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Two senior IRS officials have publicly raised serious questions about the legality of a pension’s purchase of life insurance, in this case a ‘second-to-die’ policy on the lives of an employee-participant and his wife.
Some financial advisors have seen merit in buying life insurance out of one’s pension plan, using tax-deductible dollars to pay the premiums. We’ve never been great fans of this strategy, arguing instead that a pension presents an extraordinary opportunity to grow wealth on a tax-favored basis. To the extent pension dollars are diverted to fund insurance costs, total investment returns are diluted and the pensionís very purpose is compromised. Senior Reading Glasses Links

Now, two senior IRS officials have publicly raised serious questions about the legality of a pension’s purchase of life insurance, in this case a ‘second-to-die’ policy on the lives of an employee-participant and his wife. The officials insist – as we have long held – that a pension plan is designed to provide retirement benefits. It’s not to be used as an estate planning vehicle. Thus, the purchase of insurance, particularly on the life of someone other than the employee (here, his wife), violates a fundamental requirement for such plans. What’s more, we’ve learned that the IRS position, as it is evolving, would similarly extend to profit-sharing plans. Feel free to read more on reglaze glasses .

The IRS officials, in taking their stand, have relied on the “exclusive benefit rule,” which requires that tax-qualified plans be maintained for the exclusive benefit of employees. They reason that maintaining life insurance on someone other than an employee runs afoul of that mandate.

There’s another problem, too. IRS regs require that a pension plan primarily provide systematically for the payment of “definitely determinable” benefits to employees over a period of years after retirement, typically for life. Although the Service has long allowed pensions to offer incidental death benefits which can be funded by life insurance, the IRS, citing a 30-year-old ruling, now seems to hold that maintaining life insurance on an individual other than an employee fails to satisfy the “definitely determinable” standard.