Monday, February 13, 2012
Gregg D. Polsky (North Carolina), Fixing Section 409A: Legislative and Administrative Options, 55 Vill. L. Rev. ___ (2012):
This [article] ... describes the legislative calamity that is § 409A of the Internal Revenue Code. Section 409A manages, all at once, to (i) fail to better neutralize the tax treatment of deferred compensation with that of current compensation, (ii) impose significant compliance costs on sophisticated taxpayers, and (iii) provide a dangerous trap for unsophisticated taxpayers.
Ideally, Congress should repeal § 409A and replace it with a system that taxes deferred compensation more neutrally vis-a-vis current compensation. Failing that, Congress should either replace § 409A with a broad grant of authority to the Treasury and IRS to strengthen the constructive receipt and economic benefit doctrines or amend § 409A to limit its scope to employee compensation paid by public companies.
If Congress fails to act, the Treasury should interpret the term “compensation” as used in § 409A to include only compensation paid by public companies to their employees or directors. This arguably counter-textual interpretation of the statute creates the potential for whipsaw of the IRS by nonpublic companies and their employees, but this problem is outweighed by the benefits from cleaning up § 409A.