Accounting and Tax Disclosures in Proxy Statements
(re executive compensation)
Below are excerpts from four proxy statements whose CD&As have fairly extensive tax (and accounting) discussions, including golden parachute tax and gross-up provisions.
Committee Policy on 280G Excise Taxes
The Company currently has no executive officer contracts providing for excise tax gross ups.
On May 21, 2009, the Committee adopted a policy that in unusual circumstances where the Committee believes that accommodations have to be made to recruit a new executive officer to the Company, limited reimbursement for excise taxes payable may be included in the executive officer’s contracts. In those circumstances, the excise tax “gross ups” will be limited to payments triggered by both a change in control and termination of employment and will be subject to a three-year sunset provision.
Effect of Accounting and Tax Treatment on Compensation Decisions
Section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code imposes a limit on the amount of compensation that we may deduct in any one year with respect to certain “covered employees,” unless certain specific and detailed criteria are satisfied. Performance-based compensation, as defined in the Internal Revenue Code, is fully deductible if the programs are approved by stockholders and meet other requirements. As described above, all of our short-term non-equity incentive compensation is determined based upon the achievement of certain predetermined financial performance goals and follow criteria that generally permit us to deduct such amounts without being subject to limits under Section 162(m). Pursuant to applicable Treasury regulations, Section 162(m) does not apply to compensation paid or stock options or restricted stock granted under the compensation agreements and plans described in our initial public offering prospectus during the reliance transition period ending on the earlier of the date the agreement or plan is materially modified or the first stockholders meeting at which directors are elected during 2014. While we will continue to monitor our compensation programs in light of Section 162(m), our Compensation Committee considers it important to retain the flexibility to design compensation programs that are in the best long-term interests of our company and our stockholders, particularly as we continue our transition from a private to a public company. As a result, we have not adopted a policy requiring that all compensation be deductible and our Compensation Committee may conclude that paying compensation at levels that are subject to limits under Section 162(m) is nevertheless in the best interests of our company and our stockholders.
Other provisions of the Internal Revenue Code can also affect compensation decisions. Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code, which governs the form and timing of payment of deferred compensation, imposes sanctions, including a 20% penalty and an interest penalty, on a recipient of deferred compensation that does not comply with Section 409A. Our Compensation Committee takes into account the potential implications of Section 409A in determining the form and timing of compensation awarded to our executives and strives to structure its nonqualified deferred compensation plans to meet these requirements.
Section 280G of the Internal Revenue Code disallows a company’s tax deduction for payments received by certain individuals in connection with a change in control to the extent that the payments exceed an amount approximately three times their average annual compensation and Section 4999 of the Internal Revenue Code imposes a 20% excise tax on those payments. As described above, options and restricted stock awarded under our Officers’ Rollover Stock Plan and options granted under our Equity Incentive Plan have or will contain provisions that accelerate vesting of all or a portion of the awards in connection with a change in control. To the extent that payments upon a change in control are classified as excess parachute payments, our company’s tax deduction would be disallowed under Section 280G.
Regulatory Considerations and Practices
Autodesk continuously reviews and evaluates the impact of the tax laws and accounting practices and related interpretations on the executive compensation program. For example, the Committee considers Financial Accounting Standards Board Accounting Standards Codification Topic 718 (“ASC Topic 718”), which results in recognition of compensation expense for share-based payment awards, and Section 409A of the Code, which affects deferred compensation arrangements, as it evaluates, structures, and implements changes to the program.
Section 162(m) of the Code generally limits to $1 million the amount of compensation that a company may deduct for federal income tax purposes in any taxable year with respect to the CEO and each of the next three most highly-compensated executive officers (excluding the chief financial officer). Generally, remuneration in excess of $1 million may be deducted only if it is “performance-based compensation” within the meaning of the Code or satisfies the conditions of another exemption from the deduction limit. The compensation income realized upon the exercise of options to purchase shares of Common Stock granted under a stockholder-approved employee stock plan generally will be deductible so long as the options are granted by a committee whose members are non-employee directors and certain other conditions are satisfied.
The Autodesk Executive Incentive Plan and the 2012 Employee Stock Plan are structured with the intention that awards granted under these plans could qualify for tax deductibility. However, to maintain flexibility and promote simplicity in the administration of these arrangements, we may award other compensation under these plans, such as annual incentive cash payments and PSU and RSU awards, that are not designed to qualify for tax deductibility under the Code.
Further, while mindful that the ability to fully deduct compensation paid to senior executives has benefits, the Committee believes that Autodesk should not be constrained by the requirements of Section 162(m) where those requirements would impair flexibility in compensating the executive officers in a manner that can best promote Autodesk’s objectives, which aligns the executive officers' interests with the stockholders' interests. Therefore, Autodesk has not adopted a policy that requires all compensation to be deductible. The Committee intends to continue to compensate the executive officers in a manner consistent with Autodesk’s best interests and the best interests of the stockholders.
