Tax Insights

Clearing the Air: The IRS Issues Proposed Regulations under Section 162(m)

John Schultz, Managing Director

jschultz@alvarezandmarsal.com

Vance Yudell, Director

J.D. Ivy, Managing Director

jivy@alvarezandmarsal.com

Sarah Rumsey, Senior Associate

May 7, 2020 / North America

On December 16, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) released proposed regulations (REG-122180-18) under Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) section 162(m), which is the tax provision that generally imposes a $1 million annual limit on deductions by a publicly held corporation for compensation paid to covered employees. In 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) amended section 162(m) by expanding the definition of publicly held corporation and covered employees, and by eliminating the highly utilized performance-based compensation exception. Following the TCJA amendments to section 162(m), the IRS issued Notice 2018-68 (the “Notice”), which provided further insight to the TCJA amendments.

The IRS released the proposed regulations, which generally follow the guidance issued in the Notice. A&M believes the areas where companies will be impacted the most include the definition of a covered employee, specifically that once an employee becomes a covered employee, they maintain that status for life and the company must keep track of such status. Additionally, the IRS has provided guidance on the complicated issue of compensation paid by a partnership to a covered employee who provides services to the partnership. A&M knows these issues are tricky and therefore we have attempted to provide insightful direction and explanations of the proposed regulations. Below is a list of the key areas addressed in the proposed regulations:

  • Definition of publicly held corporation
  • Definition of covered employee
  • Privately held corporations that become publicly held
  • Applicable employee remuneration
  • Grandfather rules
  • Coordination with IRC section 409A

Definition of Publicly Held Corporation
A publicly held corporation is defined in the proposed regulations as any corporation that issues securities to be registered under section 12 of the Exchange Act, or that is required to file reports under section 15(d) of the Exchange Act. Additionally, an entity’s status as a publicly held corporation is determined as of the last day of its taxable year.

Furthermore, the proposed regulations explain that an S corporation (or an S corporation parent of a qualified subchapter S subsidiary) would be considered a publicly held corporation if it issues securities pursuant to section 12 or files reports under section 15(d) of the Exchange Act (i.e., the S corporation has publicly traded debt).

Lastly, a publicly traded partnership which is treated as a corporation for federal tax purposes is considered a publicly held corporation if, as of the last day of its taxable year, its securities must be registered pursuant to section 12 or reports filed pursuant to section 15(d) of the Exchange Act.

The IRS and the Treas. Dept. confirmed that under section 162(m), a publicly held corporation includes an affiliated group of corporations. Additionally, an affiliated group includes a parent corporation that is privately held and its subsidiary that is publicly held.

Definition of Covered Employee
Under section 162(m), a covered employee includes the CEO, the CFO, and the next three highest compensated executive officers for the taxable year. The proposed regulations confirm that an employee may be among the highest three compensated executive officers even if their compensation is not required to be reported in the corporation’s proxy statement via the summary compensation table. Additionally, if an employee is considered a covered employee for any taxable year after December 31, 2016, then their compensation will always be subject to the deduction limit, even after separation from service. If the company’s taxable year differs from their fiscal year end, then the officer’s compensation will have to be calculated based on the 12-month taxable year end…

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