IFRS 17AG Insurance contract definition

Last Updated on 10/02/2020 by 75385885

IFRS 17 Insurance contractsIFRS 17AG Insurance contract definition

IFRS 17AG Insurance contract definition

Definition of an insurance contract (Appendix A)

B2 This section provides guidance on the definition of an insurance contract as specified in Appendix A. It addresses the following:

  1. uncertain future event (see paragraphs B3–B5);
  2. payments in kind (see paragraph B6);
  3. the distinction between insurance risk and other risks (see paragraphs B7–B16);
  4. significant insurance risk (see paragraphs B17–B23);
  5. changes in the level of insurance risk (see paragraphs B24–B25); and
  6. examples of insurance contracts (see paragraphs B26–B30).

Uncertain future event

B3 Uncertainty (or risk) is the essence of an insurance contract. Accordingly, at least one of the following is uncertain at the inception of an insurance contract:

  1. the probability of an insured event occurring;
  2. when the insured event will occur; or
  3. how much the entity will need to pay if the insured event occurs.

B4 In some insurance contracts, the insured event is the discovery of a loss during the term of the contract, even if that loss arises from an event that occurred before the inception of the contract. In other insurance contracts, the insured event is an event that occurs during the term of the contract, even if the resulting loss is discovered after the end of the contract term.

B5 Some insurance contracts cover events that have already occurred but the financial effect of which is still uncertain. An example is an insurance contract that provides coverage against an adverse development of an event that has already occurred. In such contracts, the insured event is the determination of the ultimate cost of those claims.

Payments in kind

B6 Some insurance contracts require or permit payments to be made in kind. In such cases, the entity provides goods or services to the policyholder to settle the entity’s obligation to compensate the policyholder for insured events. An example is when the entity replaces a stolen article instead of reimbursing the policyholder for the amount of its loss.

Another example is when an entity uses its own hospitals and medical staff to provide medical services covered by the insurance contract. Such contracts are insurance contracts, even though the claims are settled in kind. Fixed-fee service contracts that meet the conditions specified in paragraph 8 are also insurance contracts, but applying paragraph 8, an entity may choose to account for them applying either IFRS 17 or IFRS 15 Revenue from Contracts with Customers.

The distinction between insurance risk and other risks

B7 The definition of an insurance contract requires that one party accepts significant insurance risk from another party. IFRS 17 defines insurance risk as ‘risk, other than financial risk, transferred from the holder of a contract to the issuer’. A contract that exposes the issuer to financial risk without significant insurance risk is not an insurance contract.

B8 The definition of financial risk in Appendix A refers to financial and non-financial variables. Examples of non-financial variables not specific to a party to the contract include an index of earthquake losses in a particular region or temperatures in a particular city. Financial risk excludes risk from non-financial variables that are specific to a party to the contract, such as the occurrence or non-occurrence of a fire that damages or destroys an asset of that party.

Furthermore, the risk of changes in the fair value of a non-financial asset is not a financial risk if the fair value reflects changes in the market prices for such assets (ie a financial variable) and the condition of a specific non-financial asset held by a party to a contract (ie a non-financial variable). For example, if a guarantee of the residual value of a specific car in which the policyholder has an insurable interest exposes the guarantor to the risk of changes in the car’s physical condition, that risk is insurance risk, not financial risk.

B9 Some contracts expose the issuer to financial risk in addition to significant insurance risk. For example, many life insurance contracts guarantee a minimum rate of return to policyholders, creating financial risk, and at the same time promise death benefits that may significantly exceed the policyholder’s account balance, creating insurance risk in the form of mortality risk. Such contracts are insurance contracts.

B10 Under some contracts, an insured event triggers the payment of an amount linked to a price index. Such contracts are insurance contracts, provided that the payment contingent on the insured event could be significant. For example, a life-contingent annuity linked to a cost-of-living index transfers insurance risk because the payment is triggered by an uncertain future event—the survival of the person who receives the annuity.

The link to the price index is a derivative, but it also transfers insurance risk because the number of payments to which the index applies depends on the survival of the annuitant. If the resulting transfer of insurance risk is significant, the derivative meets the definition of an insurance contract, in which case it shall not be separated from the host contract (see paragraph 11(a)).

B11 Insurance risk is the risk the entity accepts from the policyholder. This means the entity must accept, from the policyholder, a risk to which the policyholder was already exposed. Any new risk created by the contract for the entity or the policyholder is not insurance risk.

