Annuity FAQs

  • Northwestern Mutual online account access is available for the following types of policies/accounts:

    • Life insurance
    • Disability insurance
    • Annuity contracts
    • Variable annuity contracts

    Register for Online Access to Your Accounts
    Register now so you can access your accounts at your convenience.

    You will need to have a product number in hand to register. This includes one of the following – insurance policy number, annuity contract number or insurance service account number.

  • General:

    When can I expect to receive my Form 1099-R or 1099-INT?

    The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) require Northwestern Mutual mail Form 1099-R and 1099-INT to the taxpayer by January 31st (or the next business day if January 31st falls on a weekend or legal holiday) of the year following the year in which the distribution took place or the interest was earned. Example: A reportable transaction occurs by December 31st then a tax form 1099 needs to be sent by January 31st of the following year. Given the large volume of tax forms mailed during January, it may take several days for the form to reach the taxpayer. Form 1099s are also available through the Northwestern Mutual website as early as February 1st.

    How can I access my 1099 online?

    Log into our client website and select the Documents page from the drop down menu. 1099 documents will be displayed under the document type ‘Tax Documents’.

    Why am I receiving a Form 1099 from Northwestern Mutual?

    The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) require Northwestern Mutual to report certain distributions received from life insurance and annuity contracts, and interest earned. The IRS requires that we report this information on a Form 1099 to both the taxpayer and the IRS. Some common examples of taxable income Northwestern Mutual is required to report include:

    Form 1099-INT – Interest earned from a Billing/Payment Account, interest earned on dividends that are left to accumulate (i.e. Accumulated Dividends), interest income plans, interest earned on death proceeds after the date of death, but prior to the proceeds being paid, and interest earned on Access Fund Accounts; if the amount of the interest is at least $10.00.

    Form 1099-R, Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, ... Insurance Contracts, etc. — Full and partial distributions and certain dividend payments from life insurance and annuity contracts. Note: Certain tax-free exchanges are also reportable on Form 1099-R for informational purposes.

    Can Northwestern Mutual advise me on tax matters?

    No, Northwestern Mutual cannot provide tax advice as tax laws are complex and circumstances can vary greatly. This FAQ provides answers to common questions about the Forms 1099 and what is reported on them. For tax advice you should consult with your tax advisor. For example, if you received a 1099-R indicating “taxable amount not determined” you may want to discuss with a tax advisor to determine the taxable portion. You may find helpful information on the Internal Revenue Service site including IRS Publication 17, which provides information on a variety of topics and is searchable.

    This contract has multiple owners, why was only one 1099 issued?

    Northwestern Mutual records that a contract has multiple owners, but we do not have knowledge of the arrangement among the owners of the contract. The IRS specifies that for multiple owners, the reporting company may report to the first owner of record to fulfill its reporting obligation. The first owner of record, in turn, can divide and report the income to the other owners (referred to as “nominees”) on separate Forms 1099 based on their respective ownership interests. If you need to nominate additional owners you may want to consult with your tax advisor or refer to General Instructions for Certain Information Returns (Forms 1097, 1098, 1099, 3921, 3922, 5498, and W-2G)..

    Can I download my Northwestern Mutual Form 1099 information directly into my tax preparation software?

    Currently, Northwestern Mutual does not provide this service for life insurance or annuity products.

    Form 1099-INT:

    Where do I report the interest income from the Form 1099-INT?

    Generally, interest income reported on Form 1099-INT is reported under the category of “taxable interest” on line 2 of the Tax Form 1040EZ or line 8a on the Tax Forms 1040A and 1040.

    I received a Form 1099-INT as beneficiary of a life insurance contract. I thought death benefits were tax-free. Why did I receive a Form 1099-INT?

    While the death benefits from a life insurance contract are generally tax-free, interest may be paid from the date of death until the claim is settled. The IRS requires that we report the interest you earned on Form 1099-INT.

    Form 1099-R:

    Where do I report the taxable gain from the Form 1099-R on my federal income tax return?

    If you receive income that is reported on Form 1099-R you cannot use Form 1040EZ. Generally, distributions from life insurance and annuity contracts are reported under the category of “pensions and annuities” on lines 12a and 12b on the Tax Form 1040A (11a and 11b if an IRA distribution) or lines 16a and 16b on Tax Form 1040 (15a and 15b if an IRA distribution).

    How should the taxable gain on Form 1099-R be reported -- ordinary income or capital gains?

    Generally, the gain reported on the full or partial distribution of a life insurance or annuity contract is considered ordinary income. There are some situations in which the proceeds are treated as capital gain, e.g. the life insurance contract was sold by an owner to another party. If you feel your transaction may qualify for capital gain treatment you should consult with your tax advisor.

