The Complete Guide to

Annuities & Structured Settlements

Annuity

What is an annuity?

An annuity is a contract between a person and an insurance company. The policyholder normally pays the insurer a lump sum, although sometimes they will make a series of payments. This is the ‘accumulation phase’ of the annuity. During this phase, the premiums are invested in bonds and other vehicles.

Eventually the policy will be ‘annuitized’ or converted into a series of payments back to the policyholder. This is the ‘annuitization’, ‘distribution’ or ‘payout phase’ and can start immediately or at some point in the future.

The ultimate goal of an annuity is to provide a secure income in the future, usually during retirement. Therefore, annuities should be thought of as a long-term saving strategy. Early withdrawal, as detailed later in this guide, will usually attract a surrender fee.

The ultimate goal of an annuity is to provide a secure income in the future, usually during retirement.

In terms of tax treatment, income from annuities is taxed at normal income tax rates which are normally higher than capital gains rates.

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The History of Annuities

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The first annuities in the U.S. were organized in the 18th Century by Presbyterians in Pennsylvania to provide security for ministers and their families. Pennsylvania was also the birthplace of the first public annuities when they were first made available in 1912. But annuities really took off under Franklin Roosevelt as the US recovered from the Great Depression and workplace pension plans became popular. These early annuities were fixed, with variable annuities entering the picture in 1952.
In the 17th Century, annuities known as ‘tontines’ became popular in the UK as a way of raising much-needed funding for wars. Investors would pay into a funding pool which would then generate dividends for its members (or their nominated beneficiary). As the pool dwindled, often due to members dying, the dividends for the remaining members increased. One of the first of these schemes was the 1693 State Tontine which the government offered for £100 a share.
During the time of the Roman Empire, wealthy citizens would sometimes pay the Empire a lump sum in return for annual stipends (Latin: annua). The annua were paid either for a set number of years or for the rest of the person’s life. This agreement was governed by a contract, and both the basic concept and the word have become the annuity product sold all over the world today (although annuity payments are usually paid monthly, not annually).
The Romans may not have been the first culture to dream up annuities. Some sources claim that the Ancient Egyptians also used a similar method to secure future wealth for their people.

Noting the popularity of variable annuities, fund managers soon started creating separate tax-deferred accounts that insurance companies could use for their annuity premiums. By the end of the 20th Century, annuity sales had surpassed the $100 billion mark and are now around double that figure.

Types of Annuity

Annuities come in three types: fixed, variable and fixed indexed.
A fixed annuity accrues interest at a fixed rate for the duration of the accumulation period. Compared with other types of annuities, the interest rate of a fixed annuity is likely to be quite low, often just above the rate applied to a standard CD account. However, since the interest rate is fixed, it isn’t tied to the performance of stocks, shares or mutual trusts. This may deny investors the potential of higher earnings, but it does protect them from the risk of losing their capital and can therefore be a reliable source of supplemental income during retirement. There is a small risk that they could lose money in real terms should inflation outpace investment growth.

Fixed annuities are also easy to budget for because the payee knows exactly what they will be receiving and when.

As detailed below, fixed annuities can be either deferred to accumulate interest or immediate, providing fixed payments based on the size of the annuity and the age of the investor.

The principal invested in a variable annuity accrues interest at a rate that is tied to the performance of a portfolio of mutual funds. The investor will normally be presented with a selection of funds from which to choose. Compared with a fixed annuity, the rate of interest is unpredictable, and returns will vary depending on the performance of the investor’s chosen fund. Any interest the annuity accrues is paid into a separate sub account.

Investors will usually choose a variable annuity to benefit from deferred tax and the higher returns they can expect from a well-performing fund. However, since the interest rate is neither fixed nor guaranteed, the investor is at risk of underperforming inflation or losing their capital altogether if the associated fund falls in value. There also tends to be withdrawal restrictions imposed during the accumulation phase (e.g. one withdrawal per year).

