Settlements received as compensation for injuries and losses due to an accident can be complex when it comes to taxes and knowing what to claim. In Michigan, some portions may be tax-exempt under state law, while other categories remain federally taxable per IRS guidelines. Determining what taxes apply requires an in-depth look at the specifics of your case, as it can look different for each person.
With accident settlements potentially spanning tax-free and taxable damages across both state and federal levels, working with a lawyer is crucial. Consultation with tax professionals and a Michigan car accident lawyer lets you properly plan to maximize your total recovery. An attorney can categorize damages, negotiate optimal terms, and ensure you are in compliance with all the laws that you may otherwise find confusing.
Michigan Personal Injury Settlement Tax Laws
Michigan uses a broad exclusion for money received as compensation for personal physical injuries or sickness. It is important to know the difference as it can be easy to confuse and mix up. The following types of damages are exempt from state income tax:
- All medical costs related to an injury, such as expenses for hospitalization, surgery, rehabilitation therapy, prescription medications, at-home nursing care, and medical equipment
- Compensation for pain and suffering resulting from an injury
- Payments to reimburse lost wages or income because of not being able to work during recovery from an injury
- Compensation for emotional distress directly tied to a physical illness or injury
- Settlement payments for scarring or disfigurement from an injury
To qualify as tax-exempt in Michigan, the settlement payment must originate as compensation only for bodily harm. Damages paid for property damage or exclusively emotional injuries do not qualify under state tax law. A lawyer can help you during your case to let you know which is tax-exempt for your specific circumstances.
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Federal Tax Rules for Car Accident Settlements
While Michigan broadly exempts physical injury settlement compensation, portions of these funds may still be considered taxable income under federal IRS regulations. According to the IRS tax code, only damages paid specifically for physical injuries and physical sickness qualify for federal tax exemption.
Any settlement amounts allocated for non-physical losses remain taxable by the IRS. For example, compensation for emotional distress from an accident does not qualify for federal tax exemption, though it is exempt under Michigan tax law. So, while not taxed by the state, these emotionally rooted damages would be taxable income on your federal tax return.
Punitive damages awarded in civil lawsuits generally do not qualify for federal tax exemption, even when related to a physical injury. For instance, if you were awarded $100,000 in punitive damages because a drunk driver caused your accident, the IRS would consider those funds fully taxable income federally. This is regardless of your physical injuries from the crash.
No-Fault Car Accident Settlements in Michigan
In the case of no-fault auto insurance settlements in Michigan, the rules are slightly different compared to other personal injury cases. Benefits paid by your own no-fault insurer for medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, in-home attendant care, and lost wages resulting from a car accident are not considered taxable income under federal standards. This applies whether the no-fault benefits are paid on an ongoing basis as costs accrue or received in a lump-sum settlement resolving unpaid or overdue no-fault benefits.
However, there are some things to be aware of:
- If your lost wages due to the auto accident exceed your no-fault policy’s monthly wage loss maximum, any amount above that cap may become taxable income.
- Per IRS rules, reimbursement paid directly to caregivers providing attendant care or replacement services for an injured claimant is taxable income for those providers. Make sure you claim this on your taxes every year you receive it.
So, portions of a no-fault settlement could still potentially incur a tax liability, but medical and approved wage loss benefits within policy limits stay tax-free. If you receive no-fault settlement funds in a structured arrangement over time rather than a lump sum, work with a tax advisor on proper reporting. Documenting which parts of a no-fault settlement correspond to taxable categories versus non-taxable benefits creates an audit trail for tax filing purposes.
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Evaluating Taxability of Different Settlement Categories
When analyzing an accident settlement in Michigan, careful categorization of the damages is key. Michigan tax code provides exemptions for certain types of compensatory funds but not others. Breaking down the settlement into specific allocations. such as the following will determine which portions are tax-exempt under state law versus federally taxable:
- Medical expenses
- Rehabilitation and therapy costs
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Punitive damages
- Interest on awarded damages
Proper categorization allows you to identify which portions are likely tax-exempt and which may be taxable or partially taxable at the state and federal levels when filing your taxes. For example, amounts awarded for medical costs, rehab, pain and suffering, and wage loss within no-fault limits are generally tax-exempt. But compensation for loss of future earnings, non-economic emotional distress, punitive awards, or interest on judgments may end up taxable.
You will always work directly with your attorney throughout your case.
Do Not Settle without Knowing the Tax Impacts
Dealing with taxes on an injury settlement can get confusing quickly. Multiple state and federal laws are in play and can seem similar or easily mix up. Some damages are exempt, others are taxable, and it can be a lot of information initially, and when you think you have a handle on it, you may find another rule you need to apply.
Work with an experienced personal injury attorney to review any settlement offer to make sure you are on track and understand the tax side. Our team can categorize damages, explain tax exemptions, and identify taxable amounts in your specific case. Contact us for a free consultation to get started so you can feel comfortable with the knowledge of taxable and non-taxable settlements.
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