    How is the taxable amount reported on the Form 1099-R determined for a life insurance contract?

    For any part of a transaction to be taxable, the contract must first have a gain. A life insurance contract has a gain when the cash value exceeds the cost basis (generally premiums paid less adjustments) of the contract.

    Generally, when a taxpayer takes a distribution from a life insurance contract the IRC allows the taxpayer to recover the cost basis before any gain is withdrawn, but there are some exceptions. Distributions (including loans) from life insurance contracts classified as Modified Endowment Contracts (MECs) under the IRC are taxed gain-out-first and may be subject to an additional 10% penalty tax. Also, distributions from a contract within the first 15 contract years may be subject to gain-out-first taxation even if the policy is not a MEC, depending on the size of the withdrawal and other factors.

    There was a loan on my life insurance contract when it was surrendered/lapsed. Why is the gross distribution on the Form 1099-R greater than the amount I received at that time?

    If a policy lapses or is surrendered prior to the insured’s death, the loan will be repaid from the policy’s cash value. This is treated as though the owner received the surrender proceeds and then immediately used them to repay the loans. Under the tax law, this transaction is a distribution from a life insurance policy, which we are required to report on an IRS Form 1099R if there is gain in the policy. The remaining cash value, if any, is distributed to the contract owner.

    I exchanged my life insurance contract for another life insurance contract. Why did I receive a Form 1099-R (or possibly two Forms 1099-R)?

    The IRC allows certain exchanges (section 1035 tax-free exchanges), to occur without generating taxable income even though one contract is surrendered for another.

    • If you exchanged your Northwestern Mutual contract for one with a different company, and the exchange qualified as an IRC section 1035 tax-free exchange, a Form 1099-R was generated showing a Distribution Code of “6” in Box 7. This provides the cost basis transferred (amount in Box 5) to your new contract as part of the exchange. No taxable amount is reported in Box 2.
    • If you received two Forms 1099-R for the same contract on the exchange from Northwestern Mutual to another company, the exchange was not entirely tax-free. One Form 1099-R will report the amount of taxable income generated from the exchange (Distribution Code of “7” in Box 7), which occurs if you received cash or an outstanding loan was extinguished as part of the exchange. The other Form 1099-R reports the cost basis transferred (Distribution Code of “6” in Box 7) to the new company. If you exchanged one Northwestern Mutual contract for another Northwestern Mutual contract under IRC section 1035, we do not send a 1099-R with a Distribution Code of “6”as Northwestern Mutual tracks the cost basis internally.
    • If your contract did not qualify for the exchange, the surrender was taxable to the extent of the gain and reported on Form 1099-R with a Distribution Code of “7” in Box 7.

    I surrendered multiple life insurance or annuity contracts. Why did I only receive one Form 1099-R?

    The IRS allows for consolidating information from multiple contracts on one form, if the information is similar. As a mutual insurance company that is owned by the policyowners, we take advantage of this opportunity to reduce costs. We do include a breakdown by contract on the page following the Form 1099- R.

    I received a Form 1099-R reporting all or part of my annual dividend on my life insurance or annuity contract as taxable. Why?

    Generally, for life insurance, the IRC allows the taxpayer to recover the cost basis of the contract before anything is taxable. If the cost basis was recovered through previous withdrawals, then subsequent dividends that are paid in cash, applied to a contract loan, or deposited into a Billing/Payment Account are reported as taxable income. Dividends from an annuity are fully taxable.

    My contract dividend was reported as taxable; shouldn’t that dividend have been reported on Form 1099-DIV?

    No, per the IRS instructions, taxable dividend distributions from life insurance and annuity contracts are reported on Form 1099-R - Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, ... Insurance Contracts, etc. The Form 1099-DIV is generally used for dividends paid on corporate stock.

    I received a Form 1099-R with a Distribution Code of “1” in Box 7 indicating that I am subject to a penalty tax because at the time of the distribution I was younger than age 59 ½. While I was younger than 59 ½, I was also disabled and should qualify for an exception under IRC section 72. Can this Form 1099-R be corrected?

    While you may qualify for the disability exception, the definition of disability can vary and to qualify you must meet the IRS definition of disability. Northwestern Mutual is not in the position to make the determination of whether you qualify under the IRS definition. You should consult with a tax advisor regarding claiming the exception on your federal tax return.

    What should I do if I think some of the information on my 1099-INT/1099-R is incorrect?

    Information believed to be incorrect:

    • Social Security Number or Taxpayer Identification Number
    • Address
    • Your tax form was submitted to the state of your secondary residence, rather than your resident state.

    Call the telephone number on the upper right-hand corner of the Instructions for Recipient page that was sent along with your 1099.

    Information believed to be incorrect:

    • Dollar amounts
    • Distribution Code

    If the information relates to an amount or distribution code, you can call the number on the Instructions for Recipient page as well. However, prior to doing so, please consider:

    • In some instances the information on the 1099 may be combined from multiple policies/contracts or transactions and may account for an apparent discrepancy—consider all of the transactions that were completed during the tax year.
    • The reporting and determination of taxable income from life insurance policy and annuity contract is governed by Internal Revenue Code, and not a contractual stipulation on the part of Northwestern Mutual. Northwestern Mutual is required by law to report certain taxable transactions from life insurance policies and annuity contracts.

    There may be instances where Northwestern Mutual is required to report a transaction as taxable in a certain manner, but for reasons not reflected in Northwestern Mutual’s records, the distribution may qualify for different tax treatment. In these situations you may need to provide additional information to the Internal Revenue Service (not Northwestern Mutual) to support your position regarding the amount of income that is taxable. Northwestern Mutual cannot determine the impact of transactions that are not fully reflected in our records. You should seek tax advice from a tax advisor.

    This FAQ is not intended to be tax advice and cannot be used for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or any other applicable tax law and you are advised to seek tax advice based upon your own particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor.

    Effective tax year 2020, the IRS has made changes to tax form 1099MISC by removing Non-Employee Compensation (NEC) to its own 1099NEC form. To see further detail regarding IRS tax forms, please visit IRS.GOV or consult with your professional tax advisor.

  • When you're ready to begin receiving income from your annuity, how much income you will receive depends on how much you put into the annuity and your age when the income phase begins — the basic logic being the older you are, the shorter your remaining life expectancy, therefore the larger the amount of income. The amount also depends on your sex, current interest rates and the income plan you select. Here are some of the general income plan options:

    Note: Not all income plans are available in all types of annuities. Please review the annuity contract or prospectus or consult your financial representative for further details.

    Lifetime or Period Certain
    When the time comes to draw an income from your annuity, determine how long you will need it to last.

    • Lifetime
      If your priority is to always have a steady stream of income that you can't outlive, you'll want to choose a lifetime option.
    • Period Certain
      Perhaps you only want to supplement your income for a limited period of time such as might be the case during your early retirement years when you expect to be more active. Or, perhaps you need to provide income before a pension or social security begins — if so, you may want to take payout from your annuity for a specific period (period certain) of time typically ranging anywhere from 5 to 20 years.

    Single or Joint & Survivor (Lifetime Plans)
    You also need to determine whether you will be the sole annuitant, if you will have a joint annuitant, and if you would like to name a beneficiary:

    • Single Life
      Pays an income to a single annuitant as long as the annuitant is alive, and stops when the annuitant dies. This option allows for the largest income amount because it is based on the life of only one person, but may not be the best choice if it will leave a surviving spouse in need of income.
    • Single Life with "Period Certain"
      Also referred to as a "term certain." Income is paid as long as the sole annuitant is alive, but if the annuitant dies within the "period certain," typically set between 5 and 20 years, the income will continue to a beneficiary, but only for the remainder of the period certain.
    • Joint Life & Survivor
      This plan pays an income to joint annuitants, as long as one is alive. When one dies, income continues to the survivor, but may be reduced, depending on the terms of the contract.
    • Joint Life & Survivor with "Period Certain"
      Also referred to as a "term certain." Income is paid as long as either joint annuitant is alive, but if both annuitants die within the "period certain," typically set between 5 and 20 years, the income will continue to their beneficiary, but only for the remainder of the period certain.
  • The number of "accumulation units" in each investment division determines the value of a variable annuity. Accumulation units represent your interest, as an annuity owner, in each investment division.

    Every time you make a contribution to your Northwestern Mutual SelectTM Variable Annuity, you are purchasing accumulation units in one or more investment divisions, as you direct.

    To determine how many units you are purchasing with your contribution:

    • Divide the portion of the contribution to be allocated to an investment division, by the value of an accumulation unit in that division.

    The value of an accumulation unit in an investment division will vary based on the investment experience of the division. The value of your Northwestern Mutual SelectTM Variable Annuity contract will also fluctuate so that the accumulation value at maturity or surrender may be more or less than the original cost.

    Finding Contract-Specific Values
    You can find the value of your Northwestern Mutual SelectTM Variable Annuity by:

    • Checking your personal policy information on the Customer Center secured site.
    • Reading your financial confirmation statement or quarterly summary statement. If you have misplaced your statement, call your Representative or Northwestern Mutual.

    Note: When calling or logging onto the secure site, have your annuity contract number and personal identification number (PIN) ready.

    The assets underlying each investment division are valued as of the close of trading on the New York Stock Exchange for each day it is open, and at any other time required by the Investment Company Act of 1940.

    Distributions may be subject to ordinary income tax and may be subject to a 10% IRS early withdrawal penalty if taken before age 59 1/2.

  • What is Form 5498?
    Form 5498 is an IRS form used to report contributions to IRAs, including traditional and Roth, as well as Savings Incentive Match Plan (SIMPLE) and Simplified Employee Pension (SEP). Form 5498 is for informational purposes only and should not to be sent to the IRS along with your tax return, but should be kept as part of your tax records.

    Why did I receive Form 5498?
    We send a Form 5498 if one or more of the following reportable events occurred on your retirement account during the tax year.

    • Traditional, Roth, SEP or SIMPLE IRA contribution
    • Re-characterization
    • 60 Day Rollover
    • Direct Transfer
    • Roth Conversion

    I have an IRA, but did not receive a Form 5498. Should I have received one?
    If no reportable events occurred on your IRA, we will report the fair market value of your account to the IRS via Form 5498, but not to you. The fair market value of your IRA as of year-end is provided on your December statement.

    Why am I receiving my Form 5498 in mid-year?
    Form 5498 is for information purposes only and does not need to be filed with your tax return. IRS regulations state that Form 5498 must be sent to contributors no later than May 31st of the year following the event requiring reporting.

    Why are some of SEP and SIMPLE contributions not reported on my Form 5498?
    Unlike traditional IRAs, contributions to SEP and SIMPLE IRAs are always reported in the year they are made (calendar year) per IRS regulations. The taxpayer can identify the contribution for the prior year when filing the return.

    Why did I receive Form 5498 when I rolled one IRA to another?
    IRA rollover contributions are reported to you and the IRS and confirms the portion from your prior IRA that was reinvested in another IRA.

    I made an excess contribution to my IRA, which was later removed. Why does my Form 5498 reflect the portion that was removed?
    Northwestern Mutual is required to report the original contribution on Form 5498, even though it was removed as an excess distribution. The excess will be reported to the taxpayer and the IRS on Form 1099-R for the year it was removed.

    How is a Roth Conversion from an IRA contribution to a Roth IRA reported?
    Northwestern Mutual is required to report the original IRA contribution on Form 5498, even though your contract is now a Roth IRA. Form 1099-R is used to report the amount taken from your IRA — Form 5498 reports the amount of the conversion into your Roth IRA.

    What should I do if I believe my Form 5498 contains incorrect information?
    You should review your records and refer to the above questions to determine if an error has occurred. If you believe an error has occurred, you should contact Northwestern Mutual as soon as possible to request a corrected Form 5498.

  • What should I do if I can't remember my user id or password?
    Call us toll-free at 1-800-388-8123, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT, Monday through Friday. Upon verifying contract information, we can give you the user id, and provide you with a new, temporary password. The next time you access your policy information enter the temporary password and change it immediately to a new password.

    You can also reset your password online.

    What will happen if I enter the wrong password?
    For security reasons, after three tries you will be locked out of your account. Please try again later. Your password is case sensitive. Enter your password exactly the way you saved it with the correct upper and lower case letters. Check to see if you have activated your CAPS LOCK key. Turn off CAPS LOCK and enter your password again.

    How do I clear incorrect login information from the system?
    Your browser may have cached (stored on your hard drive) the incorrect information and is not sending your new information to the server. Close your browser and disconnect from your Internet Service Provider. Wait about ten seconds and reconnect to the Internet. Open your browser and go back to the site. Reenter your login information.

    Why do I get these error messages?

    "We are unable to display your policy values at this time."
    Customers who come to our site from a bookmark will sometimes get this message. A connection has failed in relation to the bookmark. Enter in the address field of your browser the URL for our site instead of using the bookmark.

    "We are unable to provide you with contract information."
    This message displays when someone other than the owner of a policy attempts to view policy information. If you are the payer or the insured of a policy but not the owner, you will not be given access to the policy information. 

    Why can't I view my policy statements after I've logged in?
    To view policy statements, you will need the free  Adobe Acrobat Reader®. Adobe, the Adobe logo and Acrobat are trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated.

    What can I do to see all of my values when I print my statement?
    If you print your statement and the right-hand side of the page has missing values, there is a simple change you can make to your system to resolve this. Within your operating system, select a display setting of at least 800 x 600 pixels. Browse to your statement and select File and Print within your browser's menu at the top of the page. Next, change the print orientation to Landscape and your statement will print correctly.