How Reinsurance Companies are Taxed?

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the focus on to the operations of the insurance as well as the reinsurance sector.

The performance of this sector was considered to be key in order to ensure that the economies of many countries stay afloat during this period. It is for this reason that the taxation of reinsurance companies has also come into focus during this period.

Every student of reinsurance must have some idea about how reinsurance companies are taxed. This is because the way in which this taxation works has a huge impact on the way in which the reinsurance companies structure their business.

  1. Insurance Premium Tax: It is important to understand that in the case of insurance as well as reinsurance companies, they have a special and different tax called the insurance premium tax.

    In most parts of the world, separate tax codes for reinsurance companies have been passed by the parliament and now form a part of the legal statute.

    The insurance premium tax is collected based on the amount of reinsurance premium which has been collected by the company. This is not like an income tax and hence deductions are not allowed to be taken into consideration for the purpose of calculating this tax.

  2. Gross Value Vs Net Value: Insurance premium tax is charged differently in different parts of the world.

    In some parts of the world, the insurance premium tax is charged on the net premiums which is collected. This means that any commissions and expenses paid to obtain the premium are deducted from the premium before the tax rate is applied.

    However, in most parts of the world, this calculation is considered to be opaque and complicated. It encourages reinsurance companies to pay commissions to their own sister companies in order to reduce the tax.

    Hence, in most parts of the world, the insurance premium tax is applied on the gross value of the premiums collected by the reinsurance company.

  3. Use of Reinsurance Intermediaries: In many cases, the reinsurance companies do not directly receive the premiums from the ceding insurance companies. In such cases, there are reinsurance intermediaries which are used.

    Firstly, in most parts of the world, the reinsurance intermediaries are also required to be registered with the relevant tax authorities. This is because in cases where reinsurance intermediaries are involved in the process, most of the data related to reinsurance happens to be with the intermediaries.

    Hence, the tax authorities as well as the reinsurance companies are not able to generate correct tax returns as long as the data is not accessed. It is for this reason that in many parts of the world, the onus of providing the correct data and paying insurance premium taxes falls on the reinsurance intermediary if they are involved in the process.

    However, it is important to note that the arrangements between a reinsurer and a reinsurance intermediary can become quite complex. As a result, the taxation policies have to be created in a manner which provides clear guidelines about how taxation needs to be calculated in each of these cases.

  4. Taxation Left to the States in the US: It is also important to note that reinsurance taxation may not be uniform across different countries or even in the same country. For example, in the United States, taxation of reinsurance companies is left to the states.

    Hence, different states have different insurance premium tax rates. Some states have also waived off insurance premium tax rates completely in order to be able to attract more business from the reinsurance companies.

    However, in some states, there is differential pricing as well. This means that premiums generated from within the state are taxed at different (often lower) rates as compared to premiums generated from outside the state.

  5. No VAT on Reinsurance in the EU: Similarly, in the European Union, there is no Value Added Tax levied on the reinsurance premiums. This is the law across all European Union countries. However, there is no law prohibiting countries from coming up with other taxes and charges.

    Many European countries have found the reinsurance sector to be undertaxed. Hence, in most European countries, the insurance premium tax rates are significantly higher as compared to the United States or to the different parts of the world.

  6. Tax on Investment Income: It needs to be understood that in most parts of the world, the investment income generated by reinsurance companies is taxed differently. These incomes are considered to be income and are taxed at much higher rates which are often in line with the income tax rates present in these countries.

    It is common for taxation rates to be as high as 40% for these incomes. Hence, there is always a tendency for the reinsurance companies to try to convert their investment income as premium related income since there are significant gains which can be immediately realized by doing so.

The fact of the matter is that taxation related to the reinsurance industry tends to be quite complicated. There are different types of incomes which are taxed differently. Also, taxation tends to vary from country to country. This creates situations wherein it is feasible for multinational reinsurance companies to create elaborate strategies in order to minimize their taxes payable.

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