Variable annuities are also difficult to budget for because the payee doesn’t know what he or she will receive and when.

As with fixed annuities, variable annuities can be deferred to provide a regular income later in life or immediate, providing an income stream straight away.

A fixed indexed annuity blends the properties of fixed and variable annuities. A portion of the fixed indexed annuity accrues interest at a fixed rate for the duration of the accumulation period. This protects the investor from the risk of losing their capital and helps with budgeting because the payee knows the amount of the minimum payment and when they will receive it.

The remaining capital in the annuity accrues interest at a rate tied to the performance of a capitalization index (e.g. the S&P 500). As with a variable annuity, the rate of interest for this portion of the fund is unpredictable although investing in an index is not as risky as investing in separate funds.

Investors will usually choose a fixed indexed annuity to ensure their capital is safe while still providing the potential to receive higher returns. However, these annuities can look better than they are. Through a combination of interest earning caps and hefty fees, the return on fixed indexed annuities can be disappointing.

Annuities are also categorized based on how soon they are annuitized.

Annuities are usually annuitized a number of years after purchase. These are called ‘deferred annuities.’ One of the advantages of opting for a deferred annuity is that you can treat the annuity almost like a flexible savings account, earning tax-free interest while making occasional withdrawals when needed. Only when the policy is annuitized do you lose that freedom.

A longevity (or ‘advanced life’) annuity is a subtype of deferred annuity which is annuitized at a future date and then continues to pay out for the rest of the investor’s life.

As the name suggests, a single premium immediate annuity is a policy that is annuitized immediately after funding. In a sense it is an exact reverse of a life insurance policy. Instead of paying regular premiums in return for a lump sum on death, the policyholder pays a lump sum in return for regular payments to use as an income stream.

Finally, annuities are also categorized based on whether they will pay out over a specific period (a fixed term or temporary life annuity) or for the rest of the annuity holder’s life (a life contingent annuity). A third type, the joint and survivor annuity, will automatically switch the payments over to the surviving party (usually a spouse) when the first party dies. There may also be a third beneficiary (often a child) who will receive the balance of a minimum number of payments should both parties die early.

In life contingent annuities, the payments are usually lower since the insurer is taking on a greater risk (known as longevity risk).

Fixed term annuities usually pay out over five to ten years, but some provide payments over as few as three or as many as twenty years. After the final payment, a lump sum ‘maturation amount’ is paid.

Pros and Cons of Annuities

As with any form of investment, it is important to look at both the advantages and disadvantages of annuities before deciding to part with your cash.

Pros

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Providing a regular income.

Annuities offer a practical way to plan for retirement by providing a regular income.

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Potential for Higher Gains

Variable annuities offer the potential for higher gains but at higher risk.

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Faster Growth

As tax-deferred vehicles, annuities facilitate the compounding of interest, enabling the account to grow faster than a standard CD account.

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Guarantee Payments

Longevity annuities will even guarantee payments for the rest of an investor's life

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Guaranteed Repayments

There are various types of annuities to suit different risk preferences. For more conservative investors, fixed annuities offer guaranteed repayments at a modest rate.

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Annuities can be Customized

Annuities can be customized with the addition of 'riders,' special features to help tailor the product to annuity buyers. These can be either living riders (e.g. a rider enabling you to annuitize your fund before the contracted repayment date) or death benefit riders (e.g. a lump sum payment to your spouse when you die). For people who are struggling with debt, putting money into an annuity can protect it from creditors.

Cons

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Attract a Penalty

As detailed below, withdrawing from, surrendering or selling your annuity early will almost always attract a penalty.

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Repayments become subject to Tax

Once annuities are annuitized, the repayments become subject to tax at the normal rate (unless they are non-qualified, in which case only the interest is taxed). Likewise, any insurance company can offer annuities and the product is only as secure as the insurer offering it.

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Cause Confusion

Other fees may also be applied, and this can cause confusion and eat into returns.

Can I Sell my Annuity?

