Life Insurance

Watch out for taxes if you sell your life insurance contract

The IRS has issued two new rulings addressing the sale and surrender of life insurance contracts from the point of view of policyholders and the investors. In this down economy, it can make good economic sense to sell an insurance policy that is no longer needed, or maybe can no longer be afforded.

The sale of an insurance policy is the sale of an asset; however, the gain could be either ordinary income (taxed like wages) or capital gain income (generally a lower tax rate). You will also need to take into account your investment in the policy (your tax basis).

Now, this discussion does not pertain to someone selling their insurance policy when they are either chronically ill or terminally ill. In those circumstances special exclusions generally will apply.

There are three situations under which you may be selling your policy.

  1. Surrender of the policy to the issuer for cash value.
  2. Sale of the policy with cash surrender value to an unrelated person.
  3. Sale of the policy with no cash surrender value to an unrelated person.

Here are the examples for each situation which demonstrate how the tax bite is determined.