PPLI: Life Insurance Defined


Life Insurance for International Clients


Private Placement Life Insurance (PPLI) has a clear advantage in structuring for international clients. In most countries life insurance is defined in their legal codes, and considered a well-accepted benefit for society as a whole. Life insurance is something every one either has or can provide needs justification.

In today’s world of increased tax transparency, after the enactment of FATCA and CRS, life insurance in the form of PPLI not only can give clients increased tax transparency, it can produce a structure that is simple and straightforward.

This is largely accomplished by the fact that in a properly designed PPLI structure the life insurance company becomes the beneficial owner of all the assets inside the policy, and only reports the total cash value of these assets—no other details.

In designing policies for international clients, we endeavor to find what are termed safe harbors. What are these safe harbors? They are sections of the tax codes of countries that clearly define a concept. We then model our structures so that the elements of the structure fit these clearly defined concepts. For those countries that use a common law approach in their tax codes, we are also able to find even safer harbors if case law rules favorably on the tax codes that we use as the framework of our structure.

So, if PPLI structures are able to solve the important issues of increased client privacy and a simplified tax transparent structure, it behooves us to establish a definition of life insurance. We will now give a brief history of how life insurance has been defined in the U.S. tax code, as it pertains to structuring for international clients.

Before the enactment of the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984, which created Code Section 7702, life insurance was only rudimentarily defined. At this time, the Code Section that gave the clearest definition of life insurance was Code Section 101(a), issued in 1957. The definition of life insurance hinged on some element of risk-shifting. The magnitude of the risk was not at issue.

A 1941 Supreme Court case, Helvering vs. LeGierse, concluded that “historically and commonly, insurance involves risk shifting and risk distribution.” This case gives us a definition of life insurance consistent with Code Section 101(a).

Fast forwarding to 1984 and Code Section 7702(a), life insurance is defined for U.S. federal tax purposes as a contract which is a life insurance contract “under the applicable law,” if it meets either the cash value accumulation test or the guideline premium test. Both of these tests are designed to insure a high level of pure death risk coverage relative to the amount of premium contribution. If it fails to meet either of these tests, a contract can be a valid life insurance contract under Code Section 7702(g).

Particularly for clients who are non-U.S. persons, we frequently employ a structure that comes under Code Section 7702(g), so that the least amount of life insurance can be used. This is the so-called Frozen Cash Value (FCV) PPLI policy. To further accomplish a tax-free death benefit to beneficiaries, we also look to Code Section 101(a) to define life insurance in this context.

As far as reporting to tax authorities is concerned, PPLI can mitigate or simplify reporting associated with pre-immigration planning and U.S. exposure, Controlled Foreign Corporation (“CFC”) holdings, FATCA, and CRS.

As always, we welcome your comments, questions, and a brief fact pattern to determine if our Expanded Worldwide Planning (EWP) concepts for PPLI structures can be employed successfully for you. We thank you for your continued trust and confidence.


 by Michael Malloy CLU TEP RFC, @ EWP Financial


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