Many annuity holders ask this question and the answer is yes!

Before you go ahead and look for third parties interested in buying your annuity, it is important to realize that you won’t get the full value of your annuity because the buyer will want to make a profit.

annuity value

You should also be honest with your reasons for selling. Why are you prepared to give up your future security? There are many reasons why annuity holders might need to access a lump sum of cash now rather than wait for their future payments to kick in. For example, they may have inherited an annuity from a relative but prefer to invest the money elsewhere to achieve higher growth potential.

Whatever their motivation, annuity holders should make sure that they have a genuine need to sell and that they have made provision for their retirement income.

It is easy to get excited by the thought of a large lump sum, especially if a potential buyer is trying to sell the idea to you.

If you don’t want to sell your whole annuity, you can choose to sell part of it. This way you still have a future income to look forward to.

The only issue that might present a problem is the annuity surrender period.

What is an Annuity Surrender Period?

The annuity surrender period is the amount of time you must wait before being able to sell your annuity without attracting a surrender penalty. It is normally between 6 and 8 years after the purchase of the annuity but can be over 10 years. Surrender periods are included in most annuities as a way to protect insurance brokers who rely on commission to make a profit.

annuity surrender penalty

In most cases, the surrender penalty is a percentage amount of the current annuity value. This is usually on a sliding scale, reducing by a percentage point every year. For example, the penalty might be 6% on year 1, 5% on year 2, 4% on year 3 and so on.

You are usually permitted to withdraw up to 10% of your annuity fund, penalty free, in any one year. Surrender penalties will then only apply to the remainder of the money you are withdrawing.

How Soon Will I Get my Money After Selling my Annuity?

Selling an annuity can be an incredibly fast process, with the whole process usually taking around a month. You should expect to receive a check from the buyer around one or two weeks after completing the paperwork.

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If this timeframe is still too slow for you, some insurance companies will agree to advance you some of the money up front.

Are There any Taxes Involved in Selling my Annuity?

All annuities grow on a tax-deferred basis, meaning that the earnings made from their investment accumulates tax-free. After annuitization, tax is payable on the money paid back.

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Annuities can be qualified or non-qualified. Qualified annuities are purchased as part of a retirement plan such as a 401(k) or an IRA. As they are not taxed at source (bought with ‘pre-tax dollars’) the whole amount is taxed when paid out.

Annuities can be qualified or non-qualified. Qualified annuities are purchased as part of a retirement plan such as a 401(k) or an IRA.

Non-qualified annuities are those that are bought with post-tax dollars. When these are paid out, the recipient only pays tax on the interest they have earned. If you have only sold part of your annuity, the lump sum you receive will be treated as coming out of the growth portion of the fund first and will be taxed accordingly.

In terms of taxation, annuities are not the most tax-efficient investment vehicle. Taxes are paid at normal rate unlike with mutual funds where lower capital gains tax is applied.

Will I Still Have to Pay Premiums after Selling my Annuity?

This depends on whether you are selling your entire annuity or just a portion of it. When you sell your entire annuity, all responsibilities for paying premiums passes to the buyer. You can just enjoy your lump sum and never have to think about the annuity again.

If you have only sold part of your annuity, you will still have to pay premiums to fund the remaining payments you will be relying on in the future. Your premiums will, of course, be reduced.

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Structured Settlements

What are Structured
Settlements?

A structured settlement is a legally binding agreement between an insurer and a plaintiff in a legal case. It is designed to fulfill the financial obligations of a defendant to the plaintiff. This may be agreed between the parties in an out of court settlement. Alternatively, it may be ordered by a judge following a trial.

Either way, a structured settlement involves buying one or more annuities, usually from a larger life insurance company like AIG or Prudential, and packaging them together in an individual product. Structured settlements are designed to be very flexible, providing combinations of lump sum and periodic payments to meet the financial needs of the plaintiff.

Structured settlements are often designed to increase in value over time to offset inflation.

