Punitive damages and interest are taxable Any pre-trial or post-trial interest on settlement money is taxable and may influence taxes on some attorney's fees. Some judgments and settlements include an award for punitive damages against the defendant. These damages can provide a substantial payment to the plaintiff. All compensation for punitive damages is taxable, which can result in high taxes.
In terms of terminology, a judgment refers to a formal judicial resolution of a dispute, in which the court may order one of the parties to pay pecuniary compensation to another. The agreement refers to a mutual agreement between litigants. Agreements are a different process than adjudication by a court, binding arbitration, or other types of formal hearings. However, for tax purposes, judgments and settlements are treated the same way.
The general rule of taxation for amounts received from resolution of claims and other legal remedies is Section 61 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), which states that all income is taxable “unless there is a specific exception from any derived source, unless exempt by another section of the code. Perhaps the biggest exception to that rule comes into play with personal injury compensation agreements. The IRS excludes some income from lawsuits, settlements and tax awards, but not all. If you get a settlement on a lawsuit, it could be for one of several reasons.
Your agreement may constitute compensation for losses resulting from a physical injury or damages from another type of injury. Part or all of the compensation may arise from various types of emotional distress or punitive damages awarded by the court due to the defendant's heinous conduct. A lawsuit that arises from an injury that occurred in an accident may have more than one type of claim for damages. Some of them are taxable, while others are not.
In Certain Business Disputes, the IRS Taxes a Loss of Profits Settlement as Ordinary Income. Depending on the circumstances, compensation for loss of wages, unfair dismissal, or dismissal may be taxable as income. If you win compensation for damage to your home caused by a negligent builder, rather than taxable income, the IRS can treat that compensation as a reduction in the purchase price of the property. Clearly, the intricate rules are full of exceptions.
Therefore, if you sue after suffering a physical injury, such as in a car accident or other type of personal injury, the IRS believes that the compensation you would receive after reaching a settlement is not taxable. Keep in mind that this does not include punitive damages, which the federal government taxes. The tax status of personal injury settlements can be confusing because compensation in personal injury cases often includes reimbursement of losses, such as lost wages, that would otherwise be taxable. However, as long as the source of a claim arises from personal physical injury or physical illness, those compensatory damages are tax-free under Section 104 of the Tax Code.
However, if you deducted any of your medical expenses in previous years, you must report the settlement funds as income because you cannot use the same tax exemption twice. Examples of non-visible injuries are sexual harassment, slander or defamation. Emotional distress is different from non-visible injuries, but it is managed in a way. Recoveries for physical injuries and physical illnesses are tax-free, but symptoms of emotional distress are not physical.
This area of law becomes very complicated. Did physical injury cause emotional distress or did emotional distress cause physical symptoms? In a nutshell, if the defendant caused your physical injury, it's a tax-free event, but if emotional distress made you physically ill, you're likely taxable. Prior to 1996, personal injury was not taxed. Therefore, claims agreements such as emotional distress and defamation were tax-free.
However, since 1996, only the money from the physical injury settlement is not taxable. Compensation for emotional distress is not taxed only if it originated from a personal physical injury or physical illness. Courts have distinguished between signs of emotional distress and symptoms of emotional distress. A symptom is “subjective evidence of illness” of a patient's condition.
Emotional distress, on the other hand, can involve physical symptoms, such as stomach pain, headaches, and stomach disorders, but they are not generally considered physical injuries or physical illnesses. Rather, a sign is perceptible evidence to the examining physician. In some circumstances, a court may award punitive damages. The courts award these damages as a form of punishment for those responsible for the lawsuit.
Courts generally award punitive damages when a defendant's actions involve scandalous behavior, such as fraud, malice, recklessness, or total disregard of the plaintiff's rights and interests. They are not awarded as compensation for the injured party's losses and are independent of compensatory losses. Punitive damages are generally taxable; however, it depends on the state. For example, personal injury claim settlements, including punitive damages, are not taxable under Pennsylvania personal income tax law.
Attorneys' fees are another complex area related to settlement taxation. If your lawyer represents you in a personal injury lawsuit on a contingency fee basis, you can pay tax on 100 percent of the money recovered by you and your lawyer. This is true even if the defendant pays the contingency fee directly to their personal injury lawyer. If your settlement is not taxable, such as a settlement resulting from injuries sustained in a car accident, you shouldn't face any tax hardship.
Banks, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a plaintiff's taxable income is generally equal to 100 percent of their settlement. This is the case even if your lawyers take a part. In addition, in some cases, you cannot deduct legal fees from your tax base.
The tax language used in a settlement agreement is not binding on the IRS or the courts in subsequent tax disputes, but the document should be as specific as possible about taxes. Most legal disputes involve complicated scenarios and multiple related problems. Even if your dispute is related to the main matter, the settlement may involve more than one consideration. When the parties agree on tax treatment, although it is not binding, the IRS takes into account the parties' intention in determining whether to exclude a tax agreement.
If the settlement agreement does not address taxes, the IRS will analyze the payer's intention to determine the tax status of settlement payments. In some cases, it is possible to allocate damages among several claims. For example, some damages can go to physical injury or illness, which are not taxable. Others may pay for emotional distress, which is usually taxable.
Consider potential tax implications when negotiating a settlement agreement and before signing it. Once you've signed the agreement, you won't be able to change it. During a lawsuit, most people's attention is primarily focused on the outcome and amount of compensation awarded. As a relief from an early recovery, people may not consider the taxes you may have to pay on the settlement amount.
By now, you've likely taken on countless challenges, such as enduring a painful recovery and financial losses. You and your lawyer have long fought for compensation that covers the full cost of your injuries. After dealing with physical and financial recovery from an injury, the last thing you want is to deal with the IRS. The goal is for you to withhold as much of your settlement amount as possible to aid in your recovery.
If lost wages are part of the award or settlement for the physical injury or illness, they are part of the compensatory damages and are not taxed. On the other hand, if lost wages are the result of an employment-related lawsuit, such as discrimination or wrongful termination, the loss of wages is taxable. This is because lost wages or income would have been taxed if they had been earned, so damages awarded for those losses are also taxable by both the IRS and New York State. In some cases, a tax provision in the settlement agreement that characterizes the payment may result in its exclusion from taxable income.
If the settlement agreement says nothing about whether the damages are taxable, the IRS will analyze the payer's intention to characterize the payments and determine the reporting requirements of Form 1099. By spreading your settlement payments over several years, you can reduce income that is subject to higher tax rates. Part of your settlement agreement requires the at-fault party to pay you compensation for your losses. To determine if you received part or all of the settlement due to physical injury or illness, the IRS examines documents such as pleadings, negotiations, and the actual settlement document.
Even if your dispute relates to a course of conduct, the total settlement will most likely involve several types of consideration. Therefore, if the injuries are visible or physical, the IRS treats the settlement money that resulted from those injuries as non-taxable and excluded from the income section of its tax forms. If lost wages are part of the award or settlement for the physical injury or illness, they are considered part of compensatory damages and are not taxed in New York State. Having to pay taxes on your lawyer's part of your settlement can lead to a fairly high IRS bill.
If all or part of your agreement was for back wages from a W-2 job, then you won't get a 1099-MISC for that party. Knowing the most common types of compensation awarded in personal injury lawsuits and how settlements are taxed will help you understand if which part, if any, of your personal injury settlement is taxable. Accordingly, defendants who issue a settlement payment or insurance companies that issue a settlement payment must issue a Form 1099, unless the settlement qualifies for one of the tax exceptions. It's even more important now, with higher taxes on lawsuits settlements under the recently passed tax reform law.