On April 24, 2015, the Internal Revenue Service proposed regulations directed to “situations in which a hedge fund establishes a purported foreign reinsurance company in order to defer and reduce the tax that otherwise would be due with respect to investment income.” The IRS proposed regulations designed to clarify its applicable tax rules, by attempting to define exceptions to “passive income” from foreign insurance companies. Such income (earned from investments) is taxed at higher rates than income from insurance business, which is taxed only when it is realized, and at lower capital gains rates. The proposed regulations seek to clarify when investment income earned by a foreign insurance company is derived in the “active conduct” of an “insurance business,” and thus whether it qualifies for the passive income exception.

The proposal provides that “insurance business” means “the business activity of issuing insurance and annuity contracts and the reinsuring of risks underwritten by insurance companies, together with those investment activities and administrative services that are required to support or are substantially related to insurance and annuity contracts issued or reinsured by the foreign insurance company.” The proposed regulations “do not set forth a method to determine the portion of assets held to meet obligations under insurance and annuity contracts.” The IRS requests comments by July 23, 2015, “on appropriate methodologies for determining the extent to which assets are held to meet obligations under insurance and annuity contracts.”