Structured settlements are often designed to increase in value over time to offset inflation. Most structured settlements provide guaranteed payments, disbursing the settlement within the claimant’s lifetime. Occasionally, structured settlements include life contingent payments which terminate with the claimant’s death.

structured settlements agreement

The History of
Structured Settlements

1970

Structured settlements first started being taken seriously in the 1970s. Insurers for defendants in medical malpractice and personal injury claims were regularly being asked to pay out for future medical costs, placing a huge burden on their reserves. Purchasing annuities via legally binding structured settlements seemed a viable alternative to lump sum payments, but the unclear tax status of structured settlement disbursements prevented them from being widely recommended.

1979

In 1979, an IRS Revenue Ruling (Rule 79-220) was made to confirm the tax-free status of all qualifying lawsuit settlements including the interest earned. But lawyers remained skeptical about structured settlements. There were still unresolved tax loopholes and also fear that insurers could become insolvent, leaving the claimant with nothing.

1982

In 1982, largely thanks to the work of Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), the federal government passed the Periodic Payment Settlement Tax Act. This allowed most structured settlements to be defined as qualified assignments, able to be taken off the hands of the defendant and their insurer and placed with more secure insurance companies. This finally gave lawyers the confidence to recommend structured settlements, knowing that their clients’ future payments were in safe hands.

How do you Get a
Structured Settlement?

When a lawsuit is settled, either before or after a trial, lawyers for the plaintiff and defendant will work out when and how the settlement award should be paid. A structured settlement is commonly chosen as the safest and most flexible instrument. The lawyers will structure the settlement to meet the expected current and future needs of the claimant. This could involve arranging one or more annuities with a qualified assignee, typically a large insurance firm. A structured settlement will normally include a mixture of immediate and future lump sums and periodic payments. They are normally designed to grow at a modest rate to counter the effect of inflation.

A structured settlement is commonly chosen as the safest and most flexible instrument.

Apart from this, the only other way to get a structured settlement is to buy one on the secondary market.

Common Structured
Settlement Scenarios

Structured settlements are commonly set up to manage payments due to a claimant following a personal injury case. The most serious cases, those involving catastrophic injuries, can run into millions of dollars. Structured settlements are recommended where the claimant is likely to need ongoing medical care for the rest of their life because there is evidence that most lump sums are spent within five years of settlement. This can lead to the injured party having to rely on financial assistance. Since the passing of the Taxpayer Relief Act in 1997, earnings from structured settlements are tax exempt depending on the person’s income. The hope is to incentivize this kind of investment and reduce the burden on the taxpayer.

When selling structured settlements, the tax-exempt status is almost always preserved providing the correct legal procedure is followed and there are no changes made to the settlement.

Employees can sue for Workers’ Compensation (WC) when they have been injured at work or contracted an occupational disease. WC is a ‘no fault’ system which means that the injured party is eligible even if the accident or injury was due to their own negligence (unless they were drunk or taking illegal drugs at the time).

WC cases may be settled before court in the same way as any other personal injury suit. When WC was explicitly included as tax-exempt in the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, structured settlements became a popular instrument for providing long-term support and security to injured workers. These are sometimes referred to specifically as Workers’ Compensation settlements.

Whether a circumstance comes under WC varies by state and the relevant statutes will need to be consulted.

A plaintiff can bring a medical malpractice claim against a medical professional or institution if they believe that the defendant has caused them (or a loved one) injury. As in personal injury cases, compensation can cover immediate and ongoing medical treatment in addition to loss of earnings.

Grounds for medical malpractice include flawed treatment plans, inaccurate diagnoses and errors in aftercare. The claimant needs to be able to prove that there was medical negligence or omission during treatment and to have this confirmed by an independent medical expert.

There is a specific provision in law made for those people who believe they have been harmed when receiving a vaccination. The no-fault National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and associated Trust Fund was set up in 1988 as an alternative to the normal tort provision for medical negligence.

