Internal Revenue Service severance pay advisory update
Source: Office of Federal, State and Local Governments
In its July 2013 newsletter,*the Internal Revenue Service’s Office of Federal, State and Local Governments [FSLG] addressed the tax treatment of severance payments made by government entities to terminated employees by the Internal Revenue Service [IRS]. The article, Severance pay and FICA, noted that under Internal Revenue Code §61 severance pay is included  in the gross income of the recipient and normal income tax withholding rules apply and  severance pay is generally wages for purposes of FICA taxes.
In its decision in United States v. Quality Stores, 134 S.Ct. 1395 , the United States Supreme Court held that severance payments made to involuntarily terminated employees were wages subject to Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes. Accordingly, IRS advises it will disallow all claims for refunds of FICA taxes on severance pay.
However, IRS Revenue Ruling 90-72 provides a limited administrative exception for certain payments that supplement state unemployment compensation, sometimes referred to as “SUB-pay.” The Ruling provides for an exception for a stream of payments coordinated with the receipt of unemployment compensation and specifically points out that a lump-sum payment would not qualify for the exception. IRS said that as the Supreme Court decision did not address the provisions of Revenue Ruling 90-72, payments that meeting Ruling 90-72 requirements stated in that ruling continue to be excluded from wages for FICA purposes.
Questions about severance pay should be directed to one of the following Federal, State and Local Government [FSLG] Specialists for New York State: Dave Coulon [(315) 233-7305]; Jean Redman [(607-378-0069] or Granville Shannon [(212) 436 -1492].
* The July 2013 is posted on the Internet at: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-tege/p4090_0713.pdf. The FSLG Newsletter is asemiannual newsletter published by the Internal Revenue Service’s office of Federal, State and Local Governments (FSLG) to assist in FSLG’s mission to ensure compliance by Federal, state, and local governmental entities with Federal employment and other tax laws through educational and compliance review activities.