Deferred Compensation

Deferred Compensation Definition

Deferred compensation is an arrangement whereby a portion of the income of an individual is set aside and paid at a later date; it is generally done to defer the payment of taxes as the amount contributed towards such deferred compensation is in most cases not taxed until the income is paid off. Examples include employee stock options, pension, and retirement plans.

Types of Deferred Compensation

Deferred compensation is broadly classified as Qualified and Non – qualified. The two plans majorly differ in terms of legal treatment. It is most often used to refer to non-qualified plans, but technically, it covers both. Qualified v/s Non-Qualified

#1 – Qualified

Qualified plans are pre-tax plans, which means the tax is deducted or paid on the amount invested in such plans upfront, i.e., the day when an investment is made. Qualified plans are beneficial because, in case of bankruptcy, the creditors cannot access the fund in the process of liquidationLiquidationLiquidation is the process of winding up a business or a segment of the business by selling off its assets. The amount realized by this is used to pay off the creditors and all other liabilities of the business in a specific more. Qualified contribution plans are capped by law.

#2 – Non – Qualified

Non – qualified contribution plans are post-tax plans, which means the tax on such plans is paid on the actual receipt of the amount, i.e., retirement date or a predetermined future date. Non – qualified plans are used by the employer to hire and retain valuable employees of the company without having any upfront cash outflow. Such plans are not offered to all the employees and also not capped for maximum contribution.

Deferred Compensation

You are free to use this image on your website, templates etc, Please provide us with an attribution linkHow to Provide Attribution?Article Link to be Hyperlinked
For eg:
Source: Deferred Compensation (

Understanding Deferred Compensation

Suppose an individual has an income of $250,000 per annum and opts to defer its compensation using non-qualified deferred compensation designed by his employer, he will have to consider several factors before making a decision. Few considerations can be listed as follows,

How Does Deferred Compensation Work?

An employee can opt for a plan based on his tax situation. If the expectation is that the future income tax rate would be lower then the current rate the employee can opt for non-qualified deferred compensation plans because it offers potential tax benefits by deferring the tax payment to a later date, i.e., when the amount is paid out usually retirement date. Whereas if the expectations are that future tax rate will be higher, employees can opt for the qualified plan or non-qualified plan under which the tax deduction is at the time of investment and not at the time of distribution.

However, employees who expect the increase in future tax rates will opt for qualified plans so that the tax is paid as per the current tax rate, which would be lower as compared to the prediction of higher rates in the future.

There is a various factor that affects the decision which can include countries economic situation, benefits extended by the government, prospective tax laws, etc.



  • If an employee opts for a qualified deferral plan, there will be capped in the maximum contribution.
  • If a plan is selected, whether qualified or non-qualified without proper planning, there can be a possibility that there are not benefits that turn out due to the wrong prediction of taxation aspects.
  • The contribution made under the non-qualified stock option is much riskier as they are subject to fulfillment of the creditor’s claim in case of bankruptcy of the company.
  • The employees who don’t complete their tenure with the business generally forfeit their benefits.
  • In case an employee decides to switch the job, he may have to lose the entire benefit or may have to take a lump-sum payment, which may trigger a high tax payment.


Deferred compensation is now a day considered as an essential tool in tax planningTax PlanningTax planning is the process of minimizing the tax liability by making the best use of all available deductions, allowances, rebates, thresholds, and so on as permitted by income tax laws and rules imposed by a country's government. It contributes to better cash flow and liquidity management for taxpayers, as well as better retirement plans and investment more, and various permutations and combinations are done for maximum benefits of individual and company. Since such planning requires expert knowledge of multiple laws like revenue laws of the country/ state and understanding of the risk of investment as per the individuals risk appetiteIndividuals Risk AppetiteRisk appetite refers to the amount, rate, or percentage of risk that an individual or organization (as determined by the Board of Directors or management) is willing to accept in exchange for its plan, objectives, and more, it is always vital that an informed decision is made for such investment and usually help of financial advisor is suggested as this can help in increasing the returns and also in reducing the risk of investments.

This article has been a guide to Deferred Compensation and its definition. Here we discuss how does deferred compensation work along with types, advantages, and disadvantages. You can learn more about financing from the following articles –

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *