Per last week's post, there are four things that you don't receive when you purchase an income rider with a fixed index annuity that are associated with fixed income annuities. The first three, i.e., annuitization, immediate payments, and ability to receive payments over a fixed period, were discussed in last week's post. The fourth thing – annuitization tax treatment of nonretirement distributions – is the subject of this week's post.
Before we discuss tax treatment of distributions, I want to talk briefly about taxation of annuities during the accumulation stage before any distributions are made. Similar to IRA's and other qualified retirement plans, unless they're immediately annuitized, all annuities, including fixed income annuities, enjoy tax-deferred growth. That is, until distributions are taken, there's no taxation. This is true whether the annuity is held within a nonretirement account, a traditional IRA or other qualified plan, or a Roth IRA.
Once payments begin, they're subject to taxation. Income tax treatment is dependent upon the type of account or plan in which the annuity is held. The remainder of this post will discuss income tax treatment of payments as it pertains specifically to fixed index annuity income riders.
At the two extremes when it comes to taxation are traditional IRA's and Roth IRA's. If held within a traditional IRA or other qualified plan, all distributions, other than those deemed to come from nondeductible contributions, are taxable as ordinary income. For fixed index annuities held within a Roth IRA, and assuming that the investment has been held for at least until the greater of five years or age 59-1/2, none of the distributions are taxable.
Taxation of distributions from annuities held within nonretirement accounts, on the other hand, uses a hybrid approach. Furthermore, the tax treatment is different depending upon whether you're annuitizing an annuity vs. receiving payments from a fixed index annuity income rider.
When you annuitize a nonretirement fixed income annuity, part of each payment is considered to be a return of principal and part is deemed to be earnings. The principal portion is nontaxable and the earnings are taxable as ordinary income. Once the total amount of the investment in the contract is recovered, all future payments are fully taxable.
Per the "Annuitization" section of last week's post, income rider payments are deemed to be withdrawals vs. annuitization of a fixed index annuity contract. This is an important distinction when it comes to income tax treatment of nonretirement distributions. As withdrawals, last-in first-out, or "LIFO," tax treatment applies for investments made after August 13, 1982. This means that the first money that comes out is taxable as ordinary income similar to distributions from contributory IRA's. Once all of the earnings have been received, all future payments are considered to be a return of investment, and, as such, are nontaxable.
In summary, the fourth and final thing that you don't receive when you purchase an income rider with a fixed index annuity is annuitization tax treatment of nonretirement distributions. This is initially less favorable compared to annuitization since distributions are fully taxable until all earnings have been received. After this occurs, future distributions are nontaxable vs. taxable as ordinary income once the investment in the contract has been recovered when you annuitize an annuity.