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Navigating Tax Implications on Lawsuit Settlements

In the aftermath of winning or settling a lawsuit, it is essential to understand the potential federal and state income tax implications and the strategies you can employ to minimize your tax liability. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore various factors that affect the taxability of lawsuit settlements and provide actionable tips to help you navigate the complex world of taxes on settlement money.

Not all amounts received from a settlement are exempt from federal and state income taxes. In determining the taxability of a settlement, it’s crucial to consider the purpose for which the settlement or award was received. Settlements related to physical injuries or illnesses where there is observable bodily harm are generally not considered taxable by the IRS. While settlements for physical injuries or illnesses are tax exempt, emotional distress awards are typically subject to taxes. Settlements designated explicitly for medical expenses are generally not taxable. However, punitive damages, awarded to punish the defendant for their wrongdoing, are almost always taxable. The tax treatment of legal fees depends on the nature of the settlement.

Now, let’s explore some practical strategies to minimize your settlement tax liability.

1. Allocate damages appropriately.

2. Spread payments over time.

3. Consider Qualified Settlement Funds.

4. Take advantage of capital gains treatment.

5. Seek professional tax advice.


6. Eliminate the taxation of the attorney fee portion.

There is, however, an effective solution for eliminating double taxation on the attorney fee portion: the Plaintiff Recovery Trust (PRT). Keep in mind the PRT must be in place before the settlement or judicial award is finalized. Winning or settling a lawsuit is a significant achievement, but it’s crucial to understand the potential tax implications of your settlement. For the full guide or to learn more about Qualified Settlement Funds and the Plaintiff Recovery Trust, please visit

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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