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    Jennifer Schell

    Jennifer Schell

    Financial Writer

    Jennifer Schell joined Annuity.org in 2022. She is a professional writer with more than three years of experience creating content for a variety of industries ranging from travel to tax accounting. She combines her strong writing skills and her passion for educating others to write engaging and informative financial content for Annuity.org.

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    Thomas Brock, CFA, CPA, expert contributor to Annuity.org

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    Thomas Brock, CFA®, CPA, is a financial professional with over 20 years of experience in investments, corporate finance and accounting. He currently oversees the investment operation for a $4 billion super-regional insurance carrier.

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  • Updated: January 17, 2023
  • 14 min read time
  • This page features 9 Cited Research Articles
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APA Schell, J. (2023, January 17). Annuity Taxation. Annuity.org. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://www.annuity.org/annuities/taxation/

MLA Schell, Jennifer. "Annuity Taxation." Annuity.org, 17 Jan 2023, https://www.annuity.org/annuities/taxation/.

Chicago Schell, Jennifer. "Annuity Taxation." Annuity.org. Last modified January 17, 2023. https://www.annuity.org/annuities/taxation/.

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Key Takeaways
  • You will pay taxes on the full withdrawal amount for qualified annuities. You will only pay income taxes on the earnings if it's a non-qualified annuity.
  • Income payments from a non-qualified annuity consist of a taxable earnings component and a non-taxable principal component.
  • Withdrawing money from your annuity before turning 59 1/2 years old will result in a 10% early withdrawal penalty in most cases.

“One of the biggest benefits of annuities is the ability to grow on a tax-deferred basis,” says Paul Tyler, an annuity and retirement expert. This includes dividends, interest and capital gains, all of which may be fully reinvested while they remain in the annuity. This allows your investment to grow without being reduced by tax payments.

But this seemingly simple perk is accompanied by a raft of complicated rules about what funds are taxed, how they are taxed and when they are taxed.

Because of the complexity, it’s best to consult with a tax professional when purchasing an annuity and before withdrawing any funds.

Are Annuities Taxable?

Annuities are tax deferred. But that doesn’t mean they’re a way to avoid taxes completely. What this means is taxes are not due until you receive income payments from your annuity.

“When you take distributions or withdraw from the annuity later in retirement,” Tyler says, “you will be taxed on the growth at your then-current tax rate.” Withdrawals and lump sum distributions from an annuity are taxed as ordinary income. They do not receive the benefit of being taxed as capital gains.

Pro Tip
How taxes are determined depends on many factors centering on how the annuity was set up.
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How Are Annuities Taxed?

When it comes to taxes, the most important piece of information about your annuity is whether it is held in a qualified or non-qualified account.

Qualified Annuity Non-Qualified Annuity
Funded Untaxed money After-tax funds
Payments Taxable as income Taxation determined by exclusion ratio

Qualified Annuity Taxation

If an annuity is funded with money on which no taxes have been previously paid, then it’s considered a qualified annuity. Typically, these annuities are funded with money from 401(k)s or other tax-deferred retirement accounts, such as IRAs.

When you receive payments from a qualified annuity, those payments are fully taxable as income. That’s because no taxes have been paid on that money.

But annuities purchased with a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k) are completely tax free if certain requirements are met.

Image of Qualified Annuity Taxation Example
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Qualified Annuity Taxation Example

Non-Qualified Annuity Taxation

If the contract was purchased with after-tax funds — meaning money that has been reported to the IRS as income and taxed accordingly — then the annuity is non-qualified. Non-qualified annuities require tax payments on only the earnings.

The amount of taxes on non-qualified annuities is determined by something called the exclusion ratio. The exclusion ratio is used to determine what percentage of annuity income payments is taxable and how much is not. Essentially, this entails segregating the annuity payments into a principal component (not taxable) and an earnings component (taxable).

The exclusion ratio involves the principal that was used to purchase the annuity, the amount of time the annuity has existed and the interest earnings.

Pro Tip
The exclusion ratio takes into account life expectancy.

If an annuitant lives longer than his or her actuarial life expectancy, any annuity payments received after that age are fully taxable.

That’s because the exclusion ratio is calculated to spread principal withdrawals over the annuitant’s life expectancy. Once all the principal has been accounted for, any remaining income payments or withdrawals are considered to be from earnings.

Exclusion Ratio Example

  • Your life expectancy is 10 years at retirement.
  • You have an annuity purchased for $40,000 with after-tax money.
  • Annual payments of $4,000 – 10% of your original investment – is non-taxable.
  • You live longer than 10 years.
  • The money you receive beyond that 10-year life expectation will be taxed as income.

How Are Annuity Withdrawals Taxed?

How and when you withdraw funds from your annuity also affects your tax bill.

In general, if you withdraw money from your annuity before you turn 59 ½, you may owe a 10% penalty on the taxable portion of the withdrawal. 

After that age, taking your withdrawal as a lump sum rather than an income stream will trigger the tax on your earnings. You’ll have to pay income taxes that year on the entire taxable portion of the funds.

Regardless of how you withdraw the money, the tax status of the contract, whether qualified or non-qualified, determines how much of the withdrawal will be taxed. If it’s a qualified annuity, you will pay taxes on the full withdrawal amount. If it is non-qualified, you will pay income taxes on the earnings only.

Taxation of non-qualified annuity withdrawals uses last-in-first-out (LIFO) tax rules. This means that any withdrawal amounts are taxed first as the annuity’s growth element and are subject to ordinary income tax. 

Once the amount withdrawn exceeds the value the annuity has gained, subsequent withdrawal amounts are considered a tax-free return of your principal and you won’t owe taxes on that amount.

 

Infographic Explaining Annuity Withdrawal Taxation After Age 59 ½

How Are Annuity Payouts Taxed?

