162 Bonus Plans

Executive bonus plans, also known as 162 bonus plans, are a popular method for businesses to provide additional benefits and incentives to their key executives. These plans involve the company paying premiums for a life insurance policy owned by the executive. The premiums are considered a bonus payment and are typically tax-deductible for the business. In this article, we will explore the concept of 162 bonus plans, how they work, and the benefits they offer to both executives and businesses.

What are 162 Bonus Plans?

A 162 bonus plan is a type of executive benefit plan that allows a business to provide life insurance coverage for its key employees. Under this arrangement, the company pays the premiums for a life insurance policy owned by the executive. The policy’s death benefit provides financial protection to the executive’s beneficiaries in the event of their passing.

How Do 162 Bonus Plans Work?

In a 162 bonus plan, the business and the executive enter into a bonus arrangement. The company pays the premiums for a life insurance policy chosen by the executive. These premium payments are considered a bonus to the executive and are typically tax-deductible for the business as a reasonable compensation expense. However, it’s important for businesses to ensure that the premiums paid are considered reasonable compensation and comply with IRS regulations.

Tax Advantages of 162 Bonus Plans

One of the significant benefits of 162 bonus plans is the tax advantages they offer to both the executive and the business. Here’s a breakdown of the tax benefits:

  1. Tax Deduction for the Business: The benefits paid out by the company to the key employee are generally tax-deductible as a business expense. This can provide tax savings for the business while offering valuable benefits to key executives. However, premiums are not tax deductible.
  2. Tax-Free Death Benefit: The death benefit of the life insurance policy is generally received income tax-free by the executive’s beneficiaries. This provides financial security and peace of mind to the executive’s loved ones.
  3. Tax-Deferred Growth: Depending on the type of life insurance policy chosen, such as universal life or whole life, the policy’s cash value can grow on a tax-deferred basis. This means the executive can accumulate cash value within the policy without incurring immediate income tax on the growth.
  4. Policy Loans and Withdrawals: If structured appropriately, the executive may have the option to access the policy’s cash value through loans or withdrawals, potentially on a tax-favored basis. However, it’s crucial to consult with a tax advisor or financial professional to understand the potential tax implications of such transactions.

Additional Benefits of 162 Bonus Plans

162 bonus plans offer benefits beyond the tax advantages. These plans can serve as valuable tools for executive benefits, retirement planning, and financial security. Some additional benefits include:

  1. Enhanced Executive Benefits: 162 bonus plans provide an additional benefit to key executives, enhancing their compensation packages and serving as a valuable retention tool. These plans can help attract and retain top talent by offering valuable life insurance coverage.
  2. Retirement Planning: Depending on the policy type, the policy’s cash value can grow over time, potentially providing a source of retirement income for the executive. The accumulated cash value can be accessed through policy loans or withdrawals, providing flexibility in retirement planning.
  3. Estate Planning: The death benefit from the life insurance policy can play a crucial role in estate planning. It can provide liquidity to cover estate taxes, pay off debts, or leave a financial legacy for the executive’s beneficiaries.

Important Considerations for 162 Bonus Plans

Before implementing a 162 bonus plan, there are several important considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Legal and Compliance Matters: It’s crucial to consult with legal and tax advisors who specialize in executive benefits and are knowledgeable about the regulations surrounding 162 bonus plans. Compliance with IRS regulations, including reasonable compensation requirements, is essential to ensure the plan’s tax advantages.
  2. Vesting and Ownership: Clarify the vesting schedule and ownership of the life insurance policy. In some cases, the executive may become the owner of the policy after a certain period, allowing them to retain the coverage even if they leave the company.
  3. Policy Selection: Choose the right life insurance policy for the executive’s needs. Consider factors such as death benefit coverage, cash value accumulation, investment options, and flexibility in premium payments.
  4. Policy Funding: Determine how the premiums will be funded. The business can directly pay the premiums or provide additional compensation to the executive, who then uses those funds to pay for the policy. Evaluate the financial impact and cash flow considerations for both the executive and the business.
  5. Review and Monitoring: Regularly review and monitor the 162 bonus plan to ensure it aligns with the changing needs of the executive and the business. Periodic policy reviews and assessments can help optimize the plan’s effectiveness and address any necessary adjustments.


162 bonus plans offer a valuable opportunity for businesses to provide executive benefits while enjoying tax advantages. These plans allow companies to pay life insurance premiums on behalf of key executives, providing them with financial protection and valuable incentives. The tax deductions for the business, tax-free death benefit for the executive’s beneficiaries, tax-deferred growth, and potential policy loans or withdrawals contribute to the appeal of 162 bonus plans.

However, it’s essential to work closely with legal, tax, and financial professionals who specialize in executive benefits and have a deep understanding of the Internal Revenue Code and related regulations. They can guide businesses in structuring and implementing 162 bonus plans that comply with the law, maximize tax advantages, and meet the specific needs of key executives. With careful planning and professional advice, 162 bonus plans can be a powerful tool for businesses to attract and retain top talent while providing valuable financial security for their key executives.