Understanding Your Options for Accessing Cash in a Life Policy

Understanding Your Options for Accessing Cash in a Life Policy

It can be tempting to tap into the cash value of a life insurance policy that has been accumulating for many years. However, unlike normal investment accounts, accessing life insurance cash value is not a straightforward process. There are three ways to access your cash value: surrender, policy loan, or a secured loan. Each method has implications that should be fully understood as they can have a serious impact on your tax bill.

Over this series of articles, we will look at defining these methods as well as exploring their implications.

Let’s look at the first method, Surrendering Your Policy, and explore the tax implications surrounding it.

Surrendering Your Policy Tax Implications
When you surrender your life insurance policy it is considered to be a disposition of the policy for tax purposes. There are two scenarios in which there would not be a taxable event when a life insurance policy is surrendered:

  1. If the life insurance policy has no cash surrender value
  2. If the ACB of the policy is greater than the cash surrender value. In this situation the cash surrender value is paid out without any taxable gains

Taxable gains apply in situations where the cash surrender value of the life insurance policy is an amount greater than the ACB of the policy. In this situation, any amount above and beyond the ACB is considered to be taxable income.

For example:
The ACB of a life insurance policy is $5,000 and it has a cash surrender value (CSV) of $8,500. If the policy owner surrenders the policy, they will be taxed on the difference between the ACB and CSV: $8,500 – $5000 = $3,500. The policy owner will have to add $3,500 to their taxable income for the year.

*It is possible to do a partial surrender of a policy and the tax implications are similar to those stated above, except on a pro-rated basis.

Definitions

ACB – Adjusted Cost Basis
The ACB of the policy is the sum of the premiums paid into the policy minus the actual cost of the insurance policy or NCPI (Net cost of Pure insurance). Similar to the purchase price of a stock or a building to ensure that your original capital does not get taxed again.

Lapsing
This means that your policy loan now exceeds your policies cash value causing your policy to be in jeopardy of being cancelled. If a premium is not paid within 30 days, the policy will be cancelled.

CSV – Cash Surrender Value
The CSV is the value that the policy owner would receive if they cancelled their permanent life insurance policy.

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