A person can sue for wrongful death if they believe that a loved one’s death was caused deliberately or was due to a preventable accident. The suing parties are referred to as ‘Real Parties in Interest’ and include immediate family members, dependents and, in some cases, more distant family members (e.g. if a grandparent was acting as a guardian for the deceased). Real Parties of Interest are defined by each state individually.

In order to be successful, the claimants need to establish that there was negligence or deliberate intent; that the defendant breached their duty of care; that the action or omission caused the death and that the death has led to negative consequences for the suing parties.

For tax purposes, damages awarded for wrongful death are treated as exempt. However, if additional punitive damages or damages for emotional distress are added to the award, these would become liable for taxation.

Individuals suing their employer for workplace discrimination, sexual harassment or wrongful dismissal may also be awarded a structured settlement, either during mediation or at the order of a judge post-trial. A discrimination case may be filed on the grounds of gender, race, sexual orientation, age or another individual characteristic. The plaintiff may sue for both emotional and punitive damages.

Unlike most structured settlements, discrimination settlements are taxable although the tax will be deferred until payment streams or lump sums are paid. The claimant can also enjoy the peace of mind that their settlement funds are invested in annuities held by major life insurance companies.

Unlike standard investments, there are no account management fees to worry about and the funds are managed by a team of professionals.

Structured settlements have been used to manage payments to the victims of sexual abuse. In one example, from California, the families of three girls molested by their teacher were awarded a combined total of $8.25m. Each family spread out their $2.75m award using structured settlements.

Since awards due to emotional damage are not exempt from taxation, lawyers will often try to obtain evidence that their clients experienced physical pain and injury during their assault. This includes bruises and bleeding. Although providing such details is clearly a harrowing process for victims, proving physical injury will increase the value of the settlement as neither the award or the accumulated interest will be subject to tax when the payments are made.

If a person is exonerated after being sent to prison, or there is a retrial and they are found innocent, they can sue the agencies responsible for wrongful imprisonment. This includes being pardoned, given clemency or amnesty, or having the original decision reversed or voided.

A structured settlement can help give the claimant some income stability as they rebuild their lives. They can support their children and spouse and regain some of the provider status lost to them while inside. They may even be able to take advantage of missed opportunities such as training or education without worrying about the financial implications.

Wrongful imprisonment is another situation where the proceeds of a court case will be taxable.

What are the Common
Structured Settlement
Pay-out Options?

Structured settlements can consist of one or more different investment vehicles packaged together into one contract. Common vehicles include:

  • Fixed term/temporary life annuity. This provides a periodic payment stream (and potentially one or more lump sums) over a specific number of years.
  • Life contingent annuity. This provides a payment stream which ends at the person’s death.
  • Joint and survivor annuity. This provides a payment stream which carries over to a named beneficiary (usually a spouse) when one of the couple dies.
  • Lump sum death benefit. This will ensure a named beneficiary receives the remainder of the payout should you pass away.

The specifics of a structured settlement will be decided between the plaintiff’s and defendant’s lawyers and set up as a qualified assignment with a large insurer. Although structured settlements are flexible to set up, they are rigid and legally binding when signed.

Structured Settlements
for Minors

Structured settlements can be set up for minors in a similar way to how they are set up for adults. The main difference is that the payments will be managed on behalf of the children until they reach maturity.

Children may be awarded structured settlements following a successful lawsuit for damages that affect their lives. These might include:

  • Workplace accidents leading to the death or serious injury of a parent or guardian
  • Product faults or health and safety failings
  • Serious injury to a child following a car accident

The settlement may be designed to ensure the children are provided for in terms of food, clothing and shelter. It may also cover future expenses such as college fees, ongoing medical costs and even a down payment for a house or car.

Responsibility for spending the money, in strict adherence with the structured settlement, may be given to a parent, guardian, bank, trust fund coordinator, Registry of Court or a custodian under the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act.