B12 The definition of an insurance contract refers to an adverse effect on the policyholder. This definition does not limit the payment by the entity to an amount equal to the financial effect of the adverse event. For example, the definition includes ‘new for old’ coverage that pays the policyholder an amount that permits the replacement of a used and damaged asset with a new one. Similarly, the definition does not limit the payment under a life insurance contract to the financial loss suffered by the deceased’s dependants, nor does it exclude contracts that specify the payment of predetermined amounts to quantify the loss caused by death or an accident.

B13 Some contracts require a payment if a specified uncertain future event occurs, but do not require an adverse effect on the policyholder as a precondition for the payment. This type of contract is not an insurance contract even if the holder uses it to mitigate an underlying risk exposure. For example, if the holder uses a derivative to hedge an underlying financial or non-financial variable correlated with the cash flows from an asset of the entity, the derivative is not an insurance contract because the payment is not conditional on whether the holder is adversely affected by a reduction in the cash flows from the asset.

The definition of an insurance contract refers to an uncertain future event for which an adverse effect on the policyholder is a contractual precondition for payment. A contractual precondition does not require the entity to investigate whether the event actually caused an adverse effect, but it does permit the entity to deny the payment if it is not satisfied that the event did cause an adverse effect.

B14 Lapse or persistency risk (the risk that the policyholder will cancel the contract earlier or later than the issuer had expected when pricing the contract) is not insurance risk because the resulting variability in the payment to the policyholder is not contingent on an uncertain future event that adversely affects the policyholder. Similarly, expense risk (ie the risk of unexpected increases in the administrative costs associated with the servicing of a contract, rather than in the costs associated with insured events) is not insurance risk because an unexpected increase in such expenses does not adversely affect the policyholder.

B15 Consequently, a contract that exposes the entity to lapse risk, persistency risk or expense risk is not an insurance contract unless it also exposes the entity to significant insurance risk. However, if the entity mitigates its risk by using a second contract to transfer part of the non-insurance risk to another party, the second contract exposes the other party to insurance risk.

B16 An entity can accept significant insurance risk from the policyholder only if the entity is separate from the policyholder. In the case of a mutual entity, the mutual entity accepts risk from each policyholder and pools that risk. Although policyholders bear that pooled risk collectively because they hold the residual interest in the entity, the mutual entity is a separate entity that has accepted the risk.

Significant insurance risk

B17 A contract is an insurance contract only if it transfers significant insurance risk. Paragraphs B7–B16 discuss insurance risk. Paragraphs B18–B23 discuss the assessment of whether the insurance risk is significant.

B18 Insurance risk is significant if, and only if, an insured event could cause the issuer to pay additional amounts that are significant in any single scenario, excluding scenarios that have no commercial substance (ie no discernible effect on the economics of the transaction). If an insured event could mean significant additional amounts would be payable in any scenario that has commercial substance, the condition in the previous sentence can be met even if the insured event is extremely unlikely, or even if the expected (ie probability-weighted) present value of the contingent cash flows is a small proportion of the expected present value of the remaining cash flows from the insurance contract.

B19 In addition, a contract transfers significant insurance risk only if there is a scenario that has commercial substance in which the issuer has a possibility of a loss on a present value basis. However, even if a reinsurance contract does not expose the issuer to the possibility of a significant loss, that contract is deemed to transfer significant insurance risk if it transfers to the reinsurer substantially all the insurance risk relating to the reinsured portions of the underlying insurance contracts.

B20 The additional amounts described in paragraph B18 are determined on a present-value basis. If an insurance contract requires payment when an event with uncertain timing occurs and if the payment is not adjusted for the time value of money, there may be scenarios in which the present value of the payment increases, even if its nominal value is fixed. An example is insurance that provides a fixed death benefit when the policyholder dies, with no expiry date for the cover (often referred to as whole-life insurance for a fixed amount).

It is certain that the policyholder will die, but the date of death is uncertain. Payments may be made when an individual policyholder dies earlier than expected. Because those payments are not adjusted for the time value of money, significant insurance risk could exist even if there is no overall loss on the portfolio of contracts.

Similarly, contractual terms that delay timely reimbursement to the policyholder can eliminate significant insurance risk. An entity shall use the discount rates required in paragraph 36 to determine the present value of the additional amounts.

