You can thank the Pension Protection Act.
On January 1, 2010, owners of certain nonqualified annuities were allowed some new tax benefits. On that date, the Pension Protection Act (PPA) of 2006 was fully implemented and brought about dramatic and interesting changes for those who had started annuities with after-tax dollars.
New interest in hybrid annuities. Some variable annuities give you the option of buying a long term care insurance rider for additional cost. These are often called “hybrid annuities” or “annuity/LTCI plans”. Typically, the people most interested in them are annuity holders outside of their surrender period who have a need for long term care planning.
If it turns out that the hybrid annuity owner doesn’t need long term care, then he or she usually can choose from three options: arranging an ongoing income stream from the annuity contract, cashing out the annuity and paying income tax on the proceeds, or continuing to earn tax-deferred interest on the annuity.1
There are some trade-offs for the LTC coverage in these annuities. The cost of the LTC rider decreases the potential tax-deferred income stream resulting from the annuity contract. Benefits usually aren’t activated until two years after the annuity is purchased. Additionally, the LTC coverage only lasts for a certain number of years (though in some of these plans, the annuity owner may pay extra to extend it).1
A new perk: tax-free withdrawals to pay for long term care. With all this in mind, owners of hybrid annuities can thank the PPA for a new option. At the start of 2010:
- These nonqualified deferred annuities with added long term care insurance riders were now characterized as tax-qualified LTC insurance plans.2
- As a result, all withdrawals from these hybrid annuities are income tax free so long as they are used for qualified long term care. So you can use the cash value of the annuity to cover the cost of LTC insurance premiums without triggering a taxable event.2
- Annuity owners are now allowed to make tax-free 1035 exchanges into appropriate hybrid annuities with long term care riders.3
- Additionally, an annuity owner can do a 1035 exchange for the cash value from any annuity into a single-premium qualified LTC insurance policy without incurring any gains.3
Now these annuities are even more attractive. Hybrid annuities with LTC insurance riders already offer their owners tax-deferred growth – and sometimes, a return-of-premium option that gives back the investment to an owner’s estate if no LTC claim is made. The new allowance of what could be sizable tax-free withdrawals makes them look even better.
In addition, the new freedom to make a tax-free exchange means that an annuity owner can now leave a current contract for a hybrid annuity that may provide a much greater pool of money someday to cover LTC costs. The possible downside: if you make that move before age 59½, you may incur fees, charges and/or penalties as a result. (Keep in mind also that annuity contracts are not “guaranteed” by any federal agency; the “guarantee” is a pledge from the insurer.)
Are they for you? These hybrid annuities are certainly worth a look. If you can’t qualify medically for LTC insurance but still need to be protected, a hybrid annuity may be an excellent option. Many people fund these annuities by redirecting cash from a bank CD or an annuity they already own. You might want to talk to your insurance or financial consultant about the possibility.
Guarantees provided by life insurance and annuities are subject to the financial strength of the issuing insurance company; not guaranteed by any bank or the FDIC. This material has been prepared for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, accounting, legal, tax or investment advice. Please consult with a professional specializing in these areas regarding the applicability of this information to your situation. 11739 – 2011/6/1
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