Understanding Annuitants: Roles, Benefits, and Tax Implications


An annuitant is an individual entitled to receive regular payments from a pension or annuity investment. This article explores what an annuitant means, their role in annuities, types of annuities, and tax implications.

Understanding the annuitant definition

An annuitant, in the context of financial investments, is a crucial figure. They are the individuals who are entitled to collect regular payments from pension plans or annuity investments. These payments serve as a vital source of income, especially during retirement years.

Annuity basics

Annuities are financial products designed to provide a steady stream of income for a specified period, often for life. The annuitant plays a central role in this arrangement, as they are the recipients of these payments. Annuities are commonly associated with retirement planning and are linked to various financial products, including employee pension plans and life insurance policies.

Role of the annuitant

The annuitant can be the contract holder, such as an individual who has purchased a personal annuity, or another person, like a surviving spouse named as the beneficiary. It’s important to note that an annuitant must be an individual; companies or trusts cannot fulfill this role.

The size of the annuity payments is determined based on several factors, primarily the annuitant’s age and life expectancy. If there are beneficiaries involved, their ages and life expectancies also come into play. For instance, if the annuitant is 65 and has a 60-year-old spouse as a beneficiary, the payments will be calculated based on the assumption of making payments for approximately 24 years, the life expectancy of a 60-year-old.

Weigh the risks and benefits

Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.

  • Steady source of retirement income
  • Flexibility in choosing beneficiaries
  • Protection against outliving savings
  • Tax implications
  • Complexity in understanding various annuity options

Types of annuities

There are two fundamental types of annuities:

1. Deferred annuity

A deferred annuity is often used as a retirement savings vehicle. In this type of annuity, the annuitant makes regular contributions over time, similar to contributing to an IRA or 401(k). These contributions grow, often tax-deferred, until a specified point in the future when annuity payments commence.

2. Immediate annuity

An immediate annuity, as the name suggests, involves a lump-sum payment by the annuitant in exchange for regular payments that begin immediately. These payments can continue for life or a predetermined period, providing financial security.

Taxation of annuities

Understanding the tax implications of annuities is crucial for annuitants. Annuity payments are generally taxed as ordinary income. The portion of payments representing the contract holder’s initial contributions is typically not taxed, only the gains earned over time.

In the case of employer-sponsored pensions, the entire payment is usually taxed as ordinary income, which is an important consideration during retirement planning.

Frequently asked questions

What is the role of an annuitant in an annuity?

An annuitant is the individual entitled to receive regular payments from an annuity. They play a central role in determining the size and duration of these payments.

Can an annuity have multiple annuitants?

Yes, an annuity can have multiple annuitants, including spouses and other beneficiaries. The terms and conditions are outlined in the annuity contract.

Are annuity payments taxable?

Yes, annuity payments are generally subject to taxation as ordinary income, except for the portion representing the contract holder’s contributions.

What factors determine the size of annuity payments?

The size of annuity payments is primarily determined by the annuitant’s age and life expectancy. If there are beneficiaries involved, their ages and life expectancies also impact the calculation. Additionally, the type of annuity and its terms can influence payment amounts.

Is it possible to change the annuitant on an annuity?

Changing the annuitant on an annuity can be complex and depends on the specific terms of the annuity contract. It may be possible to name a new annuitant, but this process often requires careful consideration and adherence to legal requirements.

What happens to an annuity if the annuitant passes away?

If the annuitant of an annuity passes away, the terms of the annuity contract dictate what happens next. In some cases, payments may cease, while in others, they may continue for a specified period or transfer to a surviving spouse or beneficiary.

Can an annuity provide income for life?

Yes, many annuities are designed to provide income for the annuitant’s entire life, ensuring financial security during retirement. These are often referred to as “life annuities.”

Are there any exceptions to the taxation of annuity payments?

While annuity payments are generally taxed as ordinary income, there can be exceptions. For example, if the annuity is purchased with after-tax dollars (non-qualified annuity), a portion of the payment may be considered a return of the principal and not subject to taxation.

What should individuals consider before choosing an annuitant for their annuity?

Before selecting an annuitant for an annuity, individuals should consider factors such as the annuitant’s age, life expectancy, and financial goals. Additionally, they should think about whether they want to provide for a surviving spouse or other beneficiaries and how the choice of annuitant impacts payment amounts.

Can companies or trusts be designated as annuitants?

No, annuitants must be individuals, not companies or trusts. Annuities are designed to provide regular income to people and are not suitable for entities.

Key takeaways

  • An annuitant is an individual entitled to receive regular payments from an annuity or pension plan.
  • Annuities come in two primary types: deferred and immediate.
  • Annuity payments are typically taxed as ordinary income, with some exceptions.
View article sources
  1. WHAT IS AN ANNUITY? – National Pension Commission
  2. Annuities – A Brief Description – Internal Revenue Service
  3. Annuitants and Compensationers – OPM.gov