Every Treasury I bonds purchase is recorded with a Social Security Number. The Treasury provides tax benefits to individuals who purchase I bonds - they are federal and state tax free - so it must limit how many each individual tax payer can purchase. As of 2008, the limit was set at $5,000 per taxpayer. This limit lasted through 2010, but it may be subject to change in the future. 

Separate Limits

It is important to understand there are four categories of I bonds, and each is subject to its own separate limit. Series EE bonds and Series I savings bonds are the two main categories; these are further broken down to paper bonds and electronic bonds. Therefore, an individual can hold $5,000 of each type of bond, or $20,000 total, and still be under the Treasury's purchase limit in a single calendar year.

Annual Purchase Rules

The purchases are not cumulative. Each taxpayer gets a fresh start each calendar year. Further, an individual can be listed as a co-owner on additional bonds each annum. The purchase is only added toward the total limit of the first-named co-owner of a bond. For example, if Jane would like to own another bond but is at her limit, she may purchase the bond in co-ownership with her husband Jeff. Jeff can be listed as the first-named owner, and the bond will not apply to Jane's maximum. Next year, Jane will start all over with a new limit. 

Limit History

The first limit on savings bonds was imposed in 1941, but the limit has adjusted and changed over the years. Prior to the 2008 change, the limit was set at $30,000 annually. However, the IRS and Treasury determined nearly 98 percent of all bonds were purchased in amounts under $5,000. This lead them to a new policy of the $5,000 limit for each type of security in the 2008 change. The limit is subject to change in the future as the IRS and Treasury reset policy regarding income and investment tax to keep pace with the changing economy. 

Electronic vs. Paper Bonds

Paper bonds can be purchased through a broker or other clearing house. They may have higher minimum limits depending on the type of bond. As electronic trading gained a larger foothold on the bond market, the Treasury introduced its own electronic trading accounts through Treasury Direct. You can easily set up an account through Treasury Direct online and being purchasing I bonds in amounts as low as $25. 

Exceptions

There are several exceptions to the annual limit. Any paper bond gifted to you is not counted toward your limit. For example, parents can gift bonds to their children, and those children will not see the bond recorded against their Social Security Numbers. However, if you actually transfer an electronic savings bond to another account holder, as a gift or otherwise, the sum does apply to the account holder's annual purchase limit in the year the transaction occurs. The bond will no longer apply to your annual limit. 

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