IRS Regulations Bring QLACs to Life

By Jeffery Levine, IRA Technical Expert  

Follow Me on Twitter: @IRAGuru4EdSlott

Yesterday, July 1, 2014, the IRS released the Final Regulations for “qualifying longevity annuity contracts” (QLACs). Thanks to these regulations, you will now be able to purchase certain annuity contracts that can be excluded from the fair market value you use to calculate your required minimum distribution (RMD).

Ultimately, the purpose of the regulations is to make it easier to invest a portion of your retirement savings in annuities that won’t begin to pay benefits until a more advanced age – beyond 70 ½ – the age at which RMDs must generally begin. Doing so obviously reduces the number of years for which you’ll likely receive an income stream, but it also helps to maximize the amount of income you can receive in later years for a given premium. The Summary of Comments and Explanation of Revisions that was released with the Final Regulations offered the following:

“For example, if at age 70 an employee used $100,000 of his or her account balance to purchase an annuity that will commence at age 85, the annuity could provide an annual income that is estimated to range between $26,000 and $42,000.”

Many of the most important aspects of QLACs remain unchanged from the proposed regulations that first introduced them back in 2012 (You can read one of my initial posts on the topic here). That said, there are a couple of key changes that, on the whole, make QLACs more attractive and increase the likelihood that one may play a role in your retirement planning at some point.

Here are some of the highlights of the QLAC Final Regulations:

  • You will be able to exclude the value of a QLAC from your RMD calculations, allowing you to keep a greater portion of your IRA (or other retirement account) intact longer.
  • Payments from QLACs will have to begin no later than the first day of the month after you turn 85.
  • You will be limited as to how much of your retirement savings you can invest in a QLAC. The limit will be the lesser of $125,000 or 25% of your applicable retirement account assets. The 25% limit will apply on an individual plan basis, except for IRAs, BUT the $125,000 is a cumulative limit for all QLACs in all retirement accounts. For IRAs, the 25% limit will apply to the prior year-end total of all IRAs (not including Roth IRAs).
  • The limits will apply separately to each spouse when each spouse has their own retirement accounts.
  • QLACs cannot be variable or equity-indexed annuity contracts, though insurance may offer contracts with cost-of-living adjustments.
  • QLACs cannot offer any cash surrender value. So if you buy one, just be sure you won’t be needing that lump-sum of money anytime soon!

Perhaps the biggest difference between the proposed regulations of 2012 and the final regulations released yesterday relate to the potential death benefit options. Initially, the only QLAC death benefit option was going to be an income stream paid out over the life of the beneficiary (the size and start date of the payments were to vary depending on whether the beneficiary was a spouse or non-spouse designated beneficiary). That’s still an option under the final regulations, but an additional return-of-premium option is also now possible.

These, of course, are the death benefit options allowed to be offered by a QLAC under the final regulations, but that doesn’t mean that every QLAC will do so. It’s likely that insurance companies will begin to introduce annuity products that meet QLAC specifications in the near future, so if it sounds like a strategy that may make sense for you, keep your eyes and ears open and consider speaking with a qualified professional who can help you evaluate your options.

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