Salary Deferrals in the Time of COVID-19

As the saying goes, “drastic times call for drastic measures” and, from an economic standpoint, these are drastic times. To fight the battle to stay in business many employers are considering a wide range of alternatives, including employee furloughs, layoffs and terminations. While some employers may also consider sweeping salary reductions, other employers may consider reducing current salaries with the promise to pay those salaries in the future. Employers taking this latter approach must understand that deferring salaries from 2020 to 2021 (or to some other future year) can create compliance issues under Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code (“409A”). Read More ›

Posted in Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation, Qualified Retirement Plans | Tagged , , , , ,

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Ninth Circuit Rules that Stock Rights Plan is Not Subject to ERISA

In a case of first impression in the Ninth Circuit, the Court held that the Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. Stock Rights Plan (“SRP”) was not subject to ERISA because its primary purpose was not to provide deferred compensation or other retirement benefits.  As background, ERISA applies to “employee welfare benefit plans” and “employee pension benefit plans.”  For an “employee pension benefit plan” to be subject to ERISA, it must provide retirement income to employees or result in the deferral of income by employees for periods extending to termination of covered employment or beyond.  Being subject to ERISA, subjects a benefit plan to a number of requirements including, without limitation, a Form 5500 filing requirement, fiduciary requirements, vesting rules, and participation rules. Read More ›

Posted in Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation, Qualified Retirement Plans | Tagged , , , , , ,

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IRS Audit Techniques Guide Provides Helpful Reminders for Sponsors of NQDC Arrangements

Last summer the Internal Revenue Service updated its Audit Techniques Guide (“ATG”) for nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements.  While the ATG provides little instruction on how the IRS will review nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements for compliance with Section 409A of the Code, it provides a helpful reminder of some of the other rules applicable to nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements. Among other things, the ATG reminds sponsors of nonqualified deferred compensation plans to be attentive to the following issues:

  • Deferred compensation arrangements must be in writing.
  • Immediate taxation to a participant could arise if the deferred compensation is not subject to substantial limitations or restrictions (e.g., immediate taxation will arise if the participant can draw on the deferred compensation at any time or if the participant can borrow against the deferred compensation).
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Chief Counsel Memorandum Clarifies IRS Position on Informal 409A Corrections

On May 1, the IRS released a Chief Counsel Memorandum that clarifies the IRS’ position with respect to the correction of deferred compensation arrangements outside of the IRS’ formal Section 409A correction programs.

In the Memorandum the IRS analyzed a retention bonus that was granted in year 1, vested in year 3, and to the extent vested, would be paid in equal installments in years 4 and 5. The retention agreement contained a provision that gave the employer the discretion to accelerate and pay the retention bonus in a single lump sum payment in year 4.  As noted by the IRS, the employer’s discretion to accelerate and pay the retention bonus early violated Section 409A’s prohibition against acceleration.  Read More ›

Posted in Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation | Tagged , , , , ,

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Now Is a Good Time to Revisit 409A Compliance

The IRS recently announced a Section 409A compliance initiative project.  The IRS audit project will focus on approximately 50 employers, all of whom were previously identified for employment tax audits.  The IRS indicated that it will focus its examination on: (i) initial deferral elections; (ii) subsequent deferral elections; (iii) distributions; and (iv) application of the six-month delay rule for specified employees of publicly traded companies.  Representatives from the IRS said that the examination will be limited to the top 10 most highly compensated employees of each employer.

If you are not participating in the compliance initiative project, now might be a good time to review your “nonqualified deferred compensation” arrangements for compliance with Section 409A.  Read More ›

Posted in Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation | Tagged , , , ,

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