Annuity 1035 Exchange

Written by Hersh Stern Updated Tuesday, October 6, 2015

tax 1035 annuities deferred questions

The replacement of an annuity or life insurance policy; i.e. the exchange of an existing policy for a new one purchased from an insurance company without tax consequences, is called a Section 1035 Exchange. To retain the tax advantages of such an exchange, it must meet the requirements of Section 1035 of the Internal Revenue Code for the transaction to be tax-free. A 1035 Exchange allows the contract owner to exchange outdated contracts for more current and efficient contracts, while preserving the original policy's tax basis and deferring recognition of gain for federal income tax purposes.

Reasons for making a 1035 Exchange:

With stock market and interest rate conditions continually changing, it is possible that an annuity which once was the perfect option for you is no longer. If you are in this predicament it may be possible to upgrade your current annuity to one that better meets your needs without paying taxes on any gains.

What are some of the particular reasons you might choose to upgrade your annuity?

To get a better interest rate, better income guarantees, increased caps for fixed index annuity and for variable products, better subaccount investment options.

It is important to know that while you will not be subject to federal income taxes with a 1035 transaction, you may be subject to surrender fees and penalties imposed by your current insurance company as you make the move to another company's annuity.

How to avoid income tax on any gains in the "old" contract.

Generally, the surrender of an existing insurance contract is a taxable event since the contract owner must recognize any gain on the "old" contract as current income. However, under IRC Section 1035 when one insurance, endowment, or annuity contract is exchanged for another, the transfer will be nontaxable, provided certain requirements are met.

The IRS has indicated through Private Letter Rulings that it will apply a strict interpretation to the rules. For a transaction to qualify as a 1035 Exchange, the "old" contract must actually be exchanged for a "new" contract. It is not sufficient for the policyholder to receive a check and apply the proceeds to the purchase of a new contract. The exchange must take place between the two insurance companies.

To preserve the adjusted basis of the "old" policy.

Preserving the adjusted basis is preferable in situations in which the "old" contract currently has a "loss" because its adjusted basis is more than its current cash value. The adjusted basis is essentially the total gross premiums paid less any dividends or partial surrenders received. This basis carryover is important when the owner has a high cost basis in the "old" contract.

For example, Jane Smith has a Whole Life policy she purchased 15 years ago. She paid $1,000 annual premium for the last 15 years and has received $5,000 in policy dividends. The policy currently has $6,000 in cash value. Jane's cost basis is $10,000 (15 x $1,000 less $5,000 dividends.) If Jane did not exchange the "old" policy for the "new" one, but rather surrendered it and purchased the "new" policy with the $6,000 surrender value, she would only have a $6,000 basis in the "new" policy. If, however, she exchanges the "old" policy, she will preserve the $10,000 cost basis.

Requirements & Guidelines

The owner and insured, or annuitant, on the "new" contract must be the same as under the "old" contract. However, changes in ownership may occur after the exchange is completed. The contracts involved must be life insurance, endowment, or annuity contracts issued by a life insurance company. These are the types of exchanges which are permitted: from an "old" life insurance contract to a "new" life insurance contract; from an "old" life insurance contract to a "new" annuity; from an "old" endowment contract to a "new" annuity contract; and from an "old" annuity contract to a "new" annuity contract. (Note: An "old" Annuity contract cannot be exchanged for a "new" life insurance contract.)

Two or more "old" contracts can be exchanged for one "new" contract. No limit is imposed on the number of contracts that can be exchanged for one contract. However, all contracts exchanged must be on the same insured and have the same owner. The adjusted basis of the "new" contract is the total adjusted basis of all contracts exchanged. The death benefit for the "new" contract may be less than that of the exchanged contract, provided that all other requirements are met. Face amount decreases within the first seven years of an exchanged may result in MEC status. When the face amount is reduced in the first seven years, the seven-pay test for MEC determination is recalculated based upon the lower face amount.

Under current tax law, contracts exchanged must relate to the same insured. Any addition or removal of insureds on the "new" contract violates a strict interpretation of the regulations. For example, you cannot exchange a single-life contract for a last-to-die contract or vice versa. Under certain circumstances you may exchange a contract with an outstanding loan for a "new" contract. This depends on the guidelines followed by the insurance company with whom the "new" contract is to be taken out. One possibility would be for the loan to be canceled at the time of the exchange. If there is a gain in the contract, cancellation of the loan on the "old" policy is considered a distribution and may be a taxable event. One way of avoiding this result would be to pay off the existing loan prior to the exchange.

