What Is the Annual Limit on Purchasing Series I Savings Bonds?

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Series I savings bonds offer significant advantages to investors, and the United States Government limits the total value of these bonds that you can purchase each year. The limits are just high enough that you can take advantage of these potentially great securities, particularly if you're married.

Purchase limits have been in place since 1941 when only Series E bonds were available. The most restrictive limit for those bonds—$3,750 annually—was in place from 1941 through 1947. The most generous limit was $30,000 for electronic Series EE and Series I bonds from 2003 through 2007.

Key Takeaways

  • Savings bonds have an annual purchasing limit of $30,000.
  • Series I and EE bonds have electronic limits of $10,000 and paper bond limits of $5,000.
  • The limits apply to the recipient of bonds, not to the giver, so you can purchase and give as many bonds as you like up to the limit per entity or person.

The Old Annual Purchase Limits

The U.S. Treasury Department used to set the Series I savings bond purchase limits based on the way you bought your bonds. You could buy up to $10,000 in Series I savings bonds, but no more than $5,000 could be in the form of paper bonds. The other $5,000 had to be digital bonds registered through the TreasuryDirect website. 

2021 Annual Purchase Limits

The policy changed on Jan. 1, 2012 when the Treasury Department started prohibiting financial institutions from selling paper savings bonds. Investors have enjoyed an overall $15,000 annual limit on Series I savings bond purchases since that time.

All bonds must be registered electronically through TreasuryDirect, but this doesn't mean that you can no longer purchase paper bonds. You can still buy them with your federal tax refund by submitting Form 8888 with your tax return. The IRS effectively takes care of registering them for you.

The good news here is that the $10,000 limit for electronic bonds and the $5,000 limit for paper bonds apply separately.

Note

The Series I savings bond annual purchase limit is in addition to the $10,000 Series EE savings bond annual purchase limit. In other words, you can put money into each of the two types of savings bonds annually and take advantage of both.

So the $25,000 annual purchase limit breaks down like this:

  • $10,000 in electronic Series I bonds purchased online, plus
  • $5,000 in paper Series I bonds purchased with your tax refund, plus
  • $10,000 in electronic Series EE bonds purchased online

Getting Around the Annual Purchase Limits

One problem with the savings bonds program is that it's difficult for high-income families to invest a large percentage of their earnings in savings bonds due to these limits. But there are some loopholes.

The limits also fall well below the gift tax exclusion—$15,000 per person per year per spouse in 2021, increasing to $16,000 in 2022. So you and your spouse could each purchase $10,000 worth of Series I savings bonds as gifts for each of your children, effectively transferring $20,000 to each of them without unpleasant gift tax consequences every year.

Note

High-income families can invest much larger amounts in Series I savings bonds without hitting the annual purchase limits. They're effectively giving gifts, not investing in bonds for themselves.

These Are Irrevocable Gifts

Series I savings bonds that you buy for minors through a custodial account with TreasuryDirect are irrevocable gifts. In other words, you can't take the money back even if you use it on things that you think are justified, such as medical expenses. You could end up facing a civil lawsuit if your child decides to sue you for restitution. 

Entity Accounts Can Increase Purchase Limits

Another technique to increase the purchase limits on Series I savings bonds is to open TreasuryDirect accounts in the name of your family business, partnership, limited liability company, or other qualified entity.

Note

These rules are always in flux, so check with a qualified tax expert if you're considering making use of any of these options.

You can purchase Series I bonds for you, your spouse, and your children, then turn around and buy more Series I bonds through a family-controlled limited liability company or partnership. The annual purchase limits are applied to the recipient of the bonds, not the giver.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a Series I savings bond?

A Series I savings bond is one of many Treasury securities offered by the U.S. government. These bonds are essentially loans to the federal government. In exchange for lending money, the government will pay interest. Series I bonds are designed to help average Americans do things like save for college and plan for retirement.

How long does it take for a Series I savings bond to mature?

Series I bonds mature after 30 years, but they can be cashed after one year. However, if the bonds aren't held for at least five years, then the bondholder will forfeit the previous three months' worth of interest payments when they cash them.

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Sources
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. TreasuryDirect. "Treasury Department Sets Online Savings Bond Annual Purchase Limit at $10,000 per Series."

  2. TreasuryDirect. "Series I Savings Bonds."

  3. Internal Revenue Service. "Using Your Income Tax Refund to Save by Buying U.S. Savings Bonds."

  4. TreasuryDirect. "Comparing Series EE and Series I Savings Bonds."

  5. Internal Revenue Service. “IRS Provides Tax Inflation Adjustments for Tax Year 2022.”

  6. Code of Federal Regulations. "Subpart C - Book-Entry Savings Bonds Purchased Through TreasuryDirect."

  7. TreasuryDirect. "Learn More About Entity Accounts."

  8. TreasuryDirect. "Buying Series I Savings Bonds."

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