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If you run your own business, you probably have one or more key employees integral to its success....


Key person insurance, also formerly called key man insurance, is an important form of business insurance. There is no legal definition for "key person insurance".


In general, it can be described as an insurance policy taken out by a business to compensate that business for financial losses that would arise from the death or extended incapacity of the member of the business specified on the policy. The policy’s term does not extend beyond the period of the key person’s usefulness to the business.


The aim is to compensate the business for losses and facilitate business continuity. Key person insurance does not indemnify the actual losses incurred but compensates with a fixed monetary sum as specified on the insurance policy.


An employer may take out a key person insurance policy on the life or ill health of any employee whose knowledge, work, or overall contribution is considered uniquely valuable to the company. The employer does this to offset the costs (such as hiring temporary help or recruiting a successor) and losses (such as a decreased ability to transact business until successors are trained) which the employer is likely to suffer in the event of the loss of a key person.

Who can be a Key Person?


A key person can be anyone directly associated with the business whose loss can cause financial strain to the business. For example, the person could be a director of the company, a partner, a key sales person, key project manager, or someone with specific skills or knowledge which is especially valuable to the company.

Taxation Aspects


Based on a set of principles laid down in 1944 by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir John Anderson, certain premiums paid will be allowed as a business expense for corporation tax purposes provided that certain criteria are met. 


  1. The only relationship between the proposer and the life assured is that of employer and employee (except in the case of shareholding directors).

  2. The plan is designed to cover loss of profits only.

  3. The term of the insurance is reasonable - a 5 year term is normally acceptable but some local Inspectors will allow up to 10 years.

  4. The employee does not hold a significant shareholding (less than 5% is probably insignificant).

These types of plan will have no cash in value at any time, and will cease at the end of the term. If premiums are not maintained, then cover will lapse.


HM Revenue and Customs and the law relating to taxation are complex and subject to individual circumstances and changes which cannot be foreseen. 

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