Should A Municipal Bond Be in a Tax Deferred Account?

A Municipal bond, often referred to as a “muni,” is a popular fixed-income investment primarily because their interest income is exempt from federal income tax and, in many cases, state and local taxes as well. This tax-exempt status makes them especially attractive to investors in higher tax brackets. However, the decision to hold municipal bonds in tax-deferred accounts such as IRAs, Roth IRAs, or other retirement accounts requires careful consideration of several factors, including tax implications and investment strategy.

Pros of Holding Municipal Bonds in Tax-Deferred Accounts

  1. Diversification: Including municipal bonds in a tax-deferred account can help diversify an investment portfolio. Diversification can reduce risk by spreading investments across different types of assets, which can stabilize returns over time, especially during volatile market periods.
  2. Protected Income: In tax-deferred accounts, all investments grow tax-free until withdrawals are made (in the case of traditional IRAs and other similar accounts) or are entirely tax-free (as with Roth IRAs), provided certain conditions are met. This can be advantageous if the bonds are from issuers in states where the investor does not reside, as it might protect against state income taxes.

Cons of Holding Municipal Bonds in Tax-Deferred Accounts

  1. Tax Efficiency Loss: The primary disadvantage of holding municipal bonds in tax-deferred accounts is the loss of their tax-exemption benefit. Since the income from municipal bonds is generally exempt from federal taxes (and possibly state taxes), placing them in a tax-deferred account essentially nullifies this benefit. The interest from municipal bonds would be tax-free on its own, but when withdrawn from a tax-deferred account, it becomes taxable as ordinary income.
  2. Lower Yields: Municipal bonds typically offer lower yields compared to taxable bonds like corporate bonds. This is largely because their tax-exempt status is considered part of the return. Holding them in a tax-deferred account, where the tax advantage is not utilized, might result in a suboptimal investment choice since the investor could potentially achieve higher returns with other, higher-yielding taxable securities within these accounts.
  3. Liquidity and Flexibility: Municipal bonds can sometimes be less liquid than other types of bonds. When held in a retirement account, the usual restrictions on early withdrawals from these accounts apply, which might limit the investor’s flexibility in managing their portfolio.

Should You Hold Municipal Bonds in IRA, Roth IRA, or Other Tax-Deferred Accounts?

Given their tax-exempt status, municipal bonds are typically more beneficial when held in taxable accounts, where their unique tax advantages can be fully utilized. In Roth IRAs, where withdrawals can be tax-free in retirement, the benefit of holding municipal bonds diminishes since the tax-exemption of the bonds offers no additional advantage in a tax-free account.


While municipal bonds are an excellent choice for tax-efficient income in taxable accounts, they generally do not provide the same benefits in tax-deferred accounts. Investors should consider other higher-yielding taxable investments for these accounts to maximize their returns. Holding municipal bonds in a tax-deferred account could be a strategic choice if it fits a specific aspect of an investor’s broader financial strategy, particularly in terms of diversification or specific tax planning scenarios. However, for most investors, the cons outweigh the pros, and municipal bonds should typically be kept outside of tax-deferred retirement accounts. As always, consulting with a financial advisor or tax professional to understand the specific implications for your financial situation is advisable.

About this Article

This article was published and distributed by a trusted source of independent ideas. It should be viewed as general and educational information and not as financial, tax or legal advice. Individuals seeking advice tailored to their specific situation are encouraged to schedule a free consultation with a professional listed in the directory. Both and are owned and operated by The Independent Adviser Corporation. For additional information, please refer to their Privacy Policy and Terms of Use, Legal Notices, and Disclaimer.

Read more Articles

About Us

Founded in 1998, The Independent Adviser Corporation has assisted thousands of individuals, families, and businesses. We are 100% independent and 100% objective. We offer FREE educational resources and investment ideas, and when financial, tax or legal advice is needed, we connect individuals with Fee-Only professionals. Don’t wait any longer. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, please visit 1800ADVISER.COM.