According to the General Rule for Pensions and Annuities by the Internal Revenue Service, as a general rule, each monthly annuity income payment from a non-qualified plan is made up of two parts. The tax-free part is considered the return of your net cost for purchasing the annuity. The rest is the taxable balance, or the earnings.

When you receive income payments from your annuity, as opposed to withdrawals, the idea is to evenly divide the principal amount — and its tax exclusions — out over the expected number of payments. The rest of the amount in each payment is considered earnings subject to income taxes.

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How Are Inherited Annuities Taxed if I’m the Beneficiary?

If you are the beneficiary and inherit an annuity, the same tax rules apply. The main rule about taxation with an inherited annuity or one that is purchased is that any principal that is funded with money that was already subject to taxes will still not be taxed. Principal that was not taxed and earnings will be subject to taxation as income. The amount of previously taxed principal included in each annuity income payment is considered excluded from federal income tax requirements. This is known as the exclusion amount.

How Do I Report Annuity Income on My Taxes?

Once you begin receiving annuity payments, you’ll need to report that income on your tax return. You can do so using a 1099-R form.

Taxpayers use 1099-R forms to report distributions from retirement savings products including annuities, retirement plans and pensions. If you’ve received a distribution of $10 or more from any of the retirement income sources, also known as payers, you must file a 1099-R form when you file your taxes.

You should receive a 1099-R form on or before Jan. 31 of each year for distributions received during the previous calendar year. Taxpayers who receive distributions from multiple payers will receive multiple forms.

What Is Publication 575?

The IRS updates Publication 575, a guide on how to report distributions from pensions and annuities, every year. The detailed document explains how distributions are taxed and how to report that income on your tax return.

Other topics covered by Publication 575 include information on rolling over certain distributions from one retirement plan to another; how to report disability payments; how to report railroad retirement benefits; and how to determine which part of an annuity payment is tax-free.

You can find Publication 575 on this IRS page.

Frequently Asked Questions About Annuity Taxation

Do you pay taxes on annuities?
Because annuities grow tax-deferred, you do not owe income taxes until you withdraw money or begin receiving payments. Upon a withdrawal, the money will be taxed as income if you purchased the annuity with pre-tax funds. If you purchased the annuity with post-tax funds, you would only pay tax on the earnings. A beneficial reason to buy annuities is that they grow tax-deferred in the accumulation phase.
Do beneficiaries pay tax on inherited annuities?
Inherited annuity earnings are subject to taxation. The taxed amount depends on the payout structure and the beneficiary’s relationship with the annuity owner, as a surviving spouse or otherwise.
How much tax should you withhold from your annuity?
Taxes are deferred until you begin receiving your distributions from the annuity. Then, the payments are taxable based on whether the annuity was purchased with qualified (pre-tax) or non-qualified (post-tax) funds. Your withholding strategy should depend on your overall income and tax bracket at that time.
How can I avoid paying taxes on my annuity?
While it’s impossible to avoid paying taxes on an annuity completely, you can reduce the tax burden of your annuity by converting a deferred annuity into an income annuity. The income annuity’s payments will be made of both taxable interest and tax-free return of premium, lowering your tax liability for each income payment.
How much tax do you pay on annuity withdrawals?
The amount of tax you’ll owe on an annuity withdrawal depends on the type of annuity you have. A withdrawal from a qualified annuity will be taxed as normal income at your current tax rate, while non-qualified annuity withdrawals are only partially taxable.
How much tax will I pay if I cash out my annuity?
If you cash out your annuity early, you’ll have to pay taxes on the full value of the annuity if it’s a qualified annuity. When cashing out a non-qualified annuity, you’ll only owe taxes on the interest the annuity has earned.
How are Roth IRA annuities treated for tax purposes?
Roth IRA annuities are funded with after-tax dollars, so the withdrawals are not usually subject to income tax.
Please seek the advice of a qualified professional before making financial decisions.
Last Modified: January 17, 2023

9 Cited Research Articles

Annuity.org writers adhere to strict sourcing guidelines and use only credible sources of information, including authoritative financial publications, academic organizations, peer-reviewed journals, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports, court records and interviews with qualified experts. You can read more about our commitment to accuracy, fairness and transparency in our editorial guidelines.

  1. Brantley, C. (n.d.). Do I Have to Pay Taxes on an Inherited Annuity of My Deceased Father? Retrieved from https://budgeting.thenest.com/pay-taxes-inherited-annuity-deceased-father-34329.html
  2. Internal Revenue Service. (2022, August 29). Topic Number 410 – Pensions and Annuities. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc410
  3. Internal Revenue Service. (2013, December). General Rule for Pensions and Annuities. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p939.pdf
  4. Lankford, K. (2017, August 9). Figuring out taxes on variable annuity withdrawals. Retrieved from https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/success/tca-figuring-out-taxes-on-variable-annuity-withdrawals-20170809-story.html
  5. Nuss, K. (2021, February 12). How Annuities Are Taxed. Retrieved from https://www.kiplinger.com/retirement/annuities/602248/how-annuities-are-taxed
  6. Parrish, S. (2019, December 18). The 'Gotchas' in Annuity Taxation. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/steveparrish/2019/12/18/the-gotchas-in-annuity-taxation/
  7. Sahadi, J. (2018, May 11). Before choosing an annuity, know the tax implications. Retrieved from https://money.cnn.com/2018/05/11/pf/taxes/annuities-taxes/index.html
  8. ThinkAdvisor. (n.d.). Question About Exclusion Ratio. Retrieved from https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2009/05/26/ask-the-expert-how-to-explain-the-exclusion-ratio/
  9. White, H. (2018. July 28). Tax Planning for Annuities. Retrieved from http://www.myprimetimenews.com/tax-planning-for-annuities-2/