Tax Implications of Annuity Riders: What You Need to Know

taxes on annuity riders
Income tax collection, strategy for paying tax, financial concept : The image depicting planning for reducing tax liability e.g investment and retirement

As you plan your financial future, it’s essential to consider the role that annuities may play in your portfolio. An annuity is a financial product that provides a steady stream of income in exchange for a lump sum or periodic payments. However, when you’re evaluating annuity options, it’s critical to understand the tax implications of annuity riders.

Discussion on Annuity Taxation

It’s important to understand that taxation on annuities is different than other types of investments. When you purchase an annuity, you are essentially buying an insurance product. Typically, you can defer taxes on the earnings of your annuity until you begin to take withdrawals. Once receipt of income from the annuity begins, the portion of the payment representing earnings will be subject to income tax. Taxation on annuities is different based on the type of annuity and the source of funds used to purchase it. Non-qualified annuities, which you purchase with after-tax dollars, have only a portion of the income taxed, and this portion is determined by using the exclusion ratio. On the other hand, when you purchase qualified annuities with pre-tax dollars, they become fully taxable upon distribution.

Fixed annuities have their earned interest taxed as ordinary income upon withdrawal. A 10% early withdrawal penalty incurs if you withdraw funds before age 59 1/2. Immediate annuities have a portion of each payment treated as a tax-free return of principal and the remainder as taxable interest, calculated using the exclusion ratio.

Annuity Riders’ Taxation

An annuity rider is an optional feature that you may add to annuity contracts to customize the policy to meet your unique needs. Some examples of annuity riders include a death benefit rider, a long-term care rider, and an income rider. These riders can provide additional protection and flexibility to your annuity. But they can also have tax implications that can become more complex. For example, a death benefit rider can provide a lump-sum payment to your beneficiaries if you pass away before you start taking income from your annuity. However, this rider may increase the cost of your annuity and impact the tax treatment of your payments.

The tax treatment of annuity riders depends on the type of rider and the purpose of the payment. Let’s discuss the tax implications of some of the more common annuity riders below:

Death Benefit Rider

A death benefit rider, which pays a death benefit to the beneficiary if the annuity owner dies before the annuity payments begin, is a common annuity rider. Tax implications of annuity death benefit rider vary with annuity type, funds source, and ownership structure. A death benefit rider on an annuity can have tax implications for the annuity owner’s beneficiaries.

If the annuity is a non-qualified annuity (after-tax dollars), the death benefit paid to the beneficiary is generally income tax-free. The beneficiary of an annuity may face surrender charges that lower the death benefit payment if the owner dies early. The surrender charges may also impact the tax treatment of the death benefit payment.

If the annuity is a qualified annuity (pre-tax dollars), such as from a 401(k) plan or traditional IRA, the death benefit paid to the beneficiary is generally taxable as ordinary income. This is because pre-tax contributions and tax-deferred annuity earnings result in taxation upon distribution. In the year of receipt, the death benefit payment will require the beneficiary to pay income tax.

It’s noteworthy that the tax treatment of the death benefit payment may also depend on the annuity’s ownership structure. For example, if a trust/estate owns an annuity, the tax consequences of the death benefit payment may differ.

Guaranteed Minimum Income Benefit (GMIB) Rider

A GMIB rider guarantees a minimum level of income that the annuity owner can receive during retirement, regardless of market conditions. It’s noteworthy that the amount of the GMIB rider benefits payments that are taxable depends on the exclusion ratio. 

Suppose you invest $100,000 in a variable annuity with GMIB rider, and the annuity’s value grew to $150,000 over time. You decide to begin receiving annuity payouts and the insurance company guarantees a lifetime payout of $1,000 per month.

Assuming a life expectancy of 20 years, the expected payout over your lifetime would be $240,000 ($1,000 per month x 12 months x 20 years). To calculate the exclusion ratio, you divide the cost basis ($100,000) by the expected payout amount ($240,000), which gives you an exclusion ratio of 0.42 (or 42%).

It means that 42% of each payment you receive ($420) is your investment and is not subject to tax. The remaining 58% ($580) is taxable income subject to income tax based on your tax bracket at that time.

Guaranteed Minimum Withdrawal Benefit (GMWB) Rider

A GMWB rider guarantees a minimum level of withdrawals that the annuity owner can take each year, regardless of market conditions. The premium paid for both GMWB and GMIB riders is not tax-deductible only if purchased with after-tax dollars, but the benefit payments are taxed as ordinary income when received. It’s noteworthy that the amount of the GMWB rider benefits payments that are taxable depends on the exclusion ratio. 

Long-Term Care (LTC) Rider

Another annuity rider that can have tax implications is an LTC rider. An LTC rider provides additional benefits to cover the costs of long-term care. This type of rider provides benefits to cover the cost of LTC if you become unable to care for yourself. The LTC rider can enhance an annuity but may also affect how the taxation of payments happens. LTC rider’s premiums may be tax-deductible if the annuity owner satisfies eligibility criteria like possessing a qualified LTC insurance policy. Specifically, if you use the long-term care benefits provided by the rider, any income payments you receive from the annuity may be reduced or suspended entirely.

Consulting a financial professional is crucial when evaluating annuity riders to comprehend each option’s tax implications. Making informed decisions that align with long-term financial goals involves careful consideration of annuity and rider tax treatment.

How Does Taxation of Annuity Riders’ Withdrawals Happen?

The taxation of annuity rider withdrawals depends on the type of annuity contract and the specific riders attached to the contract. In general, the taxation of withdrawals from an annuity contract happens as ordinary income, with the tax rate based on the annuitant’s tax bracket. However, several factors may affect the taxation of withdrawals from annuity riders, including:

Qualified vs. Non-Qualified Annuity: Withdrawals from both the base contract and the rider of a qualified annuity, which is the funding of which that occurs with pre-tax dollars; taxation happens as ordinary income. Conversely, if the annuity contract is non-qualified, i.e., the funding of which occurs with after-tax dollars, only the earnings/gains portion of the withdrawal’s taxation happens as ordinary income; while the return of principal portion is tax-free.
Type of Rider: Different types of riders may be subject to different tax treatments. For example, tax authorities may tax a death benefit rider differently from a long-term care rider.
Age of Annuitant: Withdrawals taken before age 59 1/2 may be subject to an additional 10% early withdrawal penalty in addition to ordinary income taxes.
Surrender Charges: If withdrawals are taken before the end of the surrender charge period (typically 5-10 years), surrender charges may apply, reducing the amount of the withdrawal and increasing the taxable portion of the withdrawal.
Lump-sum Withdrawals: A lump-sum withdrawal from an annuity rider is when the entire balance is withdrawn at once. The taxation authorities generally tax this type of withdrawal as ordinary income in the year the withdrawal is taken. If the annuitant is under age 59 1/2 at withdrawal time, they might be subject to an additional 10% early withdrawal penalty.
Monthly Withdrawals: An annuity rider’s monthly withdrawals often provide a stream of income in retirement. The taxation of monthly withdrawals depends on the timing and amount of the withdrawals. Principal withdrawal is generally tax-free, but earnings/gains withdrawal is subject to ordinary income tax. The annuitant may be able to control the amount of tax owed by adjusting the amount of each monthly withdrawal.

It is important to note that annuity riders may have different tax implications than the base annuity contract. Thus, it becomes important for annuitants to carefully review the terms of their annuity contract and any attached riders.

Additionally, annuity holders should also evaluate the tax consequences of withdrawals and their impact on retirement income and taxes.

Qualified vs. Non-Qualified Annuity Riders

Qualified and non-qualified annuity riders refer to the type of funding used to purchase an annuity contract. Understanding the difference between the two can help clarify the tax implications of annuity riders.

