Taxing Lessons Case Summaries

Case — Lump Sum Disability

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TL Case Summ

THE QUESTION

Is a disability lump sum settlement payment excludable from gross income?

THE DISPUTE

Taxpayer Says: The lump sum settlement from a disability claim is not taxable because the payment was from a lawsuit resulting from an on-the-job injury.

Internal Revenue Service Says: The settlement does not qualify for an exclusion to the general rule and is taxable.

THE LAW

From Internal Revenue Code Section 61(a): Defines gross income as “all income from whatever source derived,” unless otherwise provided.

From Internal Revenue Code Section 105(a): Provides that amounts received by an employee through accident or health insurance for personal injuries or sickness shall be included in gross income to the extent such amounts (1) are attributable to employer contributions that were not includable in the employee’s gross income, or (2) were paid by the employer.

From Internal Revenue Code Section 105(c): Provides an exception to the general rule in section 105(a). Section 105(c): Payments Unrelated to Absence From Work.– Gross income does not include amounts referred to in subsection (a) to the extent such amounts– (1) constitute payment for the permanent loss or loss of use of a member or function of the body, or the permanent disfigurement, of the taxpayer, his spouse, or a dependent (as defined in section 152, determined without regard to subsections (b)(1), (b)(2), and (d)(1)(B) thereof), and (2) are computed with reference to the nature of the injury without regard to the period the employee is absent from work.

THE CAUSE OF THE DISPUTE

In general, when your employer pays the premiums for disability insurance, any benefits you receive under the plan will be taxable income in the year you receive them. The rule applies to lump sum payments as well as monthly amounts.

Under an exception to the general rule, disability benefits may be excluded from your income when the amount you receive is calculated based on the nature and severity of your injury, and not on the amount of time you’re away from your job.

In this case, the taxpayer’s employer paid the premiums on a group disability policy. Under the policy, disabled employees would receive a monthly benefit based on the employee’s salary regardless of the injury.

After hurting her back, the taxpayer applied for benefits under the policy, but was denied. She sued the insurance company, and eventually received a lump sum settlement of $333,647. The settlement was based on the amount of the monthly benefit payable under the policy and the date her benefits were terminated. The taxpayer did not report the payment on her 2005 income tax return because it was related to her injury and she believed it was therefore not taxable.

The IRS says the payment is taxable because it was based on the amount of time the taxpayer was absent from work, and the exception does not apply.

WHAT WOULD YOU DECIDE?

Make your selection, then see “The Court’s Decision” below for a full explanation

For the or for the

THE COURT’S DECISION

Download (PDF, 20KB)

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HL Carpenter, an experienced investor and a CPA, specializes in reader friendly articles on taxes and investing for individuals and small businesses, and publishes two newsletters: Taxing Lessons and Top Drawer Ink. Visit TaxingLessons.com and HLCarpenter.com.

This information should not be considered legal, investment or tax advice. Taxing Lessons and Top Drawer Ink Corp. do not provide legal, investment or tax advice. Always consult your legal, investment and/or tax advisor regarding your personal situation.

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Sorry, wrong answer :(
Right answer!
For the IRS. Payments under the disability policy, even if in the form of a lump-sum settlement, are designed to replace the income an employee lost due to a disability and are computed with regard to the employee’s absence from work. Accordingly, the lump-sum settlement payment fails the requirements of section 105(c)(2) because it was computed arithmetically with reference to the taxpayer’s absence from work and not to the nature or severity of her injury.
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