4 Reasons to Use Nonqualified Immediate Annuities To Enhance Your Retirement

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

You are peering into the vast world of financial planning, investment options, and retirement strategies. It’s complex, it’s intricate, but don’t worry, you are not alone in this journey. Today, we’re diving into one overlooked financial product with significant potential: the non-qualified immediate annuity. It’s time we unravel its essence, benefits, tax implications, and the rules that govern it.

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What is a Non-Qualified Immediate Annuity?

A non-qualified immediate annuity is a financial product you purchase from an insurance company. Simply put, it’s a contract. You pay a lump sum of money now, and in return, you receive regular income payments for a specified period or the rest of your life.

Now, the ‘non-qualified’ term might sound a little confusing. This refers to the annuity’s tax status. Non-qualified means that this annuity is funded with after-tax dollars—your income that has already been taxed. This contrasts with ‘qualified’ annuities, funded with pre-tax dollars, typically within a retirement account like a 401k or an IRA.

Related Article: What is a Nonqualified Annuity?

Nonqualified Immediate Annuities

Immediate Annuities: Qualified or Non-qualified?

This question often pops up, and it’s important to clarify: immediate annuities can be either qualified or non-qualified, depending on the source of the funds used to purchase them. As mentioned, a qualified immediate annuity is purchased with pre-tax dollars, usually from a retirement account. In contrast, a non-qualified immediate annuity is purchased with after-tax dollars.

Consider this example: Suppose John, who’s just retired, buys an immediate annuity. The annuity will be non-qualified if he uses funds from his savings account. However, if he uses funds from his 401k, the annuity will be qualified.

How are Non-Qualified Immediate Annuities Taxed?

Understanding taxation rules is crucial when dealing with any financial product. However, the non-qualified immediate annuity offers a unique advantage called the ‘exclusion ratio.’

Remember, a non-qualified annuity is purchased with after-tax money. Thus, when you start receiving income payments, a portion of each payment—representing your original after-tax investment—is not taxed. However, the remaining part, which represents the earnings on your investment, is subject to income tax. This breakdown, known as the ‘exclusion ratio,’ continues until your entire initial investment is recovered tax-free. After that point, all future payments will be fully taxable.

Rules for a Non-Qualified Annuity

A non-qualified annuity is a pretty flexible tool, but there are still some rules to be aware of. For starters, qualified retirement accounts have no annual contribution limits. This allows for more extensive, lump-sum investments.

However, withdrawals before age 59½ are typically subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty and regular income tax. It’s also worth noting that you cannot outlive payments once you begin receiving payments. The payments will continue for the term specified in your contract, even if it’s “for life.”

Advantages of a Non-Qualified Immediate Annuity

One of the standout benefits of a non-qualified immediate annuity is the assurance of a steady income stream, which can bring peace of mind in your retirement years. In addition, there’s comfort comes from knowing that no matter what happens in the markets, they’ll have that regular income.

Another advantage is the favorable tax treatment we discussed earlier. A portion of each income payment excluded from taxes through the exclusion ratio can be a significant boon, especially for those in higher tax brackets.

Lastly, the absence of annual contribution limits allows you to invest substantial amounts, providing an excellent avenue for those nearing retirement and wishing to invest a lump sum to secure regular income payments.

How A SPIA Can Enahnce A Person’s Retirement

When you are getting close to retirement, it is essential to start thinking about how to use your money to make the most of your golden years. One option that is growing in popularity is the nonqualified immediate annuity. This type of annuity has a lot of benefits that can make your retirement more comfortable and enjoyable. This guide will discuss five reasons why a nonqualified immediate annuity might be right for you!

Annuity Contract Structure

  • Owner: The person who has all rights under the contract.
    • Non-Natural Owner: A non-natural entity (such as a trust or corporation) may be the owner of the SPIA. Make certain the objectives of the non-natural entities are met when utilizing the SPIA product.
  • Joint Owner: The person who has all rights under the contract (generally a spouse or person sharing an interest in the assets).
  • Annuitant: The person selected by the owner(s) and the measuring life or lives for the annuity payments.
  • Joint Annuitant: The person selected by the owner(s) and the second measuring life used after the first annuitant’s death.
  • Beneficiary: Selected by the owner(s) to receive any death benefit proceeds or remaining annuity benefits.

