Life insurers reported only $16 billion in total net income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in their 2008 returns, down about 55% from the total reported on the 2007 returns.

The IRS has published life insurer tax return figures in the 2008 Corporation Complete Report, Arrow pointing downwhich gives data tables for corporation income tax returns with accounting periods that ended July 2008 through June 2009.

The complete tax return report for 2009, when the full effects of the recession became apparent, will not be available for another year.

The total number of life insurers filing 2008 tax returns fell to 945, down 8% from the 2007 total, and the number reporting net income fell 17%, to 661, according to a National Underwriter Life & Health analysis of the IRS data.

Total receipts for all life insurer filers increased 7.7%, to $1.1 trillion, and the average amount of receipts per life insurer filer increased 17%, to about $1.1 billion.

But total assets fell to $5.6 trillion, from $5.9 trillion.

Total net worth fell 15%, to $696 billion.

Other tax data coverage from National Underwriter Life & Health: