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What Does QSF Mean?

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In the complex financial landscape of litigation settlements and judicial awards, Qualified Settlement Funds (QSFs) present a robust solution that simplifies the process for all parties involved. This article offers a comprehensive understanding of QSFs, what QSFs mean, the legislative background, how they function, their advantages, and potential disadvantages.

I. Definition of Qualified Settlement Fund

A Qualified Settlement Fund or “QSF” is a specialized trust or fund established under state law primarily dedicated to holding the proceeds from a legal settlement. QSFs are Qualified Settlement Trusts, 468B Trusts, or 468B funds. The term “468B” originates from Section 468B of the Internal Revenue Code, which authorizes establishing these funds. When created as a trust, a QSF is a Statutory Trust established by the governmental authority.

II. Legislative Background of Qualified Settlement Funds

Qualified Settlement Funds first emerged as part of the Tax Reform Act of 1986. Initially, the law introduced Designated Settlement Funds (DSFs), designed for insurance companies to deposit money to settle claims. However, DSFs had limited applicability and flexibility, leading to the introduction of Qualified Settlement Funds in 1993 through Treasury regulations. Unlike DSFs, QSFs have broader applications and increased flexibility, making them a popular choice in all tort litigation and other cases, whether complex or simple.

III. The Three Essential Requirements of a QSF

According to Treasury Regulation 1.468B-1(c), a fund must meet three critical criteria to qualify as a QSF:

  1. Legal Recognition and Jurisdiction: The fund must be approved by a federal or state agency, and it should be subject to the continuing jurisdiction of that agency.
  2. Purpose of Resolution: The fund must exist to resolve or satisfy one or more claim(s) resulting from an event or series of events that has led to said claim(s).
  3. Nature of Claims: The claim(s) should arise out of a tort, breach of contract, or violation of a law, and the fund should be recognized as a trust under applicable state law.

IV. How Qualified Settlement Funds Work

A QSF simplifies the litigation settlement process by providing a structure that benefits both plaintiffs and defendants. The defendant or their insurance company deposits the agreed-upon settlement amount into the QSF. Upon deposit, the defendant can claim an immediate tax deduction for the total amount and is released from further liabilities associated with the lawsuit.

Once the defendant is released from the case, the QSF allows for the resolution of post-litigation issues. These can include allocation of settlement amounts between different plaintiffs, negotiation of liens, and planning for the settlement’s financial impact. The QSF acts as a temporary holding tank for the settlement proceeds until all allocation issues are resolved, and all funds are disbursed.

V. Advantages of Using a Qualified Settlement Fund

There are several advantages to using a QSF in a litigation settlement:

  1. Defendant’s Perspective: From the defendant’s perspective, a QSF provides an opportunity to end litigation quickly. The defendant gets a complete release from the case once they fund the QSF, and they also benefit from an immediate tax deduction.
  2. Plaintiff’s Perspective: A QSF offers flexibility and time for the plaintiffs. They can allocate the settlement amounts among themselves, negotiate liens, and plan for the financial implications of the settlement without the pressure of immediate disbursement.
  3. Attorney’s Perspective: Attorneys can also benefit from a QSF. For example, they can immediately receive their fees and costs from the fund. Also, using a QSF can preserve the attorney’s option to structure their fees.

VI. Considerations When Using a Qualified Settlement Fund

Despite its advantages, establishing a QSF can come with potential disadvantages. One minor downside is the cost involved in setting up a QSF. However, using a low-cost platform like QSF 360 makes QSFs fast and affordable. Unlike QSF 360’s low costs, other vendor’s costs can include high fees for drafting the trust document, filing fees, administration fees, and potential CPA fees for preparing tax returns.

VII. Tax Considerations for Qualified Settlement Funds

There are several key tax considerations associated with QSFs:

  1. Economic Performance: The defendant can claim an immediate tax deduction upon depositing funds into the QSF, signaling that economic performance has occurred.
  2. Constructive Receipt: The deposit of funds into the QSF does not trigger constructive receipt, which means that a taxpayer’s receipt of income is subject to limitations.
  3. Taxation of QSF: The QSF is taxed on its modified gross income, which excludes the initial deposit of money. All income is taxed at the same rate, with no lower brackets.

VIII. The Role of the QSF Administrator

The QSF regulations require the appointment of an “Administrator,” who is usually selected by the plaintiff’s attorney. The Administrator is responsible for distributing the funds held in the QSF to claimants, claimants’ attorneys, state Medicaid agencies, CMS for Medicare liens, ERISA plans, and other lien holders. They also fund, from the QSF, structured settlements, including making a §130 Qualified Assignment to a third party who will make the periodic payments.

IX. Single Claimant QSF

So-called Single Claimant QSFs have become increasingly common, and several recent court cases have affirmed their use in single-plaintiff cases. While some naysayers continue to oppose the idea of a Single Claimant QSF, during the last 30 years (or the life of 468B), the IRS has not made any known adverse finding or taken any adverse action against any “Single Claimant QSF.” This includes cases of so-called Single Claimant QSFs, which were being audited for other reasons. Finally, the leading commentator on QSFs finds no basis for the Single Claimant QSF myth. (See Actually, Single-Claimant Settlement Funds Are Valid)

X. Conclusion

In conclusion, “QSF” means a “Qualified Settlement Fund” that provides a strategic solution for managing litigation awards and settlements. A QSF offers a structured approach that benefits all parties involved, simplifying the process and providing time for careful planning and negotiation. Their benefits make them a valuable tool in the litigation process.

Visit our Resource Library of articles related to various topics associated with Qualified Settlement Funds.

For more information about QSFs, contact us (855) 979-0322.

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