Tip: Name a contingent beneficiary to avoid paying the owner’s estate potentially should the primary beneficiary predecease the owner and the beneficiary designation is not updated.

Single or Joint Annuitant(s)

SPIA Established by 1035 Exchange

  • To qualify for a tax-free exchange under section 1035, the owner(s) and annuitant(s) on both contracts must mirror each other also known as “like to like“.
Life insurance 1035 exchange to an annuity:
  • The owner(s) must be the same
  • Insured(s) must be the same as the annuitant(s)
Annuity 1035 exchange to an annuity:
  • The owner(s) must be the same
  • Annuitant(s) must be the same

Annuity Non-Qualified Taxation 

Exclusion Ratio

The taxable portion of each annuity payment is determined by the exclusion ratio. An exclusion ratio is expressed as a percentage and applied to each annuity payment to determine the portion of the payment that is excludable from taxable ordinary income.

After all the cost basis has been distributed, 100% of the annuity payments will be considered taxable ordinary income to the owner(s).

Annuitization Vs. Withdrawals

Lifetime withdrawals from an income rider and annuity payments from annuitizing your contract are 2 different methods of generating income from an annuity.

  • The exclusion ratio will be applied if you annuitize the contract.
  • LIFO (Last In, First Out) will be applied if you pocket lifetime withdrawals.

Last In, First Out (LIFO)

LIFO basically means any interest credited is applied to your annuity “Last,” and your original investment is applied to your annuity “First.” So with LIFO, your interest will come out first via withdrawals.

In a nutshell, you haven’t paid taxes on the interest you’ve earned thus far. So when you take income from your nonqualified annuity, the IRS wants the taxes paid on the interest first.

This means 100% of your retirement income (monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, or annual withdrawals) is 100% taxed until you’ve exhausted all of your gains from the annuity.

After you have exhausted all of your gains, your withdrawals are not taxable.

10% Early Distribution Federal Tax Exceptions

SPIA funded with cash: Regardless of the owner’s age or the annuity option selected, the payments will not be subject to the additional 10% federal tax for early distribution.

SPIA funded with a 1035 exchange: Payments may be subject to an additional 10% federal tax for early distribution if the contract owner is younger than age 59½ UNLESS an exception applies, most commonly:

Premium Tax

The amount and method of charging a premium tax vary by the state issuing the SPIA contract and the type of premium (qualified vs. nonqualified).

Non-Qualified Immediate Annuity

1035 Exchange (The Transferring of Monies)

  • Full 1035 exchange: When a person purchases a SPIA via a full 1035 exchange, the cost basis and earnings are transferred with the contract.
  • Partial 1035 exchange: When a person purchases a SPIA via a partial 1035 exchange, the cost basis and earnings are moved on a pro-rata basis.

The Death Benefit For Beneficiaries

Life/Joint Life

No annuitization payments will be made to the beneficiary upon the last annuitant’s passing.

Life/Joint Life with Period Certain OR Period Certain Only

If the Period Certain has yet to be attained by the annuitant’s or last annuitant’s passing, the beneficiary will continue receiving the remaining annuitization payments until the Period Certain expires.

Life/Joint Life with Cash Refund

If the total premiums have yet to be fully paid out by the annuitant’s or last annuitant’s passing, any remaining premium amount will be paid to the beneficiary as a lump sum.

Life/Joint Life with Installment Refund

If the total premiums have yet to be fully paid out by the annuitant’s or last annuitant’s passing, any remaining premium amount will be paid to the beneficiary in installments.

Taxation To Beneficiaries

Joint Life, Life with Installment Refund, and Period Certain payments: All distributions to the beneficiary will continue to receive the same exclusion ratio treatment.

