U.S. attorney goes after 419 welfare benefit plan promoterArticle added by Roccy DeFrancesco on August 1, 2011
Roccy Defrancesco

Roccy DeFrancesco

MI

Joined: May 24, 2006

Amazingly, there are some administrators still promoting 419 plans. It defies logic to me that sales people will sell something they know or should know will not hold up under IRS scrutiny just so they can sell cash value life insurance.

Back in the day (1996–2000), 419 welfare benefit plans used to be all the rage as a way for profitable business owners to reduce their taxes and build a tax-favorable nest egg under the cover of an “employee benefit plan.”

With an ambiguous tax code and some favorable tax court rulings, promoters of WPBs became emboldened and far too high profile in the late 1990s. This was amplified by the life insurance industry's internal marketing of WBPs because they were funded mainly with cash value life insurance.

Without fully explaining how these plans worked, I will simply state that an employer could take deductions of $25,000–$300,000+ where all of the money would go into a WBP and into a CVL insurance policy where it could grow tax free for years.

Depending on how aggressive the third-party administrator of these plans were, clients were told the money would either come out and be taxable when in retirement while some administrators even touted that business owners could get the money out tax free (which in my opinion was total nonsense, but that’s how they were sold).

The IRS steps in

Because of the aggressive marketing of these plans, the IRS put it on the top of its hit list. 419A(f)5 and A(f)6 plans, 419(e)3 plans as well as VEBA plans (which are also WPBs) all got hammered by the IRS in 2007 when it issued three revenue rulings. WBPs were also put on the tax transaction list.

U.S. Attorney goes after 419 plan promoter

One 419 plan promoter who has been around since the 1990s just had a complaint filed against him, his spouse and several related companies. It’s a 43-page complaint with request for a permanent injunction barring him and several companies from dealing with these plans. To read the complaint, click on the following link: http://www.thewpi.org/?a=PG:1454.

If you are in the advanced markets, and even if you are not, I strongly recommend you read the U.S. attorney’s complaint. It should give you pause the next time someone promotes a tax strategy that either sounds too good to be true or one that the promoters are flaunting in the face of the IRS (the consequence of both usually is not good for clients or their advisors).

419 plans are still being promoted today

Amazingly, there are some administrators still promoting 419 plans. It defies logic to me that sales people will sell something they know or should know will not hold up under IRS scrutiny just so they can sell cash value life insurance.

But what am I saying? The insurance industry has a history of having advisors sell products simply so they can make a commission notwithstanding how it will affect their clients.

When I saw the complaint that was filed by the U.S. attorney last week, I figured it was a good excuse to write a cautionary article about 419 plans (because they are still being promoted) and, in general, about tax avoidance plans. The bottom line is that, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is; and you should proceed (if you choose to proceed) with extreme caution.
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