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MEC – Modified Endowment Contract [The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly]

Fact Checked by Jason Herring & Barry Brooksby
Licensed Agents & Life Insurance Experts.
Insurance and Estates, a strategic life insurance provider composed of life insurance professionals, is committed to integrity in our editorial standards and transparency in how we receive compensation from our insurance partners.
Modified Endowment Contract dangers

The Modified Endowment Contract (MEC) can be your worst enemy or your best friend. If we look at what it is, how to avoid it if necessary, and how to use it when needed, we’ll be much more capable of keeping our cash value life insurance policies working for us in a powerful way.

Modified Endowment Contract (MEC)

At I&E, we do not subscribe to the idea that there is one plan or product that fits all. In fact, there are so many nuances involved in wealth building and asset protection that we typically create a unique plan for each and every client that differs in one way or another.

Key Highlights

You can click the links below to be taken to that specific part of the article.

  1. Historical Background of MECs: We delve into the history of MECs, tracing back to the 1980s. This context helps us understand how the attractive, tax-free benefits of cash value life insurance contracts led to government intervention.
  2. Legislation Impact – TAMRA and IRC Section 7702: We discuss the Technical and Miscellaneous Revenue Act of 1988 (TAMRA) and IRC Section 7702. These legislative acts were responses to the use of life insurance policies as tax shelters, which led to the creation of MECs and set limits on investments in life insurance policies.
  3. Understanding the 7-Pay Test: We explain the IRS seven pay test, which is crucial in determining whether a policy is classified as a MEC. The seven pay test assesses if the premiums paid over seven years exceed the amount required to pay off the policy.
  4. Regular MEC Testing and Management: We reassure our readers that insurance companies regularly conduct MEC tests and notify policyholders if there’s a risk of their policy becoming a MEC. We advise staying informed about the maximum allowable premium payments to avoid inadvertently triggering MEC status.
  5. MEC Cons: We detail the implications of a policy becoming a MEC, particularly in terms of tax treatment changes for withdrawals and loans against the policy.
  6. MEC Pros: We also discuss scenarios where having a MEC could be beneficial, such as in the case of single-premium life insurance. These include maintaining tax-free death benefits, avoiding probate, and creditor protection.
  7. MEC Life Insurance Rates: Our article provides detailed life insurance rates for different age groups, showing the required one-time payment for various death benefits. These rates help us understand the financial commitment needed for different levels of coverage, and it’s noted that these are whole life insurance rates, where the death benefit increases over time.
  8. Navigating Insurance Complexities: Finally, we advise consulting with trusted insurance agents to navigate the complexities of insurance and tailor policies to individual needs.

A Brief History on the MEC

Do you remember the 80s? Star Wars and Indiana Jones blew our minds. Glam bands with big hair rocked our television sets via the new MTV. And interest rates were approaching 20%.

For just a minute imagine yourself in 1981 with $100,000 to invest. You could buy a 10 year government backed bond for 12%, you could invest in the stock market, or you could choose to take advantage of a cash value life insurance policy.

You’d have to qualify for the life insurance policy, but if you did, you’d find that your returns were competitive with other types of investments of the day. And then you would find out that the policy was not only competitive, but almost too good to be true!

Why? Well simply put, almost all other types of investment were taxable. If you gained money, the money you gained was taxed.

However, a cash value life insurance policy is not taxed like other types of investments and this includes the various types of permanent life insurance policies such as

So. you could put your $100,000 into a $500,000 cash value account of the life insurance policy, and gain 10% a year for a couple years. Then you could withdraw or take a loan against your investment gain, without paying taxes.

Anyone that wanted to invest in a cash value life insurance policy in the 80s could do so in just about any amount they wanted. Sit back and watch your cash value life insurance grow and grow at a tremendous rate. And then withdraw (up to your basis) or take out a loan against it, tax free!

The reason this was possible is because the cash value account of a life insurance policy isn’t typically taxed. So policyholders could insure themselves with one giant lump sum payment, as in my example above. Or they could pay large premium payments that far exceeded the cost of insurance, in order to quickly grow the cash value.

Either way they were enjoying the tax shelter status of a cash value life insurance policy in a way that the government hadn’t anticipated.

