Vernoia, Enterline + Brewer, CPA LLC

Many more retirees and others wanting guarantee income are looking into annuities, especially given the recent experience of the economic downturn. While the basic concept of an annuity is fairly simple, complex rules usually apply to the taxation of amounts received under certain annuity and life insurance contracts.

Amounts received as an annuity are included in gross income to the extent that they exceed the exclusion ratio, which is determined by taking the original investment in the contract, deducting the value of any refund features, and dividing the result by the expected yield on the contract as of the annuity starting date. In general, the expected return is the product of a single payment and the anticipated number of payments to be received, i.e., the total amount the annuitant(s) can expect to receive. In the case of a life annuity, the number of payments is computed based on actuarial tables.

If the annuity payments are to continue as long as the annuitant remains alive, the anticipated number of payments is based on the annuitant’s (or annuitants’) life expectancy at the birthday nearest the annuity starting date. The IRS provides a variety of actuarial tables, within unisex tables generally applicable to all contracts entered into after June 1986. The expected return multiples found in the actuarial tables may require adjustment if the contract specifies quarterly, semiannual or annual payments or if the interval between payments exceeds the interval between the annuity starting date and the first payment.

In connection with annuity calculations, one recent tax law change in particular is worth noting. Under the Creating Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, enacted on September 27, 2010, if amounts are received as an annuity for a period of 10 years or more or on the lives of one or more individuals under any portion of an annuity, endowment, or life insurance contract, then that portion of the contract will now be treated as a separate contract for tax purposes. As result, a portion of such an annuity, endowment, or life insurance contract may be annuitized, while the balance is not annuitized. The allowance of partial annuitization applies to amounts received in tax years beginning after December 31, 2010.

If you need help in “crunching the numbers” on an annuity, or if you’d like advice on what annuity options might best fit your needs, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

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