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Exchanging a deferrred annuity for an immediate annuity qualifies for tax deferral under IRC Section 1035. However, avoidance of the 10% will depend upon which of the IRC Section 72 exceptions the client is relying upon:

1. Payments made on or after the date on which the taxpayer becomes 59½ will avoid the 10% penalty.

2. Payments that are part of a series of substantially equal periodic payments made for the life expectancy of the taxpayer or the joint life expectancies of the owner and his or her beneficiary will also avoid the 10% penalty.

3. Payments made under an immediate annuity contract for less than the life expectancy of a taxpayer who is under age 59½ probably will not avoid the 10% penalty.

Assignment to Insurer

The transfer of ownership in the old policy(ies) to the new insurer is effected with an irrevocable assignment by the owner to the insurer, with a designation of the insurer as both owner and beneficiary of the old contract. The parties to the exchange will then be: (1) the owner of the "old" contract; (2) the insurer of the "old" contract; and (3) the "new" insurer. The owner makes an absolute assignment of the "old" contract to the "new" insurer by notifying the "old" insurer, in writing. The "new" insurer then surrenders the old policy to the "old" insurer, and applies the proceeds of the surrender to a newly issued contract on the same insured.

The Notice of Assignment and Change of Beneficiary form, as well as the Notice of Intent to Surrender, should make reference to the owner's intention to effectuate a 1035 Exchange. The policy assigned to the "new" insurer will ordinarily have a stated value. Therefore, the "new" insurer receives valuable consideration upon assignment to it of the "old" policy. For this reason, the "old" policy should not be assigned to the "new" company unless a favorable underwriting decision has been made and accepted by the policyholder (this is especially important for life insurance exchanges).

Partial 1035 Exchange of Annuity

While the 1035 exchange rules are clear for someone who closes out their entire account and moves all the money to another company, what are the tax consequences when a direct exchange of only a PORTION of an existing annuity is made from one insurance company to another? How would such a "partial" 1035 exchange be taxed?

The IRS, in Revenue Procedure 2011-38 (effective October 24, 2011) provided new guidance on the treatment of such partial 1035 exchanges of annuity contracts.

First, some background.

Before October 24, 2011, the tax treatment of a partial exchange of an existing annuity contract was governed by Revenue Procedure 2008-24.

This 2008 rule said that an exchange is treated as a tax-free exchange if there is no withdrawal or surrender out of either contract during the 12 months beginning on the date the partial exchange was completed or the taxpayer demonstrated that one of section 72q conditions or a similar life event occurred between the partial exchange and the surrender or distribution. The conditions in section 72(q) include the taxpayer’s attaining age 59½ or dying or becoming disabled.

Revenue Procedure 2011-38 amended Procedure 2008-24 by liberalizing the conditions for a partial exchange completed on or after Oct. 24, 2011, as follows:

The 12-month period waiting period before a withdrawal may be taken was reduced from 12 months (360 days) to 180 days. In other words, if the proceeds from a partial exchange were used by the second insurance company to set up a single premium immediate annuity, then the first monthly payment needs to be delayed for 6 months (instead of 12 months under the old law);

The rule which requires one of the section 72(q) conditions be met (or that a similar life event occur) is now eliminated;

Limits on the amount received from an annuity contract involved in a partial exchange do not apply if the withdrawal is from an immediate annuity contract for a period of 10 years or more or during one or more lives.

In other words, if the money from the partial exchange was used to purchase a single premium immediate annuity for a minimum of 10-years certain or for life then there are no limits on the amount of each month's annuity payment.

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Effect of Violating the New Rules

If the partial exchange is disqualified, the amount originally exchanged from the source contract is subject to taxation as a withdrawal from the source contract. That amount would be taxable to the extent of any gain in the source contract, and would generally be subject to the 10% additional tax penalty unless the contract owner were 59½. Both the gain calculation and the contract owner’s age would be determined as of the date the funds were exchanged out of the source contract, not the later date when the 1035 exchange is voided.

Tax consequences of the exchange being voided include:

1. The exchange will be treated as a distribution from Annuity “A”, taxable to the extent of gain in Annuity “A” on the date of the exchange.

2. The money received by Annuity “B” in the exchange will be treated as regular premium.

3.The cost bases in both contracts will have to be adjusted to account for the different treatment.

4.Additional tax reporting will be triggered for one or both companies.

Can A Beneficiary Make a 1035 Exchange of an Annuity After the Owner's Death?

Following a private letter ruling (PLR) from the IRS, annuity beneficiaries may have expanded options with regard to inheritances. Previously, annuity beneficiaries were bound by the decedent’s contract terms. Today, annuity beneficiaries may have the option to exchange their inherited contract for current contracts paying higher rates or offering enhanced features and benefits.

In the past, annuity beneficiaries had only limited options available for managing their inherited asset; annuitize the current contract ‘as-is’ within 12 months or withdrawal the entire account’s cash value within five years. The latter would result in the taxation of any gains.

