One of the more controversial and complex provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has been the 21 percent excise tax on certain nonprofit executive compensation. On December 31, 2018, the IRS issued interim guidance that addresses how this tax will apply in various situations that commonly arise for tax-exempt employers. Establishing internal systems to comply with this guidance will be challenging.

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Andrew Liazos presented on 162(m) deduction limitations and transition rules at NYU’s 77th Institute on Federal Taxation. Amongst other topics, he discussed key changes for employers under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the guidance provided under Notice 2018-68 and the potential impact of such changes on incentive compensation practices.

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As part of its comprehensive 2017 tax reform bill, Congress repealed deductions for Qualified Transportation Fringes including for employer-provided parking, while also requiring that tax-exempt organizations increase their unrelated business taxable income by the nondeductible parking expenses. Recently released IRS Notice 2018-99 addresses some of the year-end tax filing and tax planning concerns for affected employers with rules of special interest to tax-exempt employers.

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The IRS recently issued proposed amendments to regulations concerning 401(k) plan hardship distributions. The proposed regulations address changes to hardship distribution rules from the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 and other legislation.

Though the regulations are only proposed, 401(k) plan sponsors should promptly consider these changes because decisions should be made on applying certain optional changes, which generally can be effective for plan years beginning after December 31, 2018.

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On August 21, 2018, the IRS issued guidance regarding recent statutory changes made to Section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code. Overall, Notice 2018-68 strictly interprets the Section 162(m) grandfathering rule under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Public companies and other issuers subject to these deduction limitations will want to closely consider this guidance in connection with filing upcoming periodic reports with securities regulators. Further action to support existing tax positions or adjustments to deferred tax asset reporting in financial statements may be warranted in light of this guidance.

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Andrew Liazos said that it makes sense for companies to consider Q-SERPs in response to the end of the performance-based pay deduction, but he questioned whether the plans would offer much “bang for your buck.” “You first have to deal with the obvious time and effort you have to spend to show it’s not discriminatory, and then take a certain level of risk that the rules aren’t going to change,” he said.

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Originally published in Tax Notes Today, July 2018.

Executive compensation for the health care industry is always an important topic for the board, made even more critical by the provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and recent governance trends. We’re joined by two of the leading health care industry voices on executive compensation practices: Tim Cotter of Sullivan, Cotter and Associates, and McDermott partner Ralph DeJong.

Section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) previously limited the tax deduction to $1M annually for covered employee compensation paid by a company that is publicly traded, subject to some important exceptions. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act modified the reach of Code Section 162(m) in several significant ways.

  • Expanding the number of companies to which Section 162(m) will apply, including non-public companies that register debt or equity securities with the Securities and Exchange Commission, like foreign companies publicly traded through American depositary receipts (ADRs);
  • Expanding the number of covered employees to five and including the chief financial officer, with a provision that any covered employee after 2016 permanently remains a covered employee;
  • Eliminating performance-based and commission-based exceptions to the $1M deduction limit; and
  • Grandfathering certain compensation provided under a written and binding agreement in effect on November 2, 2017, if no material changes are made to such agreement.

These changes will have a significant effect not just on performance-based compensation, but also on stock options, stock appreciation rights and even nonqualified deferred compensation plans and supplemental executive retirement plans. To navigate these changes, Andrew Liazos stressed the importance of understanding the new grandfathering provisions under Section 162(m) and their corresponding planning opportunities at the Mid-Year Meeting of the American Bar Association’s Tax Section on February 10, 2018 in the attached slides.