Definition of "Boot"

Charlie Boyd Agent real estate agent

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Janie Boyd & Associates Real Estate Services LLC

Typically, boot refers to a specific amount of money or other assets that an individual or company adds to an exchange of goods. The purpose behind this is to equal the value of the traded items.

The meaning of a boot is explained plain and simple.

Not to be confused with the boot in real estate! The most straightforward way to understand the meaning of boot is to take the following real-life example! Jack wishes to keep up with modern times and trade his old TV and stereo sound system for the ultimate home theater devices. Obviously, he has to add extra cash to sweeten the deal. The money Jack pays for is called a boot, constituting a taxable income for whoever Jack traded the device.

In life, it’s challenging to find two like-kind properties. Usually, assets don’t represent the same value for the exchange to occur without adding extra cash. For this reason, one of the parties must contribute money or another asset to make the deal happen. On the one hand, the exchange’s base amount remains not taxable until a future date. On the other hand, the boot will be a taxable income

How does boot work in insurance?

The definition of boot in insurance works the following way. Suppose a life insurance policyholder receives a particular amount of money in a tax-free insurance policy exchange. In that case, the funds received will be considered an income liable to be taxed to the policyholder. 

The insurer defines the company providing financial coverage or insurer finances in the case of unforeseen, usually unfortunate events happening to the policyholder (see homeowners policy).

In another scenario, the insurer cancels the loan on an old policy as the said old policy is exchanged for a brand-new one. Then, the called-off loan amount won’t be forgotten but becomes taxable earnings to the policyholder.

Can you retain any money from an old life insurance policy?

Many ask whether a policy owner can transfer an amount of the financial value of the traded life insurance yield into the new contract. In addition, they wonder if they can keep a part of that profit.

Any “boot” (revenue or income) from the exchange you receive in cash, transferred into a non-like-kind contract, or used to pay off debts is taxable. In such cases, the boot is considered ordinary income to the extent of the profit from the contract or the boot, whichever is smaller. This is less advantageous than “basis first” taxes, which apply to life insurance payments.

A step transaction can tax your boot!

Before the exchange, the policyholder can take a distribution from the initial contract and be subject to “basis first” tax laws. Still, the owner must proceed with caution! The cash distribution and the exchange may be viewed as step transactions, in which case they will be classed as “boot.”

A step transaction determines a series of individual but connected sales, deals, or purchases, which can be considered one transaction. However, tax liability will likely be based more on the entire transaction than the individual arrangements in the series.

What can you do if there’s an exceptional loan on the initial life insurance policy? Life insurance companies recommend paying back the loan. Furthermore, starting clean is advised, meaning returning the loan before the exchange occurs. Then, you can minimize the initial policy. Suppose you can’t pay off the loan. In that case, you should consider reducing the initial contract before trading it for a new one.

Beware that the reduction must not surpass the policy’s basis! Otherwise, it will become subject to taxes. Moreover, don’t rush with the exchange! Thus, you can prevent a step transaction.


To avoid any misunderstandings, please consult with your local insurance company!

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