EP Abusive Tax Transactions - Certain Trust Arrangements Seeking to Qualify for Exemption from Section 419


Notice 95-34 discusses tax problems raised by certain trust arrangements seeking to qualify for exemption from IRC section 419. This transaction involves the claiming of deductions under IRC sections 419 and 419A for contributions to multiple employer welfare benefit funds. In general, an employer may deduct contributions to a welfare benefit fund when paid, but only if the contributions qualify as ordinary and necessary business expenses of the employer and only to the extent allowable under IRC sections 419 and 419A. There are strict limits on the amount of tax-deductible pre-funding permitted for contributions to a welfare benefit fund.

IRC section 419A(f)(6) provides an exemption from IRC sections 419 and 419A for a welfare benefit fund that is part of a 10 or more employer plan. In general, for this exemption to apply, an employer normally cannot contribute more than 10 percent of the total contributions contributed under the plan by all employers, and the plan must not be experience rated with respect to individual employers.

Promoters have offered trust arrangements that are used to provide life insurance, disability, and severance pay benefits. The promoters enroll at least 10 employers in their multiple employer trusts and claim that all employer contributions are tax deductible when paid, relying on the 10-or-more-employer exemption from the limitations under IRC sections 419 and 419A. Often the trusts maintain separate accounting of the assets attributable to each subscribing employer’s contributions.

Notice 95-34 puts taxpayers on notice that deductions for contributions to these arrangements are disallowable for any one of several reasons (e.g., the arrangements may provide deferred compensation, the arrangements may be separate plans for each employer, the arrangements may be experience rated in form or operation, or the contributions may be nondeductible prepaid expenses).

On July 17, 2003, final regulations (T.D. 9079) relating to whether a welfare benefit fund is part of a 10 or more employer plan (as defined in section 419A(f)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code) were published in the Federal Register (68 FR 42254).

In addition, in a case decided by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the contributions to the plan were taxable to the owners of the corporate employers as constructive dividends (Neonatology Associates, P.A., Et Al. v. Commissioner, 299 F.3rd 221 - 3rd Cir. 2002).