Legislation Impact: TAMRA & IRC 7702

Things that are too good to be true often don’t last very long. That was the case for these policies back in the 80s. Our government got wind of how people were avoiding taxation by investing large sums of cash into small insurance policies.


As a result, congress passed a few different acts to squash these tax shelters, and prevent people from using cash value life insurance policies as a short term savings vehicle. The last of these acts was called the Technical and Miscellaneous Revenue Act of 1988 (TAMRA). This act is what created the Modified Endowment Contract (MEC) and the rules that govern what policies are considered to be a MEC.

TAMRA created three criteria for life insurance policies becoming a Modified Endowment Contract. The criteria is as follows:

  1. The policy was entered into after June 20, 1988.
  2. The policy meets the statutory definition of a life insurance contract.
  3. The policy must fail to meet the seven-pay test.

The first criteria and the second criteria are pretty self explanatory. You can quickly determine when your policy was written, and you probably know if it’s a life insurance policy or not. But before we address the modified endowment contract seven pay test, we need to mention IRC 7702.

IRC Section 7702

Congress decided that it should discourage the use of a lump sum life insurance policy for tax avoidance. As a result, under IRC section 7702 Congress passed legislation that created limits on the amount of money that can be put into a life insurance policy in a set period of time. If you exceed those limits then the policy becomes a Modified Endowment Contract.

So what is the 7-pay test criteria?

MEC Seven Pay TestI’m so glad that insurance people give things names that help explain what they are instead of naming it after the people that invented it or created it (like Braxton Hicks contractions for example – can’t we just call them premature contractions and make it easy on everyone involved?).

A policy will fail the seven-pay test and be categorized as a modified endowment contract if the premiums paid by the policyholder will exceed the amount of premiums required to cause the policy to be paid up within 7 years. Get it? 7 years. What you pay. The 7-pay test.

Insurance companies use the seven pay test for life insurance contracts in a couple of instances:

  1. The first instance would be to test the total premium payments in the first seven years of the policy to make sure it meets the seven-pay test.
  2. The second instance is when a policy incurs a material change, such as a reduction to the death benefit, which may or may not cause the policy become a modified endowment contract.

MEC Testing and Management

For those of you reading this and wondering if you are in trouble, rest assured that it’s not something to lose sleep over these days.

Your insurance company typically performs MEC tests monthly on their policies, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally triggering the qualification and not being notified. You will get a warning. Just make sure to open your mail when the life insurance company is the sender.

And even if your policy premiums exceed the 7-pay test, the government gives your insurer 60 days notice to return the overage to you.

All that to say, it’s unlikely you’ll need to get out your calculator and do some heavy math calculations. Your insurer is doing the math for you, so you don’t wake up one day and discover your life insurance policy has become a modified endowment contract.

For peace of mind, you can always call your agent and ask them what the max-pay is for the year. If your max pay is 20k in premiums annually, and you’re paying 1k per month, you’ll know that you’re well within the limits.

Modified Endowment Contract Cons

What happens if my policy MECs?

So now we know how the Modified Endowment Contract (MEC) came into existence and why. We also know how a life insurance policy will be considered a MEC. Now let’s talk about what changes will happen to your policy if it becomes a MEC.

One of the key benefits of the permanent life insurance policy, is that the cash value grows tax deferred and withdrawals are taken out on a First In – First Out (FIFO) basis. Which means that you can take out withdrawals tax free up to the cash value contributions you have paid in premiums.

There are some cons of a MEC that you will want to avoid if your policy is not currently considered a Modified Endowment Contract.


If your policy becomes a MEC, this advantage (FIFO) goes away and the policy is treated like a typical retirement vehicle, such as a non qualified annuity.

Withdrawals will be Last In – First Out (LIFO), which means that the distributions will come from the interest on your cash value first, and will therefore be taxed as regular income (typically higher because it’s investment income).

10% Penalty

In addition, the MEC withdrawals for those that are under 59.5 years of age, are subject to a 10% penalty, just like other distributions from retirement vehicles such as an IRA, 401(k) or a Qualified Annuity contract

Taxable Loans

And finally, policy loans from the cash value are treated as ordinary income, so MEC loans may be subject to income tax as well.

