With the specter of higher federal income and capital gains taxes looming large due to unprecedented government spending and budget deficits, individuals with substantial assets are looking for ways to manage the impact of tax increases on their investment gains – now and in the future.
Higher income and capital gains taxes are very likely as the federal government seeks ways to reduce a deficit that has grown exponentially due to spending on the Covid-19 pandemic. These tax increases will likely affect all working Americans but may place an even greater burden on wealthier individuals and their families.
U.S. Federal Government Budget Surplus/Deficit ($Millions)
Source: Office of Management & Budget. Income tax rates do not include the 3.5% net investment income tax.
Sample Client Scenario
George Lee is an experienced investor who has a need for life insurance protection and is comfortable investing in hedge funds, private equity, and other alternatives which offer the potential for greater returns along with greater risk. At the same time, he is worried that those returns will be dramatically reduced if capital gains taxes increase.
He knows that directly investing in alternatives:
is inherently not tax efficient because he must pay annual income taxes on capital gains generated by high turnover and on any imputed (“phantom”) income
can incur heavy management fees, and
will require filing for an income tax extension while he waits for his Form K-1s.
A solution: a private placement life insurance (PPLI) policy that manages risk and allows unique access to insurance-dedicated alternative funds.
Unlike traditional life insurance policies which often employ conservative strategies to investing a policy’s cash value, a PPLI policy gives wealthy individuals access to hedge fund investments with the tax efficiency and risk management of life insurance. The tax-deferred growth and tax-free death benefit proceeds that life insurance offers may be particularly attractive to investors who are concerned that rising capital gains taxes will further erode their earnings on alternative investments, which are already notoriously tax inefficient.
How a PPLI policy works
PPLI policies are usually variable universal life insurance policies that invest in alternatives such as venture capital, hedge funds, real estate investment trusts, private equity funds, and commodity funds. Because these insurance-dedicated funds are embedded inside the life insurance policy, the funds are able to accumulate on a tax-deferred basis inside the life insurance contract.
The value of embedding alternatives in a life insurance policy sub-account
As the charts below illustrate, using insurance-dedicated funds inside of a life insurance policy eliminates the immediate and ongoing taxation of gains on alternative investments, significantly increasing the short-term returns and long-term value of George’s overall portfolio. In this hypothetical example, the net rate of return on the investments after taxes is 6% when the funds are embedded in the PPLI sub-accounts, versus 3% outside of the insurance policy.
Comparison of investment returns
Hypothetical comparison of taxable and insurance-embedded $10 MM investments*
* Incremental costs for PPLI include Federal Deferred Acquisition Cost (DAC) tax, state premium tax, a structuring fee, cost of insurance charges, and policy administration fees.
Summary of PPLI benefits:
Customized product structuring and sub-account options
Separate accounts for policy assets that are not subject to insurance company credit risk
Tax-deferred accumulation of sub-account returns
Income tax exempt death benefit proceeds (including accumulated gains) for future generations
No Form K-1 reporting requirement
But remember, with PPLI:
The policy owner must pass Qualified Purchaser and Accredited Investor rules.
All of the sub-account funds available are approved and managed by the insurance carrier.
Although they may choose to have assets accumulate in any of the alternative sub-accounts the insurance company offers, policy owners have no direct control of the alternative funds held within each sub-account.
If a PPLI policy is fully surrendered, the deferred investment gains within the policy are subject to tax at ordinary income rates.
Take the next step now
Our firm has the expertise and experience to help you implement complex, tax-efficient wealth management solutions that take advantage of life insurance products specifically designed and priced for clients with substantial assets. These solutions can help you:
Seek higher returns and lower taxes – with death benefit protection – while building assets for the future
Adjust your portfolio for potentially volatile markets
Prepare for anticipated changes to estate and gift tax policies
 This hypothetical scenario is provided for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.