Qualified Annuity Riders:

A qualified annuity is purchased with pre-tax dollars from a tax-advantaged retirement account, such as a 401(k), 403(b), or traditional IRA. The premiums paid into the annuity reduce the annuitant’s taxable income for the year they are made, but any distributions made from the annuity in retirement are fully taxable as ordinary income.

However, some riders, such as long-term care riders or death benefit riders, may have different tax implications. An annuity rider providing non-standard benefits like long-term care may require tax payment on amounts exceeding the premium paid. Additionally, if the annuity holder dies and the beneficiary receives the death benefit, the payment may be subject to income taxes.

Non-Qualified Annuity Riders:

Non-qualified annuities are purchased with after-tax dollars from a non-retirement account, such as a savings or brokerage account. Premium payments into an annuity are not tax-deductible, but the contract grows tax-deferred until the annuitant begins receiving distributions. At that point, the tax only applies to the portion of the annuity payment that represents earnings, as ordinary income. The portion of the payment not taxed is that which represents the annuity holder’s original investment.

If an annuity rider is added to a non-qualified annuity contract, the tax implications will depend on the specific rider and how it impacts the annuity contract. For example, if the annuitant adds a GMWB rider to a non-qualified annuity, they would be able to withdraw a certain amount of money from the annuity each year without incurring additional taxes up to the limits set by the IRS. 

However, taxation of any earnings associated with the rider will occur upon distribution. For instance, if a non-qualified annuity has an LTC rider, the amounts received from it will be taxable as ordinary income.

Publication 575

Publication 575 is a document published by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that provides information about the tax treatment of pension and annuity income. Specifically, Publication 575 provides information on how to report pension and annuity income on a federal income tax return, including the tax treatment of various types of retirement income, such as:

  1. Qualified and non-qualified pension plans
  2. Individual retirement accounts (IRAs)
  3. Annuities
  4. Survivors’ and beneficiaries’ annuities
  5. Lump-sum distributions

Publication 575 also provides information on how to calculate the taxable portion of pension and annuity income. Additionally, it also lays guidelines on how to determine the tax basis of retirement accounts and annuities. The publication includes tables and worksheets to assist taxpayers in calculating their taxable income from pensions and annuities.

Additionally, it provides guidance on reporting special tax situations, such as disability pensions and distributions from employer-sponsored retirement plans. The publication also includes information on the tax treatment of rollovers and transfers between retirement accounts.

Overall, individuals receiving retirement income can refer to Publication 575 for guidance on reporting income on their federal tax return.

Tax-free Exchange

A tax-free exchange of annuity riders, also known as a 1035 exchange, is a provision of the U.S. tax code that allows an annuity holder to exchange one annuity contract for another without incurring any tax consequences. Specifically, a 1035 exchange allows an annuity holder to exchange an annuity contract for another annuity contract with similar terms and features, including any riders that may be attached to the annuity contract, without triggering any taxes on the earnings or gains from the original contract.

To qualify for a tax-free exchange, the following conditions must be met:

  • The exchange must be between two similar annuity contracts. The new annuity must have similar features, benefits, terms, and attached riders to the original annuity contract.
  • The exchange must be made between the two insurance companies, not between the annuity holder and the insurance companies. This ensures that the annuity holder does not take possession of the funds, which would trigger a taxable event.
  • The exchange must be made within a specific time frame. The exchange must be completed within 60 days of the annuity holder receiving the funds from the original annuity contract.
  • The exchange must be for another annuity contract, not for cash or other property.

If you meet these conditions, consider the exchange as a tax-free exchange under the 1035 provision of the U.S. tax code. This allows the annuitant to switch annuity contracts and any attached riders without incurring any tax liability.

Exchange of annuity is tax-free, but earnings/gains from the new annuity contract will be subject to taxes upon distribution.


In conclusion, annuity riders can provide valuable benefits and customization options to your annuity contract. However, it’s essential to understand the tax implications of each rider to make informed decisions. With the help of a financial professional, you can navigate the complex tax rules associated with annuity riders and make strategic choices that support your financial future.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here