Beginners Guide For Small or Medium Size Business Owners

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Captive insurance companies were once only for multi-billion-dollar corporations. These days, the times have changed. As business owners’ risk management issues have become more complicated than ever, more mid-size businesses are opting for captive insurance. Find out if a captive company is right for your needs.

Why use a captive insurance company?
A captive insurance company is something you might be thinking about. There are many reasons to start a captive, and you may have heard them all. But the most important reason is to make money.

How can a captive make money for me?
Captives give you the opportunity to participate in underwriting profit, investment income, and can lower your company’s insurance costs. Because premiums ceded to a captive are tax-deductible, investment income and underwriting profits are tax-deferred, a captive can offer income tax benefits. Properly set up, assets in a captive will be protected from creditors other that claimants. A captive can be a valuable estate planning tool. You can exclude assets from your taxable estate if they are placed in trust.

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A captive isn’t for everyone.

Who is a captive?

  • It is important to look at risk management from a long-term perspective.
  • We strongly believe in loss prevention.
  • You are open to sharing risk.
  • Annual insurance premiums of at least $1,000,000 are required.
  • Your pre-tax corporate profits should be at least $500,000

Who are captives not for?

  • Insurance is bought to “win” over your insurer.
  • You don’t care about loss prevention or control.
  • You are a risk taker.
  • Your insurance premiums do not seem large enough.
  • Your assets may not be sufficient to provide the required collateral.

How do I get one set up?

First, choose the jurisdiction where your captive is to be located. You can have it onshore in any of the states with favorable regulations or offshore in places like Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Barbados. These are the essential components of a captive startup:

  • Feasibility study
  • Business plan
  • Actuarial Study
  • Application fees
  • Capital investment
  • Collateral
  • Captive manager

Rent-a-Captive Option

Rent-a-captive is a great way to get in to the captive business. A rent-a captive is a special type of captive, which provides all of the benefits and advantages of an owned captive insurance firm, but without the capital investment, upfront costs, or the annual maintenance costs. You rent a protected/segregated cells, working capital, licenses, and other services from an insurance company. There is no sharing of risk among cells; each cell and its assets are legally distinct from the rest.

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What is the 831 (b) Election?

Section 831 of the Internal Revenue Codes governs taxation for insurance companies other that life insurance companies. Subsection b applies to the tax treatment for small insurance companies. These are those that have an annual written premium of $1,200,000 or less. This tax election exempts investment income and underwriting profits from taxes. As long as you do not elect to pay U.S. tax, this tax election can be used to establish an offshore captive. This option may be a good fit for you.

What is Collateral?

If the captive insurance company acts as a reinsurer for an admitted insurance firm, collateral is required. This is necessary so that the insurance company can claim credit for the reinsurance in its financial statements. The insurance company protects itself from any credit risk arising from the captive’s actions. There are five types of collateral that are acceptable: letters of credit; parental guarantee; pledged assets, performance bond, and insurance trust.

Is There an Exit Strategy for Your Company?

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Over time, risk management strategies change and owners of captive insurance companies may need to look for exit strategies. There are three ways to exit a captive insurance company.

  • Commutation. The fronting insurance company agrees to assume all outstanding liabilities of the captive. This could allow collateral to be released.
  • Novation. A reinsurer agrees to step in the place of the captive and assume the remaining outstanding liabilities of the captive.
  • Reinsurance. The captive enters into a contract with a new reinsurer to assume the remaining outstanding liabilities of the captive. This option is available for both insurance that was provided by an approved insurer and for insurance policies issued by the captive.