Section 409A Again? Employers Need to Re-examine Executive Employment Contracts and Other Agreements Conditioning Severence Payments Upon a Release of Claims


Agreements that provide for payments upon termination of employment, such as employment agreements, retention agreements, severance agreements and change in control agreements, often condition payment upon the return of an executed release of claims. Since Section 409A allows agreements to provide for a payment window of up to 90 days from separation from service, it was widely believed that an agreement could provide for payments to begin upon the return of a release, provided the release was required to be returned within the 90-day window period and the company determined the time of payment. In Notice 2010-6, the IRS stated that this type of provision is not Section 409A compliant. Fortunately, at the end of last year, the IRS came out with relief that will allow companies to correct this problem without employees incurring Section 409A taxation.

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