Benefits of a Modified Endowment Contract

Single premium life insurance would be considered a Modified Endowment Contract. There are times when choosing single premium life insurance is the best way to go.

Maintains Tax Free Death Benefit

That is why for some investors, it can be a great tool and just what their portfolio needed. Remember, that even though a MEC loses it’s tax advantages prior to the death benefit, it still maintains them post benefit. That means that the death benefit is still a life insurance benefit, and is therefore tax exempt.

Avoids Probate

And just like other life insurance benefits it has advantages over other basic retirement vehicles. The death benefit from a MEC is free from probate for a named beneficiary, is incontestable and private.

Creditor Protection

And among other benefits it is protected from creditors in many states.

Single Premium Lump Sum vs Lump Sum High Cash Value Whole Life


Another example when a MEC is the best route to take is when you want to leverage a large sum of money into an even larger death benefit. Depending on your age and the health rate you qualify for, you can get better than 5-1 on your money.

So, for example, if you had $100,000 and you wanted to put it into a single premium policy, your death benefit would probably exceed $500,000, perhaps as high as $750,000.


A MEC provides liquidity. Although it is not always prudent due to taxation, the cash value in the MEC can be accessed a couple of different ways. You can withdraw cash from your MEC policy, take out a life insurance loan or surrender paid up additions for liquidity.

Accelerated Death Benefit

Another benefit of a MEC are that the death benefit can be accelerated due to chronic illness, as a possible alternative or addition to long term care insurance.

These benefits make the MEC something that certain investors may choose to round out their portfolio. If they don’t need access to the cash prior to death, the MEC is a great tool for an investor to use to provide a tax free death benefit for their loved ones after they’re gone.

MEC Life Insurance Rates

The following MEC life insurance rates are for informational purposes only and must be qualified for. Rates are from A rated carriers and above for a preferred plus male at the age shown. The dollar figure represents how much one-time payment is required to qualify for the corresponding initial death benefit.


Since these are whole life insurance rates, the death benefit will increase over time.

Navigating Insurance Complexities

In a nutshell, if your life insurance contract becomes a modified endowment contract you’ll lose certain life insurance policy tax benefits that are otherwise available prior to payment the death benefit. That is a ugly deal for many people that invested in a permanent life insurance policy.

NAIC Compliant Illustration

And that is why every policy that is sold these days is required to have an NAIC compliant illustration that outlines the years in which your policy is at risk for becoming a modified endowment contract.

And the illustration will also specify the 7-pay premium, which is the maximum amount you can pay in premiums each month without triggering the MEC. The 7-pay premium is helpful to determine the additional cash you can contribute to your cash value without triggering the MEC.

Insurance can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to keep you up at night. Talk to an agent that you trust, that knows how to properly design a high cash value life insurance policy, and get advice that suits the needs of you and your family. The professionals at Insurance and Estate Strategies are here to help.

Thank you for reading our article discussing Modified Endowment Contracts. We value your feedback. Please leave any questions or comments below.

41 comments… add one
  • Jane April 6, 2017, 11:35 am

    Great, easy to understand.

  • Tara October 12, 2017, 7:21 am

    If received notice of insurance policy being in MEC but paid back money within 30days is it still considered to have MEC’d?

    • Insurance&Estates October 12, 2017, 2:23 pm


      When a policy becomes a MEC, the insurance company should notify the client in writing and offer a refund of the premium that caused the MEC. There is no reason a policy should become a MEC without the company first alerting the owner. In fact, often the company will not apply the premium and will send it back to you if it will cause MEC status.


    • Cristina Catojo March 27, 2021, 2:51 pm

      How soon can I over fund an IUL? I have medical issues right now so I cant get am IUL for me, but i bought ( in 2020) one for my son and I am paying for it. Can I overfund it already? My savings is not making money in the bank.

      • Insurance&Estates April 6, 2021, 12:48 pm

        Hello Cristina, that is a question for your agent and not a blog post because they’ll have specific knowledge of your product in question. If you would like it reviewed by an independent agent, you can connect with Jason Herring who is our IUL expert at jason@insuranceandestates.com.

        Best, Steve Gibbs for I&E

  • Sharlene December 16, 2017, 11:34 am

    Our church’s whole life insurance policy became a MEC and the pastor neglected to alert the board of the MEC status because he was informed by the agent that 501cs are tax exempt and do not pay taxes on a MEC. Is this true?

    • Insurance&Estates December 16, 2017, 7:43 pm

      Hi Sharlene,

      Thank you for stopping by. And we sympathize with your Pastor’s MEC issue. However, your best option would be to consult an expert, such as a CPA or Tax Advisor who can help your Church out with some specific advice relevant to your Pastor’s MEC issue.

      Sorry we could not be more help.



  • Tom S January 17, 2018, 8:27 am

    What are the top rated life insurance companies offering MECs today?

    • Insurance&Estates January 18, 2018, 7:11 am


      Thank you for the inquiry. We will reach out to you shortly via the contact info you provided.


  • Sang April 23, 2018, 9:56 am

    I have a MEC account for over 10 years but, when the account was classfied as “MEC”, the insurance company did not give me an alert. Also, when I asked about “MEC” to the insurance agent, the agent did not have any knowledge. That was long time ago.
    Anyway, I still have it and it is insured for my kid, 17 years old. So, can you give me an advice what I can do for this “MEC” account? Do I need to cancel it ?
    Your prompt reply will be much appreciated.
    Best Regards,

    • Insurance&Estates April 23, 2018, 3:43 pm

      Mr. Sang,

      Thank you for your inquiry. We have sent a response to you vie the email you provided.


  • OA April 29, 2018, 2:11 pm

    I bought a whole life policy over 20 years ago, the policy converted to MEC status, the insurance agent advertised the product as a tax-deferred saving product with a life insurance component.Could you provide me with any advice on how I can have the MEC status reversed?
    Thank You.

    • Insurance&Estates April 29, 2018, 2:51 pm


      Please be on the lookout for our email response to your MEC question.

      Thank you for stopping by.


  • ken Hoiland July 23, 2018, 1:17 pm

    question, if a policy holder takes out a loan on his ife policy that is alMEC, dose he have 60 days to repay it without the loan becoming taxable ? Policy was put in force in ’87. thanks

    • Insurance&Estates July 25, 2018, 12:48 pm

      Hi Ken,

      I would check with your life insurance carrier. However, you might also be interested in this NY Times article from 1988. From the article regarding single premium whole life:

      First, [under the new tax law] it would no longer permit tax-free borrowing at a low interest rate against a policy’s cash value. Instead, the loans would be considered a taxable distribution to the extent that they represent a previously untaxed buildup in the cash value of the policy. If that were done, such loans would be treated in the same manner as recent distributions from annuity contracts.

      Finally a new penalty would be imposed on distributions on amounts received by policyholders penalty to the one on early distributions of Individual Retirement Accounts. The penalty would be 10 percent of the taxable amount.

      I am not sure if the policy you are referring to would be grandfathered in under the old laws or not.



  • christine August 10, 2018, 12:01 am

    Thank you! This was very informative. I am a fan!

    • Insurance&Estates August 10, 2018, 7:13 am


      We appreciate your feedback. Thank you for taking the time to let us know.

      All the best,


  • Shelby M September 12, 2018, 2:13 pm

    I have a couple of policies on my grand children that were sold as “college savings plans”. I will use the oldest grand daughter as an example of what I have recently discovered.

    When I took the policy out it was a $100,000 WL particpating contract on a 7 year old. I was advised to put a Lump Sum in of $10,000 on issue, pay the Annual premium of $416 per year and each year pay an additional $2,476 for something called a Level Premium Paid-Up Additions Rider in order to build “great” cash value for her college education use. This was done in 2013 and each year since I have made the Annual premium payment for the WL and the Level Premium Paid-Up Additions Rider. Upon the receipt of the Annual Statement I just inquired from the agent who sold me the polocies what the verbiage Modified Endowment Contract meant. The agent who sold this to me is no longer active in the business but when I called him he said “not to worry” that the insurance company at the end of 7 years would recalculate the premium deposits and that the Modified Endowment Contract verbiage would be removed and the contract would no longer be a Modified Endowment Contract and the funds would be available for my grand daughters college costs when she is ready to go to college. I have done some research on my own as a result of this happening and I understand there is a special taxation of a MEC and information about “even pay test”, but nowhere have I been able to find a source that tells me a MEC that is several years old can revert somehow back to being a non MEC policy. Can you shed any light on this for me please.
    Thank you,
    Shelby M

