Reviewing Compensation Arrangements for Employees Subject to U.S. Income Tax Before Year-End Could Avoid Costly Tax Penalties

We have written about this in the past [here], but the message bears repeating each year. It is easy to overlook that employment agreements, change-in-control agreements, and severance agreements with U.S. taxpayers frequently contain provisions that subject them to U.S. Internal Revenue Code Section 409A (“Section 409A”), and failure to comply can result in onerous tax penalties. However, to the extent that rights under such agreements are not yet vested, it may be possible to correct them before year-end without penalty. Even if rights under an agreement are vested, in some cases correction is available with payment of reduced penalties under IRS correction programs. It is important to remember that U.S. residents, and U.S. citizens regardless of country of residence, are taxed on worldwide income. This means that compensatory arrangements for employees and directors who are U.S. citizens working outside the U.S. will be subject to U.S. federal income tax. If compensation arrangements have not been reviewed for Section 409A compliance, we recommend doing so now, especially with respect to arrangements that will or may become vested during 2019. For a more detailed explanation, see our Dorsey publication from October 6, 2015 here.

Marianne O'Bara

Marianne is a Partner in Dorsey’s Benefits and Compensation practice group and past Chair of the firm’s Executive Compensation Practice Group. She assists clients in the design, formation, administration, merger and termination of employee benefit plans. She has extensive experience with qualified and non-qualified retirement plans, deferred compensation plans, severance plans and agreements, equity compensation plans and other incentive compensation arrangements.

Christopher L. Doerksen

Chris helps clients raise money by selling equity and debt, buy and sell assets and businesses, manage their SEC disclosures, implement corporate governance structures, list on stock exchanges, and establish equity-based compensation arrangements. He currently serves as the head of Seattle’s Corporate department and co-chair of the Canada Cross-Border Practice Group.

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