Tax-exempt organizations face special legal challenges in developing compensation packages for their executives. A new article, Executive Compensation Arrangements for Tax-Exempt Organizations, published in the Lexis Practice Advisor provides practical guidance on developing benefits for executives of nonprofits.
This article is divided into the following main topics:
- Executive compensation considerations for tax-exempt entities
- Excise Tax on Excess Executive Compensation
- Deferred compensation rules
- Severance pay
- Vacation and sick leave plans
- Performance bonuses and other nonfixed payments
- Fringe benefits
The Internal Revenue Service has issued IRS Notice 2023-75, 2023–47 IRB 1256, setting out the limits on benefits and contributions for 2024. As expected, the limits rose, but not as steeply as last year. Maximum deferrals under a 401(k) or 403(b) plan rose from $22,500 to $23,000, while maximum benefits under a defined benefit plan rose from $265,000 to $275,000.
A chart showing details, and limits from 1996 to 2024, can be found at this link.
The Social Security Administration today issued a News Release announcing that the Social Security wage base will rise from $160,200 in 2023 to $168,600 in 2024. In addition, based on the issuance of the CPI-U for September 2023 we have been able to project section 415 and several other IRS limits for 2024.
A chart showing details, and limits from 1996 to 2024, can be found at this link.
On August 25, 2023, the IRS issued Notice 2023-62, dealing with the SECURE 2.0 requirement that any age 50 catch-up contributions by an employee with prior-year FICA wages over $145,000 (to be indexed with inflation) be made on a Roth basis, rather than a pre-tax basis. The guidance had two effects:
- The requirement that catch-up contributions for individuals over age 50 with prior-year FICA wages over $145,000 be made in the form of Roth contributions was delayed until 2026.
- The language of the statute had suggested that no catch-up contributions could be made at all beginning in 2024. The IRS has confirmed that it will continue to treat catch-up contributions as permissible.
While the guidance applies to 401(k) plans, most governmental entities are not permitted to have 401(k) plans. However, it also affects governmental 457(b) plans, along with 403(b) plans for those governmental entities that are permitted to have 403(b) plans (governmental instrumentalities that also have tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3), and public schools and universities). It is particularly significant for governmental entities which maintain both 403(b) and 457(b) plans, since an employee is able to double the usual amount of catch-ups by making a catch-up election with respect to both plans.
The IRS also announced its intention to issue further guidance in three areas:
- In determining whether an individual has $145,000 in FICA wages, wages exempt from FICA will not be counted. Among other things, this would mean that state and local government entities not subject to Social Security would not have to comply with the new rules at all.
- For a participant in a multiple employer plan with compensation from two or more participating employers, the determination of whether the Roth catch-up rule applies would be made on an employer-by-employer basis. So for example, in a statewide plan, compensation that an individual received from one governmental employer would not have to be combined with that from another in applying the $145,000 limit.
- When the new rules become effective in 2026, a plan may treat a pre-tax catch-up election for a participant subject to the Roth catch-up rule as though it were a Roth catch-up election, without the need to obtain an updated election from the participant. For example, suppose that a participant over age 50 with compensation of $145,000 elects to make a contribution of 25% of compensation. The maximum for 2023 (without catch-ups) would be $22,500. Assuming this limit were still in effect in 2026 (it rises with inflation), the employer would not need to get a separate election in order to have an additional $7,500 taken from the participant’s compensation and contributed on a Roth basis.
While these three points would be helpful to impacted plan sponsors, they are not yet the IRS’s formal position.
General information on the effect of the notice (for nongovernmental as well as governmental plans) can be found at this link. Information on the amount of regular and catch-up contributions can be found at this link.
The Comparison of 457(b) Plans, 401(k) Plans, 403(b) Plans, and Deemed IRAs chart has now been updated to reflect recent developments, including:
- 2023 limits on contributions and benefits
- Changes in the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS)
- Changes in the IRS determination letter program for 401(k) plans
- Addition of an IRS determination letter program for individually designed 403(b) plans
- The IRS opinion letter program for pre-approved 403(b) plans
Carol V. Calhoun has written a Benefits Guide entitled “Government and Tax-Exempt Organizations” for Bloomberg Law. The Bloomberg Law Benefits Guide is intended to be a resource for non-benefits practitioners that is easy to understand and explains complex topics in a straightforward way. Ms. Calhoun’s guide covers the types of plans maintained by governmental and tax-exempt organizations, determination of whether a plan is governmental, legal requirements and restrictions, and correction methods in case of errors in administration. The Benefits Guide is available to Bloomberg subscribers, or a copy of Ms. Calhoun’s chapter is available at this link.
The Eighth Edition of the 457 Answer Book was published on June 5, 2020. Carol V. Calhoun is the author of Chapter 1, History of 457 Plans, and Chapter 14, Miscellaneous Issues.
The 457 Answer Book is an in-depth resource that provides answers to the questions that tax-exempt organizations, state and local governments, their accountants, tax and legal advisors, 457 administrators, product providers, and investment counselors need to know.
Guiding readers through all aspects of 457 plan administration — from installation through the audit process — the 457 Answer Book describes: the duties and responsibilities of those performing the functions; the required legal, accounting, and administrative tasks; checklists that facilitate control of each administrative process; and suggested forms.
The 457 Answer Book also provides:
- The history and legal origins of the plan
- Design and drafting standards
- Suggested administrative procedures
- Data processing and payroll considerations
- Operations and fund flow mechanics
- Marketing and sales suggestions
- And much more
More information on the book can be found at this link.
Sections 403(b) and 457(b) plan compliance presents significant challenges for employee benefits counsel and plan administrators. Sponsors of 403(b) and 457(b) plans must consider the impact of recent regulatory and litigation developments to ensure strict compliance to avoid potential claims.
As part of a Strafford webinar on “403(b) and 457(b) Plan Compliance Challenges,” Carol V. Calhoun gave a presentation on ways in which new developments create challenges for tax-exempt and governmental organizations which sponsor such plans. A copy of the PowerPoint for her speech can be found at this link.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 made a number of changes affecting the compensation and benefits that governmental, church, and other tax-exempt organizations can provide to their employees. Given the short time between introduction and passage of the Act, it is not surprising that many of the new provisions are unclear in their application. Moreover, some of them may produce unintended consequences for these organizations.
As part of a symposium on “Recent Developments in Benefits/Executive Compensation Affecting Tax Exempt Organizations,” Carol V. Calhoun gave a presentation on the ways in which the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 will affect the compensation and benefits of such organizations. A copy of the PowerPoint for her speech can be found at this link.
The recently passed tax bill imposes a 21% excise tax on excess compensation and excess severance benefits of certain executives of nonprofit and governmental employers. The provision has a substantial impact on the compensation and benefits that such organizations can provide for their executives. Moreover, the determination of which employers, and which executives, are covered includes several traps for the unwary.