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Qualified Settlement Funds (QSFs) - Unraveling the Unusual

The view behind a judge facing a courtroom with parties on either side of them

In the intricate world of legal proceedings the Qualified Settlement Fund (QSF) stands out for its distinctiveness. A QSF, although perhaps not widely recognized by the general public and even many lawyers, holds a unique and pivotal role in the resolution of legal cases, particularly those involving multiple claimants such as class-action lawsuits and mass tort litigation. QSFs are also widely used in single event cases and single plaintiff cases. In essence, the QSF serves as a temporary holding ground for settlement funds (in effect, the funding is held in “tax limbo”), offering an array of unusual and beneficial characteristics that make it a crucial instrument in settlements and judicial award distributions.

TIP: There is no IRS restriction regarding a “Single Claimant” QSF – see Actually, Single-Claimant Settlement Funds Are Valid (Wood, Brown - Tax Notes Federal, February 10, 2020).

At its core, a QSF is a legal entity that meets the qualification requirements of §1.468B-1 et seq. The purpose of a QSF is to receive and disburse settlement funds in cases where one or more claims are being satisfied. The nature of QSFs lends itself to certain characteristics that are not only unusual but also vital in modern legal proceedings.

Temporary Financial Reservoir

One of the most remarkable aspects of QSFs is their role as a temporary financial reservoir. In scenarios where one or more claims conclude with a settlement agreement (or judicial award), defendants deposit the associated sums into the QSF. This core feature is the essential facet of a QSF’s function: it is a short-term container that safeguards the settlement funds until properly allocated to the respective claimant(s). Unlike traditional settlements where claimants receive compensation directly from the defendant, a properly constructed QSF introduces a layer of separation that ensures organized and deliberate distribution(s) while triggering no economic benefit or constructive receipt.

Deferred Taxation Benefits

Perhaps one of the most advantageous features of the QSF is its capacity to defer taxation. When deposited into the QSF, the settlement funds assume a “contingent liability” status, effectively postponing the recognition of income and taxation for the claimant(s). This unique attribute can have substantial financial implications. The claimant(s) can strategize and plan for the tax consequences of their settlements, a luxury not commonly afforded in other settlement frameworks. The deferral of taxation can prove invaluable, especially for a claimant who might otherwise face immediate and potentially burdensome tax liabilities.

Controlled Distribution Mechanism

The QSF introduces a controlled distribution mechanism that minimizes potential accelerated taxation, chaos, and confusion in cases involving several claimants, liens, secondary claims, or the desire to preserve other beneficial tax treatments. Often, in class-action or mass tort litigation, the number of individuals seeking compensation can be substantial, with varying degrees of damages or injuries. The QSF administrator or trustee plays a pivotal role in overseeing the distribution process, ensuring the disbursement of funds per the terms outlined in the settlement agreement. This controlled distribution mechanism safeguards against potential misallocation and promotes equity and transparency in the compensation process.

A Haven for Complex Cases

The realm of complex litigation, which encompasses cases with numerous claimants or intricate legal dynamics, finds a haven in the QSF structure. Its versatility makes it particularly suitable for these complex scenarios. As a QSF allows for a more flexible and accommodating approach, a QSF may be necessary when determining eligibility, appropriate allocation, lien resolution, and resolving other secondary matters that demand meticulous scrutiny and time. Also, the claimant(s) benefits from additional time to exercise due diligence in reviewing and approving the intricacies of the settlement distribution plan.

Varied State Taxation

One must bear in mind that the state tax landscape surrounding QSFs can vary significantly based on jurisdiction. Some states like California apply high state income tax rates on the QSFs “Modified Gross Income,” as defined by 1.468B-2 et seq. Therefore, legal professionals and stakeholders must consider levels of state taxation when selecting the situs of a QSF. Platforms such as QSF 360 utilize low or zero state tax jurisdictions thereby reducing state tax burdens.


In conclusion, a QSF is a unique and valuable tool.  A QSF’s unusual characteristics, ranging from serving as a temporary financial reservoir to deferring taxation, make it a vital tool in legal professionals’ and claimants’ arsenal. The controlled distribution mechanism ensures fairness and transparency, while its adaptability renders it well-suited for the complexities of modern litigation. As legal frameworks and practices evolve, the QSF’s solutions, such as QSF 360, continue to provide the state of the art in settlement administration.

To learn more about Qualified Settlement Funds – click here.

Disclosure: This content is an overview. It is not a detailed analysis and offers no legal or tax opinion on which you should solely rely. Always seek the advice of competent legal and tax advisors to review your specific facts and circumstances before making any decisions or relying on the content herein.
Any opinions, views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the content contained herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Eastern Point Trust Company, its Affiliates, or their clients. The mere appearance of content does not constitute an endorsement by Eastern Point Trust Company (“EPTC”) or its Affiliates. The author’s opinions are based upon information they consider reliable, but neither EPTC nor its Affiliates, nor the company with which such author(s) are affiliated, warrant completeness, accuracy or disclosure of opposing interpretations.

EPTC and its Affiliates disclaim all liability to any party for any direct, indirect, implied, special, incidental, or other consequential damages arising directly or indirectly from any use of the content herein, which is expressly provided as is, without warranties.
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