B21 The additional amounts described in paragraph B18 refer to the present value of amounts that exceed those that would be payable if no insured event had occurred (excluding scenarios that lack commercial substance). Those additional amounts include claims handling and assessment costs, but exclude:

  1. the loss of the ability to charge the policyholder for future service. For example, in an investment-linked life insurance contract, the death of the policyholder means that the entity can no longer perform investment management services and collect a fee for doing so. However, this economic loss for the entity does not result from insurance risk, just as a mutual fund manager does not take on insurance risk in relation to the possible death of a client. Consequently, the potential loss of future investment management fees is not relevant when assessing how much insurance risk is transferred by a contract.
  2. a waiver, on death, of charges that would be made on cancellation or surrender. Because the contract brought those charges into existence, their waiver does not compensate the policyholder for a pre-existing risk. Consequently, they are not relevant when assessing how much insurance risk is transferred by a contract.
  3. a payment conditional on an event that does not cause a significant loss to the holder of the contract. For example, consider a contract that requires the issuer to pay CU1 million1 if an asset suffers physical damage that causes an insignificant economic loss of CU1 to the holder. In this contract, the holder transfers the insignificant risk of losing CU1 to the issuer. At the same time, the contract creates a non-insurance risk that the issuer will need to pay CU999,999 if the specified event occurs. Because there is no scenario in which an insured event causes a significant loss to the holder of the contract, the issuer does not accept significant insurance risk from the holder and this contract is not an insurance contract.
  4. possible reinsurance recoveries. The entity accounts for these separately.

B22 An entity shall assess the significance of insurance risk contract by contract. Consequently, the insurance risk can be significant even if there is minimal probability of significant losses for a portfolio or group of contracts.

B23 It follows from paragraphs B18–B22 that, if a contract pays a death benefit that exceeds the amount payable on survival, the contract is an insurance contract unless the additional death benefit is not significant (judged by reference to the contract itself rather than to an entire portfolio of contracts).

As noted in paragraph B21(b), the waiver on death of cancellation or surrender charges is not included in this assessment if that waiver does not compensate the policyholder for a pre-existing risk. Similarly, an annuity contract that pays out regular sums for the rest of a policyholder’s life is an insurance contract, unless the aggregate life-contingent payments are insignificant.

Changes in the level of insurance risk

B24 For some contracts, the transfer of insurance risk to the issuer occurs after a period of time. For example, consider a contract that provides a specified investment return and includes an option for the policyholder to use the proceeds of the investment on maturity to buy a life-contingent annuity at the same rates the entity charges other new annuitants at the time the policyholder exercises that option.

Such a contract transfers insurance risk to the issuer only after the option is exercised, because the entity remains free to price the annuity on a basis that reflects the insurance risk that will be transferred to the entity at that time. Consequently, the cash flows that would occur on the exercise of the option fall outside the boundary of the contract, and before exercise there are no insurance cash flows within the boundary of the contract.

However, if the contract specifies the annuity rates (or a basis other than market rates for setting the annuity rates), the contract transfers insurance risk to the issuer because the issuer is exposed to the risk that the annuity rates will be unfavourable to the issuer when the policyholder exercises the option. In that case, the cash flows that would occur when the option is exercised are within the boundary of the contract.

B25 A contract that meets the definition of an insurance contract remains an insurance contract until all rights and obligations are extinguished (ie discharged, cancelled or expired), unless the contract is derecognised applying paragraphs 74–77, because of a contract modification.

Examples of insurance contracts

B26 The following are examples of contracts that are insurance contracts if the transfer of insurance risk is significant:

  1. insurance against theft or damage.
  2. insurance against product liability, professional liability, civil liability or legal expenses.
  3. life insurance and prepaid funeral plans (although death is certain, it is uncertain when death will occur or, for some types of life insurance, whether death will occur within the period covered by the insurance).
  4. life-contingent annuities and pensions, ie contracts that provide compensation for the uncertain future event—the survival of the annuitant or pensioner—to provide the annuitant or pensioner with a level of income that would otherwise be adversely affected by his or her survival. (Employers’ liabilities that arise from employee benefit plans and retirement benefit obligations reported by defined benefit retirement plans are outside the scope of IFRS 17, applying paragraph 7(b)).
  5. insurance against disability and medical costs.
  6. surety bonds, fidelity bonds, performance bonds and bid bonds, ie contracts that compensate the holder if another party fails to perform a contractual obligation; for example, an obligation to construct a building.
  7. product warranties. Product warranties issued by another party for goods sold by a manufacturer, dealer or retailer are within the scope of IFRS 17. However, product warranties issued directly by a manufacturer, dealer or retailer are outside the scope of IFRS 17 applying paragraph 7(a), and are instead within the scope of IFRS 15 or IAS 37 Provisions, Contingent Liabilities and Contingent Assets.
  8. title insurance (insurance against the discovery of defects in the title to land or buildings that were not apparent when the insurance contract was issued). In this case, the insured event is the discovery of a defect in the title, not the defect itself.
  9. travel insurance (compensation in cash or in kind to policyholders for losses suffered in advance of, or during, travel).
  10. catastrophe bonds that provide for reduced payments of principal, interest or both, if a specified event adversely affects the issuer of the bond (unless the specified event does not create significant insurance risk; for example, if the event is a change in an interest rate or a foreign exchange rate).
  11. insurance swaps and other contracts that require a payment depending on changes in climatic, geological or other physical variables that are specific to a party to the contract.

