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Published in Accounting Today

Achieve large tax and cost reductions by renting a “CAPTIVE”

Most accountants and small business owners are unfamiliar with a great way to reduce taxes and expenses. By either creating or sharing “a captive insurance company”, substantial tax and cost savings will benefit the small business owner. Over 80% of Fortune 500 companies take advantage of some kind of captive insurance company arrangement. They set up their own insurance companies to provide coverage when they think outside insurers are charging too much, or coverage is simply unavailable. The parent company creates a captive so that it has a self-financing option for buying insurance. The captive then either retains the risk of providing insurance or pays reinsurers (companies that reinsure insurers) to take the risk.

If you buy insurance from a standard insurance company, your money buys a service, but the money is spent and gone forever. When you utilize or “rent a captive”, your money buys a service but it is invested with a good possibility of a return.

In the event of a claim, the company pays claims from its captive or from its reinsurer. To keep costs down, captives are often based in places where there is favorable tax treatment and less onerous regulation (i.e. Vermont, South Carolina, and Bermuda).

Optimum utilization of a captive by a small business, medical practice, or professional

The best way for a small business, medical practice, etc., to take advantage of captive benefits is to share or rent a large captive. You can significantly decrease your costs of insurance and obtain tax deductions at the same time. There are, as well, significant tax advantages to renting a large captive as opposed to owning a captive.

The advantages of “renting a captive” become apparent when you consider that the single parent captive may be forced to use less than adequate standards or marginal service so they can meet the financial requirements associated with the initial general licensing and administrative costs of establishment. Additionally, when renting a large captive, the captive bears the burden of initial capital commitment and protects reinsurers from runaway claims and unnecessary losses through their underwriting protocols and claims management practices, all at significant savings to the small business owner.

Other advantages include low policy fees and no capital responsibilities to meet solvency requirements or annual management and maintenance costs. By renting a large captive, you only pay a pro rata fee to cover all administrative expenses for the captive insurance company. Another significant advantage of renting a large captive is the ability to take a loan. It is illegal for an individual captive to make loans to subscribers. When renting a large captive, however, the individual subscriber has no ownership interest, and this difference makes it legal for a rented captive to make loans to individual subscribers. So you can make a tax deductible contribution, and then take back money tax free. Operation of an individual stand alone captive insurance company may not achieve the type of cost savings that a small business could obtain by renting a large captive. To rent a large captive, your company simply fills out some forms. Renting a captive requires no significant financial commitment beyond the payment of premiums.

Buyer Beware

As with many strategies to enjoy tax savings and advantages, you must to do this correctly. IRS and other problems have happened, in the past, to those that have done this improperly or abusively. You probably want to work with a large captive that already has over fifty million in assets and is being rented by at least 200 different companies. Also, you’ll not want to own or control any part of the captive. As an unrelated party, you can more likely significantly decrease your cost of insurance, eliminate capital requirements, and minimize maintenance costs.

You want to deal with a large captive that meets the risk shifting requirements of IRS Revenue Ruling 2005-40. Be cautious about setting up your own small captive. In addition to all the costs, a small captive may find that the expense of defending itself from regulatory oversight is much greater than any benefits received.

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