Mass. Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. United States, No. 14-5019 (Fed. Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
The Court of Federal Claims ruled that MassMutual and ConnMutual were legally authorized to deduct policyholder dividends from their 1995, 1996, and 1997 tax returns in the year before the dividends were actually paid. The government agreed that both companies may deduct the policyholder dividend payments, but argued that the deduction may only be taken in the year when the dividends were actually distributed to the policyholders, because the liability to pay the dividends was contingent on other events, such as a policyholder’s decision to maintain his policy through the policy’s anniversary date. Even if the liability was fixed, the government alleged, these payments still could not have been deducted until the year they were actually paid because the dividends did not qualify as rebates or refunds, which would meet the recurring item exception to the requirement that economic performance or payment occur before a deduction may be taken (26 C.F.R. 1.461-5(b)(5)(ii)). The Federal Circuit affirmed. Because the policyholder dividends were fixed in the year the dividends were announced, they were premium adjustments, and that premium adjustments are rebates, thereby satisfying the recurring item exception.