Income Tax-Free Structured Settlements
Internal Revenue Code Section 104(a)(2) provides an exclusion from gross income for damages received on account of personal physical injuries or physical sickness. The damages can be received as the result of a suit or by agreement between the parties. The exclusion applies to up-front cash and periodic payments.
Internal Revenue Code Section 104(a)(1) provides an exclusion from gross income for compensation a person/plaintiff receives for injury or sickness under workers’ compensation acts.
The Internal Revenue Service has ruled that a properly designed structured settlement will flow income tax-free to the recipient if certain guidelines are met. Any remaining unpaid guaranteed periodic payments made to an estate after the death of a payee are also income tax-free (Rev. Rul. 79-220). President Ronald Reagan signed “The Periodic Payment Settlement Act of 1982,” turning the administrative ruling of the IRS (79-220) into law. Thus, we now have certainty under law that the payments from a properly arranged structured settlement are entirely income tax-free.
Under the current Internal Revenue Code Section 104(a)(2), damages paid for past and/or future lost wages, medical needs, and pain and suffering are all excludable from gross income. This exclusion is for cases that pass the “origin of the claims test” where the origin of the claim is based on a personal physical injury or physical sickness.