written by Steve Fichtenbaum, LLM of Steven J. Fichtenbaum Esq.
SUMMARY: The taxpayer inherited a non-qualified annuity from his father and wished to exchange the annuity for a new annuity issued by another insurance company. He assumed the exchange would be tax-deferred under Code Section 1035, but he failed to exchange annuity contracts as required by Section 1035. Instead, he cashed in the inherited annuity contract, taking a lump sum from the original insurance company, and deposited the proceeds
into his checking account. He then used the proceeds to purchase a new annuity. Informed of his mistake by his accountant, the taxpayer requested a private letter ruling from the IRS requesting favorable (no taxable event) treatment on the transaction. The IRS ruled the distribution was taxable in the year it was received to the extent
determined under Code Section 72(e).
RELEVANCE: The result in this ruling should not be a surprise to life insurance professionals. Code Section 1035(a) allows the exchange of a life insurance contract for another—or a deferred annuity for another—generally without requiring recognition of gain upon the exchange. However, failure to understand and follow the technical requirements of Code Section 1035 can lead, as it did here, to an unanticipated adverse result. While lenient rulings involving partial exchanges of annuities have been accorded Section 1035 exchange treatment (See Rev. Proc. 2008-24 as amended by Rev. Proc. 2011-38), the Service has for the most part required certain formalities to be strictly followed to accomplish the appropriate tax deferral.