In just-released Revenue Ruling 2005-40, the Internal Revenue Service has underscored the fact that risk distribution must be present for smaller arrangements to qualify as insurance for federal income tax purposes. The ruling does not call into question the vast majority of insurance contracts issued by commercial insurance companies in the ordinary course of business. Since the Supreme Court's 1941 decision in Helvering v. LeGierse, both risk shifting and risk distribution have been required for an arrangement to constitute insurance for federal income tax purposes. The ruling concludes that an arrangement with an entity that "insures" the risks of only one policyholder does not qualify as insurance for tax purposes, because the risks are not distributed among other policyholders. The ruling also explains how this conclusion applies to single-member limited liability companies, which in some cases are treated as entities separate from their owners and in other cases are disregarded. Qualification of an arrangement as insurance may affect whether the issuer is taxed as an insurance company and whether or when amounts paid under the arrangement may be deductible. If an arrangement does not qualify as insurance, it may instead be characterized as a deposit, a loan, a contribution to capital or an indemnity arrangement other than an insurance contract. The ruling was accompanied by Notice 2005-49, soliciting comments from the public on additional standards relating to what constitutes insurance.
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