quarter, monthly, or annually. Meanwhile, capital gains are received after selling long-term assets at a higher price.

The future business activities of a company's stock can be highly affected by the assets held in the company's equity. Capital gains can be received only after selling an asset or share. In contrast, dividends are continuous, and their release schedule is pre-determined and made known to you.


The dividend requires a smaller investment to purchase stocks. At the same time, capital gains demand a larger investment to get a bigger capital gain. In simple terms, the amount of investment for capital gains is typically higher than a dividend investment.


Capital gains are charged with high tax amounts, while dividends have low taxes. Investors who get dividends vs. capital gains are applicable to pay tax on these gains.

The tax on net capital gains depends on the asset being sold, whether long-term or short-term. The dividend tax rate is usually flat, for instance, 10% or 15%.

Usually, long-term capital gains and qualified dividends have lower income tax rates. Meanwhile, short-term capital gains and ordinary dividends have the same income tax rates as the average tax level.


The timing, value, and frequency of a dividend income can't be a single decision by the investor. The company's management makes all decisions regarding dividends and eligible shareholders.

At the same time, investors have full control over a capital gain's value, timing, and frequency. Investors use capital gains accordingly as economic conditions get better and more favorable.

Dividend Yield vs. Capital gains Yield

Dividend yield (DY) is a financial ratio expressed as a percentage that presents a company's total dividend investment each year. The rise and fall of yield depend on the lowered and raised dividends.

As the stock is raised, the yield will fall. The dividend yield is likely to come from ordinary dividends that are issued to shareholders of small and foreign companies.

Sometimes, dividend yield can't facilitate information about the company's dividend kind. New or small businesses progressing quickly are charged with low average dividends. Meanwhile, mature companies with slow progress pay higher dividend yields.

The dividend yield is calculated using the following:

Dividend yield = Dividend per share / Market value per share

Capital Gains Yield (CGY) is a security or investment price appreciation expressed as a percentage. It presents the change in the price rate of the financial instrument.

With capital gains yield calculation, investors can determine which financial tools benefit them as an investment. Capital gain tax is applied to the qualified dividend.

The capital gains yield is calculated using the following:

Capital Gains yield = (Price 1 – Price 0)/Price 0

Is it better to have dividends or capital gains?

The general preference for investors is capital gains, and generally, shareholders choose dividend income. Capital gains or low-payout firms are preferable for investors as they avoid the periodic distribution of dividends.

As the market value changes over time, shareholders are uncertain about the profit company will offer to them. The risk factors are always there regarding investments, shares, and future gains.

There are a few situations where dividends can be better for investors.

  • When an investor wants incoming cash from investments without selling their assets.
  • The capital gains tax rate is generally higher. But it is lower on a qualified dividend. So investors can save a lot of money with qualified dividends after paying taxes.

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