Connect with us

Is Life Insurance Payout Taxable? It Depends on These Factors

General

Is Life Insurance Payout Taxable? It Depends on These Factors

Life insurance is a financial product that provides a lump-sum payment to the beneficiary of the policyholder after their death. This payment, also known as the death benefit, can help the beneficiary cover funeral costs, pay off debts, or maintain their standard of living. But are life insurance payouts taxable as income? The answer is not so simple, as it depends on several factors, such as the type of policy, the amount of the payout, the way the payout is received, and the relationship between the policyholder and the beneficiary. In this article, we will explore some common scenarios and their tax implications for life insurance payouts.

Death Benefit Paid Out to Beneficiaries

This is the most common situation, where the beneficiary receives a lump-sum payment from the life insurance company after the policyholder’s death. In most cases, this payout is not taxable as income, and the beneficiary can keep the full amount. However, there are some exceptions and nuances that you should be aware of.

One exception is if the policyholder’s estate is very large and exceeds the federal and state estate tax exemptions. For 2024, the federal estate tax exemption is $12.06 million per individual. This means that if the policyholder’s estate, including the life insurance proceeds, is worth more than $12.06 million, then the life insurance proceeds may be subject to estate taxes. The estate tax rate can range from 18% to 40%, depending on the size of the estate. Some states also impose their own estate taxes, which may have lower exemptions and higher rates than the federal estate tax.

Another nuance is if the beneficiary receives the payout in installments, rather than a lump sum. In this case, the beneficiary may have to pay income tax on the interest portion of the installment payments. For example, if the beneficiary receives $100,000 per year for 10 years, and $10,000 of that is interest, then the beneficiary may have to pay income tax on the $10,000 interest each year.

Cash Value Gains

Some permanent life insurance policies, such as whole or universal life, have a cash value component that grows over time. The cash value is the amount of money that the policyholder can access while they are still alive, through loans, withdrawals, or surrendering the policy. The cash value gains are not taxable as long as they are less than the total premiums paid into the policy. However, if the policyholder withdraws or surrenders the policy and receives more than the premiums paid, then the excess amount is taxable as income.

For example, if the policyholder pays $50,000 in premiums over the years, and the cash value grows to $60,000, then the policyholder can withdraw or surrender the policy and receive $60,000 without paying any taxes. However, if the cash value grows to $70,000, then the policyholder can only withdraw or surrender the policy and receive $60,000 tax-free, and the remaining $10,000 is taxable as income.

Surrender Payouts

If the policyholder decides to cancel the policy before it matures, they may receive a surrender payout, which is the cash value minus any surrender fees. The surrender payout is not taxable as long as it is less than the premiums paid. However, if the surrender payout is more than the premiums paid, then the difference is taxable as income.

For example, if the policyholder pays $50,000 in premiums over the years, and the cash value is $60,000, but the surrender fee is $5,000, then the policyholder can cancel the policy and receive $55,000 without paying any taxes. However, if the cash value is $70,000, and the surrender fee is $5,000, then the policyholder can cancel the policy and receive $65,000, but $15,000 of that is taxable as income.

Early Payout for Chronic or Terminal Illness

Some life insurance policies offer an accelerated death benefit rider, which allows the policyholder to receive a portion of the death benefit while they are still alive if they are diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness. This payout is not taxable as income, as it is considered an advance of the death benefit. However, there are some drawbacks to this option, such as reducing the amount of the death benefit for the beneficiary, increasing the premiums, or affecting the eligibility for other benefits, such as Medicaid or Social Security Disability Insurance.

Annual Life Insurance Dividends

Some mutual life insurance companies pay dividends to their policyholders based on the company’s profits. These dividends are not taxable as income, as long as they are less than the premiums paid in the same year. However, if the dividends exceed the premiums paid, then the excess amount is taxable as income.

For example, if the policyholder pays $1,000 in premiums in a year, and receives $1,200 in dividends, then the policyholder can keep the $1,200 without paying any taxes. However, if the policyholder pays $1,000 in premiums in a year, and receives $1,500 in dividends, then the policyholder has to pay income tax on the $500 excess.

Return of Premium Policy Refunds

Some term life insurance policies offer a return of premium feature, which refunds the policyholder the premiums paid if they outlive the policy term. This refund is not taxable as income, as it is considered a return of the original investment. However, this feature may come with a higher premium or a longer term than a regular term life insurance policy.

Life Insurance Settlement

This is a situation where the policyholder sells their life insurance policy to a third party, such as an investor or a company, for a lump-sum payment. The third party then becomes the new owner and beneficiary of the policy, and pays the premiums until the policyholder dies. The life insurance settlement is taxable as income, and the policyholder must report the difference between the settlement amount and the premiums paid as ordinary income.

For example, if the policyholder pays $50,000 in premiums over the years, and sells the policy for $100,000, then the policyholder has to pay income tax on the $50,000 gain.

Conclusion

These are some of the common scenarios and their tax implications for life insurance payouts. However, tax laws are complex and may change over time, so it is always advisable to consult a tax professional before making any decisions regarding your life insurance policy.

Continue Reading
You may also like...

More in General

Popular Post

To Top