Tax Break for CEO's

Under a section 162 Executive Bonus Plan, the employee takes each year’s bonus into taxable income as received or when the premium is paid by the company. Some companies will gross up or pay an additional bonus to pay for projected income taxes and payroll taxes attributable to the bonus. Since the employee owns the life insurance policy or non qualified deferred annuity, they will have access to policy values.

In that the employee takes each bonus into income, the employer may deduct each bonus. The only exception to the bonus being deductible is if the IRS would rule that the employee’s total compensation is unreasonable. If that is the case, the employer would be limited in how much they can deduct but the employee would still take all of the compensation into taxable income. See IRC Regulations.1.162-7(b) (3).

What are the ADVANTAGES to each party?


  • Employer selects which executives they wish to benefit

  • Employer chooses benefit level and can customize for each executive

  • 162 Executive Bonus Plan easy to implement and administer

  • No administration other than regular payroll

  • Bonuses may be fully deductible to employer under IRC 162

  • Rewards and retains Key Employees

  • Plan can be terminated by company at any time


  • Employee owns the policy and policy values

  • Employee gets to name beneficiaries

  • Accumulating values can be accessed by employee

  • Tax deferred growth on accumulations

  • Tax free death benefit in case of Life Insurance

  • Life insurance can benefit survivors and pay estate costs

  • Cash values available for emergencies

  • Cash values may be used to supplement retirement income

What are the DISADVANTAGES to each party?


  • The company has very little control of the life insurance policy or annuity

  • Executive:The Key Executive must include the bonus paid in their taxable income

  • If an annuity is used, an IRS penalty of 10% may apply on withdrawals from annuities prior to age 591⁄2

  • Withdrawals from a life insurance

5 Pros to Using Cash Value Life Insurance in an Executive Bonus Plan

  1. Customizable Employee Bonus Plan: the employer can add certain incentives to the plan in order to retain the employee and/or require the employee to reach certain performance benchmarks.

  2. Employer Selects Key Employees: Executive bonus plans are non-qualified plans, which allows the employer to choose which employee(s) to offer the plan to, instead of providing the benefit to the entire work force.

  3. Employer’s Income Tax Deduction: The employer receives a tax deduction for the premiums paid into the employee’s policy.

  4. Simple to Set Up and Implement: The major step is to have the Key Employee qualify for life insurance coverage.

  5. Employee Uses Accrued Cash Value to Supplement Retirement Income: the employee would not be taxed on the cash value up to the basis since the premiums have already been taxed.

Cons to Using Life Insurance in an Executive Bonus Plan
  1. Portability: Depending on your vantage point, the portability of the policy may be a pro or con of using life insurance in an executive business plan. When the employee leaves, the life insurance policy goes with the employee. The employer can cease making payments but the valuable employee, and his or her policy, has left the company. Of course, the portability of the policy is a positive for the employee.

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