Income taxes on annuity investment contracts (both fixed and variable) are deferred until withdrawals are made. At the time of distribution, the insurance company should report on your Form 1099-R the basis attributable to the distribution you took that year. Your basis in that year's distribution is the difference between the gross amount of the distribution (box 1) and the taxable amount (box 2a).
The general rule for annuities is that you owe income tax when you take the money out, but the portion which represents your after-tax "investment in the contract" (i.e. your cost basis) is excluded from taxation. This applies whether you take the distribution as a partial surrender, a full lumpsum payment, or as a periodic annuity payment over your lifetime.
For partial surrenders, the first dollars that come out are taxed until you have recognized all the accumulated earnings inside the annuity. All further withdrawals are tax-free return of cost basis. Notice how the IRS gets their taxable income recognition first!
For full cash surrenders of an annuity contract, the taxable portion is the excess of the cash received over your cost basis, the investment in the contract. If there is a loss, the loss can be deducted on Form 1040 Schedule A as a miscellaneous itemized deduction (subject to a 2% of adjusted gross income floor.) The advantage of this tax treatment is that the annual $3000 capital loss limitation is not applied.
For periodic annuity payments from non-qualified annuity contracts, your cost basis is allocated over the anticipated total annuity payments using IRS-approved actuarial life expectancy tables. Non-qualified means it is not part of a qualified employee retirement plan. An exclusion ratio (representing the percentage of the total expected return that is your cost basis) is calculated and applied to each payment.
However, you should not just accept at face value whatever the Form 1099-R reports. You want to verify it against your own investment records because the cost basis accounting for investment annuities can get mangled when annuity rollovers occur. In particular this may occur when a Section 1035 exchange (tax-free rollover) is between different insurance companies. If your cost basis in the annuity is not properly transferred between the insurers, when you take a distribution the Form 1099-R will report NO basis, and the distribution amount will be fully taxable to you. This would result in you paying taxes TWICE on the same income--once when you saved the after-tax income to buy the annuity in the first place and once again when you are taxed on the full withdrawal. You only owe income tax on the portion of the distribution attributable to investment earnings built up inside the annuity.
It is highly recommended that you call the new insurance company after a Section 1035 exchange has taken place and ask the customer service rep what their records show as the "investment in the contract", i.e. the cost basis. If you know you had basis in your previous annuity and it was not properly transferred, the time to take corrective action is now, not years down the road when you start taking distributions.
Did we answer your question? If not, try this:
Information provided is intended solely for U.S. individual cash-basis taxpayers and is believed to be accurate for most cases. Always consult your personal tax advisor about your own situation. Suggestions are most welcome. Please e-mail webmaster @ costbasis.com or write to us at P O Box 11022, Chicago IL 60611 with your comments.