The recent IRS private letter ruling (201330016) expands current restrictions under Section 1035 to include ‘like’ exchanges that occur following the current contract owner’s death. Now, annuity beneficiaries have an additional option; exchanging their inherited contract for one with better terms (increased internal rates, lower fees, and/or enhanced list of investment sub-account options).

To qualify under this new IRS ruling, the following conditions must be met:

1.The new annuity contract must extend the original contract’s terms

2.The taxpayer will become the new contract owner for purposes of ongoing taxation

3.The new contract must remain an annuity contract

4.The current annuity’s value must be transferred to the new annuity company in its entirety

This expanded option creates new considerations for annuity beneficiaries. As this IRS ruling is relatively new, insurance companies may not yet be willing or equipped to handle such transfers. So, be sure to discuss what types of options are offered as well as fees that will be assessed prior to initiating such as transfer.

More Coverage:

Cornell University IRS - PLR 201330016 IRS - Internal Revenue Code Section 1035

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Comments (16)

  1. William:
    Jan 26, 2015 at 12:07 PM

    I purchased a non-qualified annuity five years ago. Last year I exchanged this annuity for one with a different company. I also purchased a new deferred annuity with new money from this new company. For tax purposes do I aggregate these two annuities or is the annuity created from the 1035 exchange on its own and not aggregated with the new annuity?

  2. Hersh Stern:
    Jan 26, 2015 at 12:20 PM

    Hi William,

    Since both annuities were purchased from the same company in the same calendar year, they are aggregated for purposes of calculating the taxable amount of any distributions.


  3. Dennis:
    Mar 13, 2015 at 04:11 PM

    Why can’t I just cash in my annuity and roll over the money to the new company? I can do that for my IRA. Why can’t I do that for an annuity?

  4. Hersh Stern:
    Mar 13, 2015 at 04:12 PM

    Hi Dennis--

    You can always surrender your contract and use the proceeds to purchase a new annuity on your own. You just won’t have the benefit of avoiding the income tax on any gains which may have accumulated in the old contract. The advantage of making a 1035 exchange is that you delay recognizing the gains in the old contract for income tax purposes. But if that’s not a problem, by all means, cash it in.

    In your question you also compared an IRA rollover, which you can do on your own, to an annuity exchange, which must be administered between two insurance companies. You asked why doesn’t the IRS allow you to simply cash in your annuity and rollover the proceeds into another one within 60 days similar to the IRA rollover rules?

    The answer is that a 1035 exchange is very different from an IRA rollover. In an IRA rollover, the full premium or investment amount has never been taxed and is wholly liable for income taxes when you withdraw it in the future. So all monies coming and going between IRAs has the same tax status. Taxes are owed on the full dollar amounts whenever withdrawn.

    The premium in a non-qualified annuity, however, includes a portion of your “cost basis” (your original investment of after-tax money). It’s to your advantage that this dollar amount is reliably tagged as NOT having any future tax obligation. Bottom line, the IRS trusts two insurance companies to keep that accounting, but it doesn’t trust you to tell it what portion of your annuity is after-tax money and what portion is still subject to tax. That’s why Section 1035 of the Internal revenue Code only permits these exchanges to be made by the insurance companies, not individuals.


  5. Linda:
    Apr 01, 2015 at 01:17 PM

    Just an FYI to those who wish to 1035 exchange a matured annuity for another: Make sure your exchange is for the full amount! I originally invested $19,000 and my annuity grew over the years. I removed the $19,000 and only exchanged the amount I earned. I was told - by my financial planner - that my original deposit would not be considered taxable income. I came to find out the IRS had other ideas and I owe taxes on the $19k even though that was my original deposit which had already been taxed. This does not seem right. The exchange was entirely between the insurance companies. I received a 1099-R from the original insurance company.

  6. Hersh Stern:
    Apr 01, 2015 at 01:39 PM

    Hi Linda-

    Yes, the rule on annuity taxation can be confusing. While it’s true you do not owe income tax on the original $19k, the reason you got the 1099 is that the IRS designates the first monies withdrawn from a deferred annuity to be the GAINS (when there are gains), not a withdrawal from your principal or original premium.

    This is known as the LIFO rule, for “Last In, First Out.”

    In your case, the FIRST IN money was the $19k after-tax premium you paid for your annuity. After investing $19k, the LAST IN money was the gains or interest you earned each year.

    So when you asked to withdraw money from the annuity, the IRS considered the “Last IN” money, (i.e., the interest or gains which went into your contract AFTER the initial premium was paid in) to be coming out “FIRST” (i.e., “First Out”).

    That’s why you got a 1099. Even though the $19k amount matched the amount of your original after-tax deposit, tax-wise, the $19k was considered a withdrawal of interest.