    • Insurance&Estates September 12, 2018, 2:46 pm


      Thank you for visiting Insurance and Estates. I received your question about a MEC. Please give me a call. I would like to learn more about your policy so I can better answer your question. Thanks again


      Jason H

  • christine November 20, 2018, 11:58 am

    I have life insurance with MassMutual. It’s a MEC.
    The taxable gain per IRS, is $0.00.
    The Cost Basis is $53,877.
    I am curious if I’m able to receive a distribution of funds due to financial changes. The surrender value says one thing ( $8,000. and an agent states $6,000.
    I’m absolutely flummoxed with it all. Bottom line is, am I able to surrender this totally? Would I receive the surrender value or the cost basis amount? I’m 63 years old.
    Any information would be helpful. The agent isn’t helping me.
    Thank you!

    • Insurance&Estates November 20, 2018, 3:12 pm


      We’ll have an agent reach out to you ASAP, if one hasn’t already helped you out on our chat portal.



  • Ben Frihauf January 28, 2019, 12:15 pm

    Question: If you get past the 7 pay (year) window are you able to overfund the policy from that point on without danger of it becoming a MEC?
    Thank you,

  • Michelle O'Brien August 8, 2019, 8:10 am

    I would like to what the top rated life insurance policies are that are tax free, that offer a tax free death benefit, that pay out the most dividend payouts that discloses the MEC guidelines/ requirements and that I can take out loans against it. I am looking for an insurance product that can be used as an investment vehicle, retirement vehicle, but also give me a tax free death benefit. Are there any agents who also give advice on how to invest with these type of vehicles?
    Thank you. I have read a few books about this topic, and your website was very informative..

  • Pat Moore October 28, 2019, 1:17 pm

    My mother has a single premium whole life policy which was established in 1982 for $40,000. Several years ago she borrowed $200,000 to buy a house. She was taxed on the loan not realizing it was a MEC. She was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and just paid the taxes without telling her children. Last year we found out she had this loan and paid it back out of other funds she had. Now we are getting ready to put her in assisted living and would like to get this money to help pay for it. Would her basis on the policy now be the original $40,000 plus the $200,000 she already paid taxes on? That would leave about $60,000 to be taxed if she surrendered her policy, but we aren’t sure if she would have to pay taxes again on the $200,000.

    • Insurance&Estates October 29, 2019, 8:20 am

      Hello Pat, thanks for reading and commenting. We really can’t speak to that policy or situation, having not reviewed the policy nor having any familiarity with it or the withdrawals, etc. It would be all speculation at this point. I strongly recommend you go back to either your mother’s life insurance agent (if possible) or otherwise to the company directly and also consider possibly bringing in a tax adviser to determine basis, etc. If you find that the life insurance company may have made a mistake with the MEC, you may also need to consult with a civil litigation (plaintiff’s) attorney.


      Steve Gibbs for I&E

  • C Patrick March 17, 2020, 5:43 am

    I purchased a single premium life insurance which turned into a MEC – the insurance company never alerted me. What are my best options now for this account?

    • Insurance&Estates March 19, 2020, 11:52 am

      Hello! Jason Herring should’ve already reached out to you and if not, e-mail him with a preferred phone number and best time to call at jason@insuranceandestates.com.

      Best, I&E

  • Jeff April 7, 2020, 8:05 pm

    I had a whole life policy convert to a MEC 3 years ago and neither I not my agent were notified to be able to make an adjustment. How can I calculate the 7 pay limit to verify the insurance company was correct in performing their calculations? Assuming I’m stuck, is the only choice to start all over again with a new policy?This is for my daughter who is now 10.

    • Insurance&Estates April 8, 2020, 11:22 am

      Hi Jeff, that normally shouldn’t happen because the life insurance company is responsible to notify you of MEC issues. I suggest you reach out to Jason Herring at jason@insuranceandestates.com.

      Best, Steve Gibbs for I&E

  • Andre February 9, 2021, 7:43 am

    I’m buying life insurance for the first time and I just receive a notice about an MEC should I sign that note

    • Insurance&Estates February 9, 2021, 9:04 am

      Hello Andre, that is a question for your agent as we aren’t aware of your policy details.