B27 The following are examples of items that are not insurance contracts:

  1. investment contracts that have the legal form of an insurance contract but do not transfer significant insurance risk to the issuer. For example, life insurance contracts in which the entity bears no significant mortality or morbidity risk are not insurance contracts; such contracts are financial instruments or service contracts—see paragraph B28. Investment contracts with discretionary participation features do not meet the definition of an insurance contract; however, they are within the scope of IFRS 17 provided they are issued by an entity that also issues insurance contracts, applying paragraph 3(c).
  2. contracts that have the legal form of insurance, but return all significant insurance risk to the policyholder through non-cancellable and enforceable mechanisms that adjust future payments by the policyholder to the issuer as a direct result of insured losses. For example, some financial reinsurance contracts or some group contracts return all significant insurance risk to the policyholders; such contracts are normally financial instruments or service contracts (see paragraph B28).
  3. self-insurance (ie retaining a risk that could have been covered by insurance). In such situations, there is no insurance contract because there is no agreement with another party. Thus, if an entity issues an insurance contract to its parent, subsidiary or fellow subsidiary, there is no insurance contract in the consolidated financial statements because there is no contract with another party. However, for the individual or separate financial statements of the issuer or holder, there is an insurance contract.
  4. contracts (such as gambling contracts) that require a payment if a specified uncertain future event occurs, but do not require, as a contractual precondition for payment, the event to adversely affect the policyholder. However, this does not exclude from the definition of an insurance contract contracts that specify a predetermined payout to quantify the loss caused by a specified event such as a death or an accident (see paragraph B12).
  5. derivatives that expose a party to financial risk but not insurance risk, because the derivatives require that party to make (or give them the right to receive) payment solely based on the changes in one or more of a specified interest rate, a financial instrument price, a commodity price, a foreign exchange rate, an index of prices or rates, a credit rating or a credit index or any other variable, provided that, in the case of a non-financial variable, the variable is not specific to a party to the contract.
  6. credit-related guarantees that require payments even if the holder has not incurred a loss on the failure of the debtor to make payments when due; such contracts are accounted for applying IFRS 9 Financial Instruments (see paragraph B29).
  7. contracts that require a payment that depends on a climatic, geological or any other physical variable not specific to a party to the contract (commonly described as weather derivatives).
  8. contracts that provide for reduced payments of principal, interest or both, that depend on a climatic, geological or any other physical variable, the effect of which is not specific to a party to the contract (commonly referred to as catastrophe bonds).

B28 An entity shall apply other applicable Standards, such as IFRS 9 and IFRS 15, to the contracts described in paragraph B27.

B29 The credit-related guarantees and credit insurance contracts discussed in paragraph B27(f) can have various legal forms, such as that of a guarantee, some types of letters of credit, a credit default contract or an insurance contract. Those contracts are insurance contracts if they require the issuer to make specified payments to reimburse the holder for a loss that the holder incurs because a specified debtor fails to make payment when due to the policyholder applying the original or modified terms of a debt instrument.

However, such insurance contracts are excluded from the scope of IFRS 17 unless the issuer has previously asserted explicitly that it regards the contracts as insurance contracts and has used accounting applicable to insurance contracts (see paragraph 7(e)).

B30 Credit-related guarantees and credit insurance contracts that require payment, even if the policyholder has not incurred a loss on the failure of the debtor to make payments when due, are outside the scope of IFRS 17 because they do not transfer significant insurance risk. Such contracts include those that require payment:

  1. regardless of whether the counterparty holds the underlying debt instrument; or
  2. on a change in the credit rating or the credit index, rather than on the failure of a specified debtor to make payments when due.

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Last Updated on 10/02/2020 by 75385885

Excerpts from IFRS Standards come from the Official Journal of the European Union (© European Union, https://eur-lex.europa.eu). Individual jurisdictions around the world may require or permit the use of (locally authorised and/or amended) IFRS Standards for all or some publicly listed companies.  The information provided on this website is for general information and educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice. The specific status of IFRS Standards should be checked in each individual jurisdiction. Use at your own risk. Annualreporting is an independent website and it is not affiliated with, endorsed by, or in any other way associated with the IFRS Foundation. For official information concerning IFRS Standards, visit IFRS.org or the local representative in your jurisdiction.

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