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Senate Republicans May Have Added Major Life Amendment to Tax Bill

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Democrats in the Senate believe that the Republicans have added a life insurance amendment to the Senate’s version of H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act bill.

Members of the Senate have been debating the bill on the floor all day and appear to be nearing a vote on final passage. Sen. Ron Wyden, R-Ore., complained about Senate Republican leaders’ failure to provide a copy of the bill text, or a complete description of the bill.

Around 3 p.m., Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., tweeted a copy of a list of “Amendment’s Included in Manager’s Amendment.” McCaskill said she obtained the list from a lobbyist who believes the amendments will be included in the bill.

(Related: Scott Kicks Off Battle Over Senate Tax Bill Life Provisions)

The list shows one amendment, proposed by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., with the title “Life insurance provisions.” The list does not give any details about the nature of the amendments listed.

Around 4:30 p.m., Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., held up the list on the Senate floor and said that the list was the first indication had received of what might really be in the bill.

McCaskill had received more information about the bill from a lobbyist than Senate Democrats have received from Senate Republican leaders, Wyden said.

About half an hour later, Wyden held up a pile of papers that was about 6 inches thick. He said that he believes that pile of papers was the text of the bill.

“It sure looks like a lobbyists’ wish list,” Wyden said.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who was also on the bill, said she might support some of the amendments on the manager’s amendment list, if she knew more about them.

But Stabenow cited one amendment on the list, which would ban use of cash or gift cards as employee achievement awards, as puzzling.

Sen. Rob Portman (Photo: Senate)

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ore. (Photo: Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs)

“I don’t know why in the world we’re going after employees’ employee achievement awards,” Stabenow said. “That doesn’t sound like help for the middle class to me.”

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ore., told Wyden about 6 p.m. that Senate leaders will post a copy of the current Senate version of H.R. 1. on the web tonight.

Scott appeared on the Senate floor after Wyden held up the amendment list. Scott criticized how Democrats managed the government while former President Barack Obama was in office, but he did not comment directly on the amendment list, or confirm or deny whether list represents measures that are actually in the current Senate’s version of H.R. 1

Scott’s Amendment

Although the text of the current version of the Scott amendment was not available at press time, the Senate Finance Committee posted a life insurance amendment proposed by Scott in November.

The original Senate version of the tax bill, which was released about three weeks ago, would:

  • Extend the amortization period for deferred acquisition cost (DAC) expenses for life insurance business, annuity business and related types of business from 120 months to 600 months, or from 10 years to 50 years.

  • Increase the statutory DAC percentage to 3.17%, from 1.75%, for annuity contracts; to 3.72%, from 2.05%, for group life contracts; and to 13.97%, from 7.7%, for all other specified insurance contracts.

The version of the DAC provision Scott proposed in his amendment would:

  • Extend the amortization period to just 15 years.

  • Keep the current three DAC product categories.

  • Increase the capitalization rates just 20%, and just for new premiums.

Scott also proposed a provision that could affect life insurance company “proration,” or adjustments for dividends earned on investments. Proration is supposed to keep life insurers from getting double tax benefits for dividend earnings.

The original Senate version of H.R. 1 also included a provision that would affect the tax rules for life settlement arrangements. The provision would create now tax reporting rules for life settlement arrangements, and it would prohibit a life settlement company from including the cost of paying the policy premiums when calculating taxable capital gains.

—Read 5 Senate Republican Tax Bill Sections for Agents to Track on ThinkAdvisor.

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