The settlement will usually include a final lump sum which is provided directly to the child when they reach adulthood.

structured settlement for minors

Pros and Cons of
Structured Settlements

As with any form of investment, it is important for a plaintiff and their lawyer to look at both the advantages and disadvantages of structured settlements before deciding to agree to one.

Pros

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Offer a practical way

Structured settlements offer a practical way to provide for a plaintiff's future by providing a regular income.

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Facilitate the compounding of interest

As tax-deferred (and usually tax-exempt) vehicles, structured settlements facilitate the compounding of interest, enabling the settlement funds to grow faster than inflation.

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Extremely Flexible

Structured settlements are extremely flexible when setting them up and can be designed to provide a combination of periodic payments and lump sums to align with predicted need.

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Held by qualified assignees

Structured settlements are held by 'qualified assignees,' usually very secure insurance companies. As the payments are guaranteed by law and invested in government bonds and other low risk assets, structured settlements are ideal for conservative investors.

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Payments for rest of Life

Structured settlements can be set up to ensure payments for the rest of the claimant's life and can even include death benefits (e.g. a lump sum payment given to your spouse when you die).

Cons

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Not possible to collapse/withdraw funds

It is not possible to collapse or withdraw funds from a structured settlement early or to alter its terms in any way. The only way to receive money ahead of time is to sell part or all of your structured settlement on the secondary market. In this case, you will lose some of the value of the settlement due to the buyer's discount. Even in this case, a judge may deny the sale if they conclude it is not in your interest.

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Payments may be subject to tax

Some structured settlement payments may be subject to tax (e.g. settlements due to punitive damages or emotional distress).

Can I Get Cash for my Structured Settlements?

Yes, it is usually possible to sell your structured settlement subject to the following conditions:

annuity value

If you don’t want to lose the security of your future income stream, you may prefer to consider selling part of your structured settlement. There are different ways you could do this. For example, you could sell a portion of your award corresponding to a specific dollar amount. The value of your unclaimed funds would then drop accordingly.

Alternatively, you could sell off a specified number of future payments. If, for example, you are expecting 24 monthly payments, you could sell the first 12 months’ of payments. Your payments would then start on month 13.

In all scenarios, the conditions listed above would still apply.

How Much Does it Cost to Sell your Structured Settlement?

The costs of selling a structured settlement are reflected in the discount rate offered by the buyer. In fact, there are two figures that the buyer can quote you.

The discount rate is the cut taken by the buyer. It is the reason they are willing to buy your structured settlement in the first place. This figure is likely to range from between 7% and 29% (the average is 9% to 18%).
The effective discount rate is the discount rate above plus any costs associated with the sale process. These include legal fees, court fees, broker commission, insurance company payments, admin fees and processing fees.

As a rule of thumb, never accept the first discount rate you are given and always aim for a single digit effective discount rate whenever possible.

Here is an illustrative example:

Max is quoted an effective discount rate of 25% by company A, a discount rate of 7% by company B and an effective discount rate of 9% by company C

He has a structured settlement worth $150,000.

If Max chooses company A, he will receive only $112,500. If he chooses company C, he will receive over $20,000 more at $136,500. What if he chooses company B? Will he receive even more?

In fact, he would only get $126,000 because company B were clever and quoted their discount rate of 7% and not their effective discount rate which was 16%.

structured settlement worth

Can I Get an Advance on my Structured Settlement Sale?

If you are in a hurry to get hold of some cash by selling your structured settlement, you should check whether a potential buyer is willing to offer a cash advance. Selling a structured settlement takes an average of 45 to 90 days, largely depending on the availability of a judge to approve the deal. Many buyers will offer you an advance up front which is then taken off the lump sum after the deal goes through.

Selling a structured settlement takes an average of 45 to 90 days, largely depending on the availability of a judge to approve the deal.

If a buyer is willing to offer an immediate advance, you should check whether they would charge interest or a financing fee. You will also need to contemplate how you would pay the advance back should the sale be unapproved by the judge.

Are There any Taxes Involved in Selling my Structured Settlement?

Not normally. In 1979, the IRS Revenue Ruling 79-220 stated that structured settlements, including all earned interest, were tax-exempt. This was enshrined in law in the 1982 Periodic Payment Settlement Tax Act.

However, this doesn’t apply to certain cases (e.g. discrimination, wrongful imprisonment and sexual abuse where no physical injury was proven) nor does it apply to punitive damages. In these cases, tax will be applied when payments are made.

Nevertheless, all structured settlements grow on a tax-deferred basis, meaning that the earnings made from their investment accumulates and compounds tax-free.

In most cases, the tax status of the structured settlement is preserved after a sale. This is providing the correct legal process has been observed and there have been no changes to the agreement.

How to Sell a Structured Settlement: Six Steps

If you want to sell a structured settlement, here is a simple six step process:

1

Search

Research buyers

Research buyers. These can be found via a standard internet search and are usually factoring companies. It is advisable to consult with a lawyer or financial advisor you trust and to check reviews and the company’s BBB rating. While you might want to choose from members of the National Association of Settlement Purchasers (NASP), there are plenty of buyers offering favorable terms outside of this body. From your research, draw up a shortlist of at least two but preferably three or more contenders.

3

Search

Decision

Make your informed decision.

5

Search

Check with a lawyer

In some states, a third party may need to assess the deal and you may need to wait for a cooling off period to elapse. Check with a lawyer or financial advisor if you are not sure of the process for your state.

2

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Contact the companies

Contact the companies you shortlisted for a quote by telephone to get a feel for their professionalism. Tell each that you are getting quotes as they are more likely to give you their best rate straight away. Ask for their effective discount rate (this includes all associated fees) and aim for the lowest value possible (7% to 9% is good). Be prepared for some companies to take an aggressive sales approach and resist pressure to make an immediate decision. Continue to talk to professional advisors and family members.

4

mail

Collect the documents

Collect together all of the documents the buyer requests from you. This will include two forms of ID and a copy of the original structured settlement contact (ask your lawyer or insurer if you don’t have one). You will also need to fill out an application form and release agreement. Do this fully and in a timely fashion. Selling a structured settlement takes a long time and you don’t want to delay the process any more than you have to. The buyer will then process the transfer with the help of the insurance company. It should take around four weeks for the transfer documents to be signed and notarized.

6

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Final Assessment

The final hurdle, which can take two months or more to clear, is arranging a court hearing via a local attorney appointed by the buyer or yourself. You will need to attend in person and a judge will assess whether the sale is in your best interest. They will look at your personal circumstances, the buyer’s reputation, the discount rate and any previous payments that have been made. If he or she approves the sale, the transfer of funds can take place.

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How are Annuities and Structured Settlements Similar?

Both annuities and structured settlements provide future security in return for the investment of a lump sum. Both annuities and structured settlements can be bought and sold on the secondary market at a discount.

What is the Main Difference Between Annuities and Structured Settlements?

Annuities

The main difference between annuities and structured settlements is that annuities are investment vehicles designed to provide an income during retirement. They can be tailored to the risk appetite of the investor and can either be provided as a guaranteed number of payments or for the rest of the investor’s life.

Structured Settlements

Structured settlements are legal tools which combine investment vehicles, mainly annuities, into one contract. They are designed to structure a plaintiff’s settlement award, following a lawsuit, so that they are provided with periodic payments, and sometimes lump sums, when they need them. Structured settlements are placed with qualified assignees with a strong credit rating, are guaranteed by law and are invested in stable assets (e.g. treasury bonds).

State SSPA Statutes

Every state has its own Structured Settlement Protection Acts (SSPAs) which govern the sale of structured settlements. Most follow a model set down by the National Council of Insurance Legislators.

To give you an example of the differences, we have reproduced below the SSPA statutes for Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Maryland and New Jersey:

State SSPA Statutes – Some Examples

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