Tax Break for Buying an Annuity?

Written by Hersh Stern Updated Wednesday, November 28, 2018

One of the biggest concerns facing many Americans right now is retirement.

Looking at the damage done to retirement investment accounts, thanks to the financial crisis and the current bear market, some are looking for ways to encourage new options for retirees. Even for those with longer time frames until retirement, there is still fear. Even if retirement investment accounts recover and grow between now and retirement in 15 - 20 years, some are concerned that the next crash could pull the rug out from under them just as they retire.

Another problem revolves around the longer life expectancies that retirees are expected to have. Few people now will have enough in their retirement funds to last the 20 to 30 years that people will soon be expected to live after retiring.

Enter an ambitious new bill aimed at shoring up retirement.

In the House, the Retirement Security Needs Lifetime Pay Act (H.R. 2748) is being proposed. This bill would allow a tax break for those who take their retirement investment accounts and used them to buy a lifetime annuity. CNN Money offers a look at two of the main tax breaks offered in the bill:

  1. You will be allowed to exclude 50% of annual annuity payouts from a non-qualified plan (one you invested after-tax dollars in) from taxable income. The annual maximum exclusion would be $10,000.
  2. You will be allowed to exclude 25% of annual annuity payouts from a qualified plan (401(k), IRA and other tax-deferred accounts) from taxable income.
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Additionally, there will also be incentives to purchase what is known as longevity insurance. This is actually another kind of annuity. You wait until you are much older — usually in your eighties — to start taking payments. As a result, the payouts are normally higher. And they would start about the time your retirement investment accounts may be running somewhat lower.

Whether or not this is the answer to the problem of investment-based retirement accounts remains to be seen. But it is clear that there are some definite concerns about the ability of Americans to have enough money throughout retirement. An annuity might be helpful. However, the downside to an annuity is that you trust the management of it someone else. I think I will need to consider the matter further (and see whether this bill makes it through and the tax breaks materialize) before deciding an annuity is right for me. So far, though, I am fairly content with my Roth IRA, which is funded largely with index funds.

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