  7. Jen:
    Apr 07, 2015 at 01:17 PM

    I have a whole life insurance policy I'd like to convert. The face amount is $305,000, but the cash-value is roughly $7,000. Will I get the $305,000 or the 7,000?

  8. Hersh Stern:
    Apr 07, 2015 at 01:32 PM

    Hi Jen-

    The face amount of a life insurance policy is the death benefit paid to the beneficiaries when the insured person dies. Up to that point, the cash value of the policy is its stated cash value only (less any policy loans borrowed against the cash value).

    If you initiated a Section 1035 exchange of your life insurance policy for an annuity, there would be $7,000 to fund the annuity. Most companies will permit you to add premium before the annuity is issued.


  9. Scott:
    May 06, 2015 at 12:21 PM

    I am 53 years old. I have a non-qualified annuity that I began 25 years ago. The total value is $37,000 and the gain on the original amount invested is $19,000. Can I close this annuity and rollover the entire $37,000 into an employer-provided qualified retirement account without paying any penalties or taxes?

  10. Hersh Stern:
    May 06, 2015 at 12:22 PM

    Hi Scott-

    The quick answer is no.

    You can only delay income taxes when closing out a non-qualified annuity if you exchange it for another non-qualified annuity under the Section 1035 Exchange rules.

    A 1035 Exchange must be from one non-qualified annuity that you own into another non-qualified annuity which you will own.

    What you proposed was moving money from a non-qualified annuity into a qualified account, and changing the ownership of your annuity from yourself to the corporation’s retirement trust.


  11. John:
    Jun 04, 2015 at 04:42 PM

    I have a fixed annuity in my name only. Could I make a 1035 exchange of my existing annuity to a different company and add my wife?

  12. Hersh Stern:
    Jun 04, 2015 at 04:43 PM

    Hi John-

    The rules which allow you to liquidate your annuity and buy a new one and still not pay income taxes on any gains in your first contract are laid out in Section No. 1035 of the Internal Revenue Code. These are known as the “1035 Exchange” regs.

    A 1035 exchange must satisfy the “like for like” guideline. This phrase “like for like” has come to mean that the name of the owner and name of the annuitant in the existing contract must be the same in the replacing or new contract. So, if in your existing contract you are the sole owner and annuitant then the new contract will also need to be issued with your name only, to satisfy the 1035 regs.

    However, once the new contract is issued, your new company may allow you to add or change an owner (or even transfer ownership). This is generally true for deferred multi-year and index annuities.

    With immediate annuities, some companies will also permit you to add a spouse as a joint “beneficiary” but not as the official joint annuitant. For example, say you owned a deferred annuity in your name only. You 1035 the cash value in your contract to a new company in order to buy a joint life immediate annuity. Since you can’t add your spouse as an owner to the new annuity under the 1035 rules, you will still be the sole owner of the new contract. However, you may be allowed to set up a payment option which pays income over both your lifetimes even though the company doesn’t refer to your spouse as the joint “annuitant.” They may refer to her as a joint “beneficiary.” But you will be able to accomplish your goal of creating an income for the two of you.


  13. Dale:
    Jun 12, 2015 at 10:39 AM

    I have a life insurance policy with $20k cash surrender value. The terms of the contract allow me to designate the cash due on surrender to be paid out in a life annuity. The policy says that a "supplementary contract" will be issued in exchange for the current policy at the time of surrender. Will this qualify for a 1035 exchange?

  14. Hersh Stern:
    Jun 12, 2015 at 10:49 AM

    Hi Dale,

    It sounds like you will be exercising an “annuitization” clause in your current life insurance contract. That should be a tax-free event. But please call your company to confirm this.

    I’d also suggest that you get annuity quotes from our service or one similar so you can compare your company’s life annuity offer with those available from other carriers. If you then decide to buy your annuity from a different company you will be able to make a 1035 exchange of your life insurance cash values to pay for the annuity. This should qualify as a tax-free exchange.


  15. Jose:
    Jul 24, 2015 at 02:47 PM

    I'm a little confused regarding the 1035 Exchange rules, and I would love some clarification on the subject. Can someone owning an IRA qualified annuity use a 1035 exchange to change from one existing provider to another one? I understand surrender charges may apply, but I just want to make sure that the 1035 exchange benefit is NOT just for non-qualified to non-qualified, but also for qualified to qualified.

  16. Hersh Stern:
    Jul 24, 2015 at 02:48 PM

    Hi Jose-

    You can liquidate a qualified annuity and transfer the net proceeds to another qualified annuity under the IRA transfer rules. This transaction would not be under Section 1035 of the tax code but under the IRA rules. In the end, you’ll be able to accomplish the same purpose, move money from one annuity to another and defer income tax on the gains until you make an outright withdrawal without a further transfer.