US Tax Reform: Compensation Update #1: House Ways and Means Committee Revisions & Senate Mark of Tax Cuts

If you have been following the progress of U.S. tax reform, you will know that one of the most significant proposed changes in the compensation arena is currently up in the air, with a conflict between the final bill approved last week by the House Ways and Means Committee and the conceptual mark-up now under review by the Senate Finance Committee (the “Senate Mark”). Specifically, the final House bill eliminated proposed changes that would have taxed nonqualified deferred compensation at vesting, while this proposal is still under consideration in the Senate.

There are numerous other compensation-related differences between the House bill and the Senate Mark, including that the Senate Mark does not include a House proposal to permit tax deferral outside of Section 409A on certain private company equity awards, and that the Senate Mark introduces the new concept of a 5% federal income tax withholding requirement on payments to independent contractors. Notably, however, the House and Senate proposals currently appear aligned on the elimination of the performance-based compensation exception to Section 162(m)’s $1 million limit on the deductibility of covered employee compensation (as well as other changes expanding the scope of the covered employees).

For a full discussion of the current state of play, please refer to our alert dated November 13, 2017 which covers the following topics:

For more information on the broader implications of the proposed tax legislation on your company, please see the Tax News and Developments alert, Senate Finance Committee Releases “Chairman’s Mark” of Tax Reform Legislation; Mark Up Begins, issued by Baker McKenzie’s tax practice (November 13, 2017).

Narendra Acharya focuses his practice on matters relating to US and international employee benefits and executive compensation — including global stock plans and pensions, as well as matters pertaining to pensions, executive compensation and employment issues in mergers and acquisitions. Mr. Acharya assists US and non-US companies – both publicly traded and private – in the design and implementation of employee stock plans. He has extensive experience advising clients on income tax, social security, payroll withholding and reporting, local corporate tax deduction, employment law, securities and other regulatory issues applicable to equity awards in numerous jurisdictions.
Anne Batter is a partner in Baker McKenzie's Tax Practice Group with 25 years of tax experience. She focuses her practice on the tax treatment of executive compensation and fringe benefits arrangements. She also handles excise tax matters, particularly those involving the air transportation excise tax. She previously served as an attorney in the Income Tax & Accounting Division of the IRS’s Office of Chief Counsel and as attorney-advisor with the US Tax Court.
Victor Flores is a partner in Baker McKenzie’s Employment & Compensation Practice, with a focus on Executive Compensation and Employee Benefits. Victor advises global US and non-US companies – both public and private – on all aspects of executive compensation and benefits matters, including the corporate, securities and tax law, and ERISA issues arising in the implementation and administration of compensation programs. He regularly helps clients with the design and implementation of equity and non-equity based incentive compensation programs and nonqualified deferred compensation programs. Victor also has extensive experience advising on compensations and benefits issues in mergers and acquisitions, corporate reorganizations, private equity and other corporate transactions.
Christopher G. Guldberg has been practicing in the employee benefits and executive compensation areas since 1992 and is a senior member of the Firm’s benefits practice. Mr. Guldberg advises on a wide range of benefits issues including design, implementation, operation and termination of tax-qualified retirement plans and welfare benefit plans. He assists with all aspects of regulatory compliance associated with employee benefit plans and regularly advises clients on ERISA's fiduciary and prohibited transactions provisions. He also has helped clients correct benefit plan defects through DOL and IRS voluntary correction programs and has assisted clients with negotiated settlements with regulatory authorities.
Sinead Kelly is a partner in Baker McKenzie's Compensation practice. She advises on US executive compensation and global equity and has practiced in the compensation field for over 13 years. Sinead advises US and non-US public and private companies on all aspects of equity compensation plans and arrangements, including plan design, administration, and global implementation, as well as compliance with federal and state corporate, securities and tax laws, stock exchange rules, accounting rules, and non-US tax and regulatory requirements. Sinead also advises on the drafting and administration of nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements, director compensation programs, severance arrangements, change in control plans, employment agreements, short and long-term bonus plans, and other executive compensation arrangements.
Maura Ann McBreen is a partner in the Firm’s Chicago office and has over 30 years' experience in executive compensation and employee benefits. Maura Ann focuses on executive compensation and employee benefits, especially with regard to single employer, multi-employer, and multinational benefits. She addresses operational and fiduciary issues as they arise under tax-qualified retirement plans, including employee stock ownership plans, and leads our global pensions practice. She designs deferred compensation and equity-based incentive compensation plans, advises on issues under Code Sections 162(m), 280G, 409A and 457A and negotiates executive employment agreements.