      Best, Steve Gibbs for I&E

  • Audrey Pitts May 23, 2021, 8:56 am

    Really helpful and insightful article

    • Insurance&Estates May 25, 2021, 12:51 pm

      Thank you Audrey, always nice to receive thankful feedback:)

      Best, Steve Gibbs for I&E

  • Daniel Farrell January 20, 2022, 2:07 pm

    What happens after 7 years? Can you just put as much money as you want into your cash value? Or do you have to have an ADLR? If you want to increase what you have in your whole life cash value, what steps can you take after 7-years?

    • Insurance&Estates January 25, 2022, 9:59 am

      Hello Daniel, the 7 year rule is an ongoing limit on the amount of cash that can be added to the policy. For a thorough explanation, a great next step may be to connect with Barry Brooksby at barry@insuranceandestates.com.

      Best, Steve Gibbs for I&E

  • Allan March 11, 2022, 1:14 pm

    Hi. I (67-yo) bought single-pay MEC life insur contracts ($10,000 face) in 2014. In
    Sep 2021, i took $8,000 loans against each of 5 policies; (total $40k). I bought a total of eight policies in 2014. The 1099s arrived; code “1” is in block 7. I am taxed for all interest earned in all eight policies bought in 2014. The loan distribution ($40,000 check dated Sep 30, 2021 arrived by USPS a week later); the next day by ACH bank draw (Oct 1, 2021) I automatically repaid the $40k loan equally in each of 5 policies (total monthly repay $5,000); every month end I repaid $5,000. By Nov 30, 2021 (50+ days), I repaid $15,000; by end of year 2021 I repaid $20,000; today, I am almost done with repay. Question: are these repayments considered a rollover that will reduce my 1099 taxes? Thanks in advance.

    • Insurance&Estates March 28, 2022, 9:55 am

      Hello Allan, thanks for connecting. However, this is definately the arena to consult with a CPA as we cannot offer legal or tax advice, particularly in a blog comment setting.

      Best, Steve Gibbs for I&E

  • Dan June 9, 2023, 1:00 pm

    Consider a VUL that had withdrawals and loans and became a MEC.
    Taxes were paid on all loans and withdrawals as a penalty.
    Since the policy is now more akin to an annuity, does the carrier have the right to charge loan interest even tho the loan could be re-characterized as a distribution since the owner paid tax on the entire amount? Thanks

    • Steven Gibbs June 29, 2023, 8:56 am

      Hello Dan, although we write about VULs and have an agent who is qualified to help folks with this, we do not tend to promote or focus on VULs for the very reason you’re bringing up, specifically, the uncertainty in the performance due to market risk. As far as your question, a question about the “rights of an insurance company” is legal in nature and I suggest you connect with an attorney who is experienced in insurance litigation if this is truly a concern.

      Best, Steve Gibbs for I&E

      Steven Gibbs is a licensed insurance agent, and the following agent
      license numbers of Steven Gibbs are provided as required by state law:

      Resident License; AZ agent #17508301,
      Non-resident Licenses: TX agent #2273189, CA agent #0K10610,
      LA agent #769583, MA agent #2049963, MN agent #40563357,
      UT agent #655544.

  • Samantha February 10, 2024, 4:50 am

    What is the advantage to the agent to sell a MEC? I am in the process of purchasing a Long Term care insurance policy and was told that I had to agree that the policy would be a MEC- even though I cannot see how my monthly premium payments would exceed the 7 pay rule. Doesn’t seem like it would be a good plan for me since I want the tax benefits of the cash value accessibility

    • Insurance&Estates February 10, 2024, 12:10 pm

      Hello Samantha,

      I recommend that you reach out to our long term care insurance pro Jason Herring by emailing jason@insuranceandestates.com.


      Steve Gibbs for I&E

      Steven Gibbs is a licensed insurance agent, and the following agent
      license numbers of Steven Gibbs are provided as required by state law:

      Resident License; AZ agent #17508301,
      Non-resident Licenses: TX agent #2273189, CA agent #0K10610,
      LA agent #769583, MA agent #2049963, MN agent #40563357,
      UT agent #655544.

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