Friday, April 12, 2013

New Pay Limit for Covered Health Insurance Providers and Maybe a Way Around It

Perhaps you like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, ACA, or ObamaCare). Perhaps you don't. You are entitled to your opinion. I think we can all agree that it has its good provisions and it has those that perhaps could have been better thought through. One that falls into the latter category is the [relatively] new Code Section 162(m)(6) dealing with the limit on compensation for Covered Health Insurance Providers (I'll refer to them as CHIPs because it's much easier for me to type). In a nutshell, the section and its new proposed regulations limit the deduction for compensation that can be taken by a CHIP to $500,000 annually with respect to any person.

If you want to read the regulation like I did, you can find it here. If you want a good technical overview with the requisite cynicism, I direct you to Mike Melbinger's blog.

If you would like a solution, read on.

In a nutshell, you are a CHIP if 2% of the gross revenues received by your controlled group are from health insurance premiums. Yes, that means that if you happen to be part of a controlled group that contains a health insurer, you are likely a CHIP. Congratulations!

Most of Code Section 162(m) deals with deduction of compensation (as a reasonable business expense). The parts that limit it generally limit it to $1 million, except for CHIPs. And, for CHIPs, and only for CHIPs, the determination of whether an individual's compensation exceeds $500,000 includes deferred compensation earned, nonqualified plan benefits earned, equity compensation awarded, and severance benefits paid. The calculation is not easy, but this post is not about that. If you'd like to know more about the calculation, contact me and I'll be happy to charm you with its details.

I said I have a solution, and for many companies, I think I do. What was left out? Did you notice that qualified plan contributions and accruals were left out? And, for qualified plans, we have an objective set of nondiscrimination rules.

The solution involves a technique often referred to as a QSERP. What this technique does is to take nonqualified deferred compensation amounts and moves them from a nonqualified plan to a qualified plan. In this case, it has lots of advantages:

  • Frequently immediate tax deductibility
  • Tax-favored buildup
  • More security
  • Pooling with significant other obligations in a large trust
Most often, QSERPs are utilized in a defined benefit context. But, realizing that many companies no longer have defined benefit plans providing for current accruals, QSERPs can be utilized in a defined contribution context as well. 

Again, the explanation is long and has been covered elsewhere, so I'm not going to bore my readers here, but if you'd like a detailed explanation, contact me directly.

I know the cynics among you will say that this deduction limitation is the right thing to do. For you, I will say that you should have asked Congress to craft the law in a way that doesn't leave creative minds the opportunity to find loopholes.

If you're reading this today (it's a Friday) or even if you're not, have a great weekend whenever that may come for you.

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