Life with Cash Refund and Life with Period Certain payments: All distributions to the beneficiary receive “first-in, first-out (FIFO) treatment,” which means that the cost basis will be distributed first, and the taxable earnings will then be distributed after the cost basis has been depleted.

Estate Tax

When Does It Apply?

May be applicable:

  • All annuity options that have guaranteed payments yet to be paid generally such as the
    • Period Certain,
    • Life With Cash Refund,
    • Life With Installment Refund, or
    • Joint Life contracts.
  • The cost of a comparable contract at the time of death is included in the contract owner’s estate.
    • Marital deduction: Any remaining payments that go to a surviving spouse may qualify for the marital deduction.
    • Income in respect of decedent (IRD): An IRD deduction may be available for the beneficiary if the estate tax is paid.

May NOT be applicable:

  • Single Life: Because there are no residual payments upon the contract owner’s passing, provided the owner and annuitant are the same, there is nothing to include in the owner’s estate.
Are Spia Payments Taxable

Planning Opportunities

Taking Distributions Before Age 59½

Because distributions coming from an SPIA funded with cash are exempt from the additional 10% federal tax for early distribution, an SPIA can be a unique and useful tool to generate income before age 59½.

Even if the SPIA is funded via 1035 exchange, the payments will still be exempt from the additional 10% federal tax for early distribution if the annuity option selected is life contingent.

Bridging the Gap to Social Security Benefits

Early retirees can use a Period Certain SPIA to delay taking Social Security benefits (to accumulate a higher Social Security benefit amount) and bridge the gap between retiring, and the time they start collecting benefits.

Funding Liabilities

Owners can use an SPIA to fund payment of a life insurance policy, long-term care, trust, or other obligation that will last for the remainder of the owner’s life or for a specified period.

Tax Management

Owners can use the exclusion ratio treatment an SPIA provides to spread out their tax liabilities over a period of years or their lives. This may particularly appeal to more affluent retirees because part of each payment is a return of principal and would not be considered taxable ordinary income.

Next Steps

With a clear understanding of non-qualified immediate annuities, you are one step closer to financial confidence and securing a future that aligns with your vision. The world of financial planning is vast and intricate, indeed. Yet, with each step you take, with each piece of knowledge you acquire, you empower yourself to make informed decisions. So, here’s to your financial journey – may it be enlightening, empowering, and ultimately, rewarding.

4 Reasons To Use Nonqualified Immediate Annuities To Enhance Your Retirement (2023)

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a nonqualified immediate annuity?

A nonqualified annuity is one that was funded with after-tax money. This doesn’t make it better or worse than a qualified annuity. However, it can provide more retirement plan options.

What is the advantage of a nonqualified annuity?

A nonqualified annuity’s primary benefit is that earnings grow tax-deferred, so you won’t have to pay taxes until you withdraw the investment. There are also no contribution limits with nonqualified annuities, which allows you to invest more for your retirement.

Is there a risk with an immediate annuity?

Immediate annuities are not easily accessible once you invest your money and receive payments. You won’t have control over the amount you invested in the annuity. In case of an emergency, it could be costly to terminate the contract. Additionally, inflation may reduce the value of payments.

What are the benefits of an immediate annuity?

One of the benefits of this investment is its tax-deferred status, which means you can enjoy compounded growth. Additionally, you will receive guaranteed payments starting in the first year. You can customize the payments to provide income for one or two people for a specific period of life. This provides the advantage of having a steady income.

What is the difference between qualified and nonqualified?

Qualified plans receive specific tax advantages and governmental protection that nonqualified plans do not. Nonqualified plans don’t fulfill all ERISA requirements and are typically provided to executives and other essential staff members with requirements beyond what an ERISA-qualified plan provides.

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

I’m a licensed financial professional focusing on annuities and insurance for more than a decade. My former role was training financial advisors, including for a Fortune Global 500 insurance company. I’ve been featured in Time Magazine, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, Entrepreneur, Bloomberg, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, and Women’s Health Magazine.

The Annuity Expert is an online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. My goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning or find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates for you. 

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