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US life insurers avoiding up to US$100b in federal taxes

Special laws passed by some states allow insurers to reduce sharply reserves they are required to hold

Published Sun, Dec 14, 2014 · 09:50 PM

New York

SOME companies have been called economic traitors for seeking to lower their tax bills by moving overseas. But life insurers are accomplishing the same goal without leaving the country, saving as much as US$100 billion in federal taxes, much of it in the last several years.

The insurers are taking advantage of fierce competition for their business among states, which have passed special laws that allow the companies to pull cash away from reserves they are required to keep to pay claims. The insurers use the money to pay for bonuses, shareholder dividends, acquisitions and other projects, and because of complicated accounting manoeuvres, the money escapes federal taxation.

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