Internal Revenue Code Section 104(a)(2) provides an exclusion from gross income for damages received on account of personal physical injuries or physical sickness. The damages can be received as the result of a suit or by agreement between the parties. The exclusion applies to up-front cash and periodic payments.

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Internal Revenue Code Section 104(a)(1) provides an exclusion from gross income for compensation a person/plaintiff receives for injury or sickness under workers' compensation acts.

The Internal Revenue Service has ruled that a properly designed structured settlement will flow income tax-free to the recipient if certain guidelines are met. Any remaining unpaid guaranteed periodic payments made to an estate after the death of a payee are also income tax-free (Rev. Rul. 79-220). President Ronald Reagan signed "The Periodic Payment Settlement Act of 1982," turning the administrative ruling of the IRS (79-220) into law. Thus, we now have certainty under law that the payments from a properly arranged structured settlement are entirely income tax-free.

Under the current Internal Revenue Code Section 104(a)(2), damages paid for past and/or future lost wages, medical needs, and pain and suffering are all excludable from gross income. This exclusion is for cases that pass the "origin of the claims test" where the origin of the claim is based on a personal physical injury or physical sickness.


A "tax-deferred" structured settlement is an innovative option for cases involving taxable damages and where a tort has been committed. Income taxes are deferred on the portion of the settlement proceeds that are structured, and are not due until the year in which payments are received. The annuity payments are taxed as ordinary income to the plaintiff at his or her personal income tax rate.

The following types of cases are ideal for tax-deferred structured settlements:

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  • Nonphysical injuries
  • Employment Litigation (not subject to FICA or FUTA)
  • Attorney fees
  • Breach of Contract Claims
  • Pre-August 5, 1997, Workers' Compensation
  • Environmental Litigation
  • Long-term disability settlements or buyouts
  • Settlements involving punitive damages
  • Property claims
  • Legal Malpractice/Errors & Omissions


A Periodic Payment Reinsurance Agreement is the transfer by a licensed insurance company (or state registered self-insured entity) of its liabilities under specific insurance contracts to another licensed insurer (or reinsurance company). Reinsurance Agreements are useful in cases involving the following:

  • Workers' compensation
  • Life insurance death proceed disputes
  • Physical or non-physical injuries
  • A single lump payment
  • Policy buyouts
  • Environmental litigation


A Single Premium Immediate Annuity (SPIA) can provide a stream of income for a specified period of time or the life of an individual. Under a life contingent payment option, payments will be received for the rest of the annuitant's life, regardless of living beyond his or her normal life expectancy.

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Under current Internal Revenue Service rules, use of after-tax funds to purchase a SPIA results in payments that are only partially subject to federal income taxes. The non-taxable portion (exclusion ratio) of each payment represents the return of your original investment.

At the other extreme, the purchase of a SPIA with funds from a tax-qualified plan (IRA, TSA, 401(k), etc.), provide payments that are fully taxable as they represent funds that have not yet been taxed.


Attorney fee structured settlements are a creative way for attorneys to defer income taxes on contingent legal fees. In an effort to avoid a higher marginal income tax bracket, fees can be structured to be paid over a specified number of years or for the life of the attorney.


  • Deferral of taxes
  • Exempt from Creditors (Chapter 1108 - Texas Insurance Code)
  • Guaranteed Income
  • Medical Underwriting - improved life contingent payments
  • Lifetime income - payments that cannot be outlived
  • No Minimum or maximum contribution amounts

Similar to structured settlements for plaintiffs, attorneys also have the ability to design and plan his or her own payment schedule to meet individual financial objectives such as retirement, overhead expenses, college tuition, etc.

The U. S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit affirmed in Richard A. Childs, et al. v Commissioner of Internal Revenue, that attorneys may structure their fees, holding that taxes are payable on structured attorney fees in the year payments are received.

Please consult your tax attorney or CPA when considering structuring your legal fees.