Wealth & Risk Management Blog

William Byrnes (Texas A&M) tax & compliance articles

Deferred Compensation, Part VII: Taxation of Benefits

Posted by fhalestewart on February 26, 2018

I often refer to reading the tax code as “hop, skip and jump” reading because one paragraph or section of the code will require the reader to reference several other sections in order to comprehend the meaning behind the first code section.    §402, which explains the taxability of deferred compensation, is a prime example of this approach.   Section (a) states:

Except as otherwise provided in this section, any amount actually distributed to any distributee by any employees’ trust described in section 401(a) which is exempt from tax under section 501(a) shall be taxable to the distributee, in the taxable year of the distributee in which distributed, under section 72 (relating to annuities)

Section 401(a) provides the relevant rules for a trust to obtain tax-exempt status.  By way of quick review, these include certain vesting timelines, minimum participation standards, and non-alienability requirements.  Section 501(a) is the tax code section that grants tax-exempt status to certain organizations as well as trusts specifically mentioned in §401(a).  And §72 contains the rules for annuities, which provides rules allowing the recipient to not be taxed on his return of principal.

In 2009, F. Hale Stewart, JD. LL.M. graduated magna cum laude from Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s LLM Program.  He is the author of three books: U.S. Captive Insurance LawCaptive Insurance in Plain English and The Lifetime Income Security Solution.  He also provides commentary to the Tax Analysts News Service, as well as economic analysis to TLRAnalytics and the Bonddad Blog.  He is also an investment adviser with Thompson Creek Wealth Advisors. 

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