Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023

structured settlement for attorneys fees

Structured Settlement For Attorneys Fees

Having structured settlement payments instead of lump sum payouts can offer a variety of tax advantages. Those benefits can include tax deferral, greater growth potential, and the ability to spread fees over several years without a higher taxable rate.

In the United States, attorneys are allowed to structure their fees as part of a personal injury settlement. The tax treatment of such an arrangement hinges on avoiding constructive receipt issues and determining the timing of payments.

Tax Deferral

One of the most popular ways to structure attorney fees is with tax deferral. This arrangement can be as simple as a structured settlement annuity or more complex with investment accounts.

In the case of a structured settlement, the client (the defendant in a lawsuit) funds an annuity with the money they would have paid to the attorney in a lump sum. That annuity then pays the attorney a series of payments over time – a guaranteed income stream that is not subject to taxes until the lawyer receives the money in full.

The payment schedule can be set for monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually, and can begin immediately or on a future date1. In addition to providing a tax-deferred stream of income, structured attorney fee annuities offer several other advantages.

First, the money can be placed in a tax-deferred account that earns interest on the amount that has been deferred until it is received. The lawyer will only report that amount on a 1099-MISC in the year in which it is actually received.

Second, the money can be used to augment retirement income or level cash flow over the next few years for a contingency-fee practice, fund future cases, or cushion current year revenue and reduce tax obligations.

Third, the money can be invested in a variety of securities and investments to maximize the potential for growth and income. An experienced financial advisor can help you select the option that best fits your needs and goals today, as well as in the future.

Fourth, the money can be used to fund a retirement plan or individual retirement account (IRA). In some cases, this may make sense for an attorney who has been in practice for a number of years.

Fifth, the money can be used to fund an insurance policy or annuity. Depending on the type of policy or annuity, this can be a valuable way to secure an attorney’s assets in the event of a loss in a lawsuit.

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Attorneys who are considering a structured settlement for attorneys fees should consult with an experienced tax professional who can explain the various options and recommend the right strategy to best meet their needs.


Structured settlements are financial products that protect claimants through tax-free periodic payments from an insurance company. They are a great way to ensure that plaintiffs receive their full compensation and avoid investment risks. They are also a strong negotiating tool for defendants.

Often used in tandem with special needs trusts, structured settlement annuities offer complimentary benefits for severely injured plaintiffs and their families. These funds can cover a variety of needs including extra home care, companions, vehicles and medical expenses not covered by Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

They can also help reduce the risk of disability and increase income for disabled individuals. Annuities are backed by life insurance companies and are subject to rigorous financial reporting requirements.

In addition to providing annuity options for plaintiffs, structured settlements can provide a range of additional benefits for attorneys. For example, attorneys can invest deferred fees in an investment account that provides flexibility and allows them to earn market rates of return without the need for capital gains taxes.

Attorneys can also use structured fees as part of a larger retirement planning strategy. This allows them to create a diversified portfolio that can help them prepare for their future, plan for their children’s college and retirement and provide the income needed to live comfortably in their golden years.

The amount and timing of payments can be customized to suit each individual’s unique needs. These options include monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, annually and lump sums.

They can be paid directly to an attorney or their law firm or into an investment account. The attorney can then select the risk and return profile that works best for their overall wealth management strategy.

This can allow them to take advantage of current low-cost model portfolios or have the opportunity to hire their own investment advisor. In addition, there are no restrictions on the amount that can be deferred in a year and the option to withdraw any amount at any time.

The IRS treats structured settlements as non-qualified deferred compensation plans. They are not taxable until the lawyer receives their actual benefit payment. This can be important for attorneys who are in a higher tax bracket.

Immediate Payments

A structured settlement is a series of tax-free, periodic payments. These are a great alternative to one-time lump sum cash payments. They are particularly popular with claimants who need the money to cover ongoing expenses for a long time.

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These payments are typically made through the purchase of an annuity from a structured settlement carrier. These annuities are backed by US Treasury bonds and high-grade corporate bonds. The rates of return built up in the annuity can be significantly higher than those generated by a conventional fixed annuity.

However, some victims prefer the security of a one-time lump sum payment. In some cases, victims have turned to businesses known as “factoring companies” to obtain a lump sum to address immediate needs. This practice can be dangerous, since the payments may not be tax-free.

This is because a structured settlement payment is not eligible for the tax exclusion from gross income that comes with a single lump sum payout. In fact, the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996 narrowed the types of damages that qualify for this exemption.

In the case of attorneys, the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has interpreted a structured settlement as an exception to the rule that attorney fees must be included in taxable income when they are paid. This is the case for any contingency fee, and the rules are governed by the seminal case of Childs v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 103 T.C. 634 (1994) affirmed 898 F3d 856 (1996)).

The Childs case is especially significant for attorneys who want to structure their attorney fees in a structured settlement. In addition to the IRS ruling, the Eleventh Circuit in a prior case held that if an attorney defers paying fees on a structured basis, then he can do so without having to include them in his taxable income until the attorney receives the fees.

As with traditional structured settlements, the defendant or its insurer must agree to fund the structure at settlement closing by issuing a separate check to the assignment company. After this, a proper settlement agreement and release is executed that employs the required structure language.

Annuity Options

If your settlement amount is significant enough, you may wish to choose a structured settlement option that provides income payments over time. This is a great choice because it offers security against unforeseen circumstances and the possibility of inflation over the future. You can also customize your payments to meet a variety of needs and wishes.

One type of structured settlement payment option is an annuity. These are designed to provide a lifetime income stream that is guaranteed by the annuity carrier. They may also include a death benefit to cover the cost of the payments in case you die before your contract ends.

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There are two different types of annuities: immediate and deferred. Immediate annuities offer a guaranteed amount of interest on the money you invest in them, while deferred annuities offer more time for your money to accrue tax-deferred interest.

When deciding on annuity options, consider your financial goals and the timeframe for when you want to receive a payout. You should also ask about the cost and fees involved. An experienced annuity sales agent will be able to answer your questions and help you determine the best option for you.

An annuity is a way to protect your income against unforeseen circumstances, such as illness or accident. It can also be a good way to supplement your retirement savings or provide a lifetime income during retirement.

Annuity options can be based on a life-only payout or a life with period certain option, and they are available in a wide range of amounts. The life-only option gives you a single payment on a specified date, while the life with period certain option pays you equal monthly payments over a fixed number of years.

You can also choose a lifetime with a higher potential death benefit, which pays your designated contingent payee a larger amount if you die during the guaranteed period. However, you will have to sacrifice a portion of your initial annuity payments to achieve this higher death benefit.

In addition, annuities provide protection for your family and loved ones. They can also be used to supplement a workplace retirement plan, such as a 401(k), or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). A qualified annuity broker can help you select the right annuity and explain the benefits of each type.

Jeffrey Augers
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By Jeffrey Augers

Jeffrey Augers is a highly skilled and experienced financial analyst with over 12 years of experience in the finance industry. He has a proven track record of delivering exceptional financial insights and recommendations to clients, empowering them to make informed decisions and achieve their financial goals. Jeffrey holds a Bachelor's degree in Finance from the University of Michigan, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business.