British Virgin Islands: Using Offshore Annuities For Tax Deferral

Last Updated: 21 December 2000
Article by Terence Rollins

Benjamin Franklin once said "…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes" so perhaps its little surprise that lawyers, tax planners and insurers should all have seized the opportunity to apply themselves to the vast and universal market for annuities.

Annuities are an effective instrument enabling tax-deferred accumulation of investments for retirement planning, and are subject to tax only when actually distributed from the policy. Annuity products are emerging globally, and AMS manages several such companies in the BVI - on both sides of the Atlantic. This article is a simple overview on annuities for US citizens under the IRC Regulations.

Annuities are available to eligible clients who have taken expert tax advice in their own domicile and who have sufficient initial premiums to invest in a stable of fund options offered through the annuity company. Minimum investments may be as low as $100,000 although additional premiums may be invested in additional units of $10,000. Annual annuity benefits are payable from a selected maturity date which can continue for the life of the annuitant.

If the annuitant dies before the full distribution of the retained assets, any residual value may be payable to the beneficiary or policy owner. Since annuity returns can vary with the value in the retained assets, the contract is classed as a variable annuity under the US Internal Revenue Code.

Different annuity providers each offer their own stable of fund choices and these would typically be US Equities, US Small Cap Equities, US Bonds, Money Market and Global Equities. The Diversification Rules require that there be at least five funds with predetermined maximums allowed in each of the fund choices. The annuitants are to some extent protected against themselves and precluded from putting 'all their eggs in one basket'. Adequate diversification means that no more than 55% of total asset value may be in a single fund, no more than 70% in two, 80% in three and 90% in four – hence the need for at least five funds.

Probably the most commonly asked question by prospective annuitants is that concerning investor control and it the one with the greatest degree of contention and misunderstanding. A compliant annuity has very little investor control, but the exact scope is a 'gray area'.

The policyholder may not control the investments, nor can anyone designated by the policyholder or anyone who might be considered subject to his control. None of the investments must be available to the general public although cloned funds available exclusively through the annuity company are admissible. The policyholder may control the timing of transfers between fund options or liquidations of assets to provide annuity payouts or surrender proceeds, but the insurer must control the transfer or application and not allow the policyholder the right to require the distribution or transfer of any particular type of asset.

The Insurance Act, 1994 in the BVI provides rigorous supervision of annuity providers. Annuity monies must be held in segregated accounts separate and apart from the insurer's assets. Audited financial statements are required. Insurers in the BVI are not subject to local taxes and are thus able to make distributions to policyholders free of local taxes.

Interest and earnings in the contract are not subject to US taxation until they are distributed from the contract. For Estate Tax planning purposes, it is preferable that the annuity contract be held in an irrevocable trust established three years before the death of the annuitant to enable the proceeds on death to pass to beneficiaries free of estate tax. However, there are still gift and income tax issues to consider which do require very specialist tax advice.

A 1% Federal Excise Tax is imposed by the US Government on premiums paid to a foreign annuity and should be filed on Form 720. Distributions made from the annuity are subject to income tax on the gain on an income out first basis, and there are additional tax penalties on premature distributions under the IRS Regulations.

Licensing and securities rules in the US prevent us from promoting non-US annuity companies other than in an offshore context. Interested prospective annuitants are encouraged to contact us though their tax advisors or lawyer to arrange a discussion in the BVI. Since we do not give tax advice and the compliance rules and IRS Regulations are a minefield, we require any interested prospective annuitant to have taken proper legal and tax planning advice and further recommend they explore the formation of an irrevocable trust with their attorneys.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions