Excessive taxes can take a heavy toll on the economic viability of a business. This is particularly true for small and mid-size businesses which are often less prepared to manage risk, uncertainty and economic swings caused by external forces. This was clearly the case in the 2008 downturn which shuttered many small and mid-sized businesses, wiping out the companies, the jobs they provided and their impact on the local economies and communities where they previously operated. Many of these companies were ill prepared and lacked flexibility to respond because their businesses had been hollowed out by years of taxation that thwarted the build-up of reserves.
Hollowed out businesses are bad for local communities, bad for the labor market and bad for America.
How Can Business Owners Avoid Letting Excessive Taxation Hollow Out Their Business?
A business owner can choose to own their own insurance company, known as a captive insurance company (CIC).
What Does A Captive Insurance Company Do?
It enables the business owner or business to own a profitable second business. This profitable business can build up loss reserves, helping prevent the total business entity from being hollowed out by excessive taxation. A CIC primarily insures the risks faced by the operating company or related companies. The primary reasons that businesses or their owners form CICs are:
- To manage business risk by formally self-insuring certain risks with pre-tax dollars
- To protect assets from creditors of the operating business and its owners or other risks
- To realize profits and accumulate wealth inside of a separate business entity
Why is Owning a Captive Insurance Company an Effective Solution?
In addition to insuring risks for its customers, one of the primary objectives of any insurance company is to build up significant reserves for the future. And, insurance companies enjoy many tax advantages as they accumulate reserves. Captive insurance companies are no different. When a business owner sets up a captive insurance company to formally insure risk, he or she also benefits by being able to accumulate wealth in a more tax efficient vehicle. The operating company (or parent company) pays tax deductible premiums to the captive insurance company. And, small captive insurance companies may make an 831 (b) tax election. As such, they are taxed at zero percent (0%) on their underwriting profit. Underwriting profit is simply defined as premiums collected less claims paid. Small insurance companies by definition receive $1.2 million or less in annual premiums according to the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). The result is a remarkably efficient vehicle to accumulate loss reserves (and by extension wealth) for the future. This prevents the business and its owners from being hollowed out by excessive taxation.
What Is A Captive Insurance Company?
A captive is a unique insurance company. It includes its own corporation, insurance license, reserves, policies, policyholders, and claims. It is a formal way for business owners to self-insure risk, and captives are generally formed to insure primarily though not exclusively the risks of one or more businesses owned by the same or related parties.
How Does a Captive Insurance Company Work?
A captive primarily insures its parent company or related companies. It typically forms the backbone of a company’s Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) strategy. Hence, the parent company is able to purchase insurance from its captive, and it can insure risks that third party insurers will not insure or risks where third party insurance cost is unaffordable. The captive can also insure the gaps in third party commercial insurance policies. Premiums are paid from the parent (operating) company to the captive with pre-tax dollars. The captive can invest its assets mostly as its owners choose (some domiciles have restrictions).