Taxation of Deferred Compensation
Section 409A of the Code imposes significant additional taxes in the event an executive officer, director, or service provider receives “deferred compensation” that does not satisfy the restrictive conditions of the provision. Section 409A applies to a wide range of compensation arrangements, including traditional nonqualified deferred compensation plans, certain equity awards, and severance arrangements. To assist employees with avoiding additional taxes under Section 409A, Autodesk has structured equity awards in a manner intended to comply with the applicable Section 409A conditions.
Taxation of “Golden Parachute” Payments
Sections 280G and 4999 of the Code provide that executive officers and directors who hold significant equity interests and certain other service providers may be subject to an excise tax if, in connection with a change in control, they receive payments or benefits that exceed certain prescribed limits. In addition, the relevant company or a successor may forfeit a deduction on the amounts subject to this additional tax. Autodesk did not provide any executive officer with a “gross-up” or other reimbursement payment for any tax liability the executive might owe as a result of the application of Sections 280G or 4999 during fiscal 2015. In addition, Autodesk has not agreed and is not otherwise obligated to provide any NEO with such a “gross-up” or other reimbursement or to otherwise address the application of Sections 280G or 4999 in connection with payments or benefits arising from a change in control.
Accounting for Stock-Based Compensation
Autodesk follows ASC Topic 718 for stock-based compensation awards. ASC Topic 718 requires Autodesk to measure the compensation expense for all share-based payment awards made to employees (including executive officers) and members of the Board, including options to purchase shares of Common Stock, based on the grant date “fair value” of these awards. Fair value is calculated for accounting purposes and reported in the compensation tables below, even though the executive officers and directors may never realize any value from their awards. ASC Topic 718 also requires Autodesk to recognize the . . .
Tax and Accounting Considerations
Deductibility of Executive Compensation
Section 162(m) generally disallows a deduction for federal income tax purposes to any publicly-traded corporation for any remuneration in excess of $1 million paid in any taxable year to its chief executive officer and each of the three other most highly-compensated executive officers (other than its chief financial officer). Generally, remuneration in excess of $1 million may be deducted if, among other things, it qualifies as “performance-based” compensation within the meaning of the Code or qualifies for a different exemption. In this regard, the compensation income realized upon the exercise of options to purchase shares of the granting company’s securities granted under a stockholder-approved stock option plan generally will be deductible so long as the options are granted by a committee whose members are outside directors and certain other conditions are satisfied. Conversely, the compensation income realized upon the vesting of RSUs that are subject to time-based vesting requirements generally will not be deductible since such awards do not qualify as “performance-based” compensation.
Prior to our becoming a publicly-traded company, our board of directors had not previously taken the deductibility limit imposed by Section 162(m) into consideration in setting compensation for the covered executive officers. As a publicly-traded company, the compensation and leadership committee is mindful of the benefits of full deductibility of compensation, and intends to operate our executive compensation program to be most efficient and effective for our stockholders, which may include compliance with Section 162(m).
The compensation and leadership committee seeks to qualify the incentive compensation paid to the covered executive officers for the “performance-based” compensation exemption from the deduction limit under Section 162(m) when it believes such action is in our best interests. In approving the amount and form of compensation for our executive officers, the compensation and leadership committee believes that the potential deductibility of the compensation payable under those plans and arrangements should be only one of a number of relevant factors taken into consideration, and not the sole governing factor. Accordingly, the compensation and leadership committee considers all elements of the cost to us of providing such compensation, including the potential impact of the Section 162(m) deduction limit. For that reason, the compensation and leadership committee may deem it appropriate to provide one or more executive officers with the opportunity to earn incentive compensation, whether through cash incentive awards tied to our financial performance or equity incentive awards tied to the executive officer’s continued service, which may be in excess of the amount deductible by reason of Section 162(m) or other provisions of the Code. We are currently seeking approval of our 2014 Plan and our Executive Bonus Plan for purposes of Section 162(m) at the Annual Meeting. See “Proposal No. 3 –Re-Approval of the Section 162(m) Limits of the 2014 Equity Incentive Plan” and “Proposal No. 4 – Approval of Executive Bonus Plan” above.
The compensation and leadership committee believes it is important to maintain cash and equity incentive compensation at the requisite level to attract and retain the individuals essential to our financial success, even if all or part of that compensation may not be deductible by reason of the Section 162(m) limitation .
Taxation of Nonqualified Deferred Compensation
Section 409A of the Code requires that amounts that qualify as “nonqualified deferred compensation” satisfy requirements with respect to the timing of deferral elections, timing of payments, and certain other matters. Generally, the compensation and leadership committee intends to administer our executive compensation program and design individual compensation components, as well as the compensation plans and arrangements for our employees generally, so that they are either exempt from, or satisfy the requirements of, Section 409A. From time to time, we may be required to amend some of our compensation plans and arrangements to ensure that they are either exempt from, or compliant with, Section 409A.
Taxation of “Parachute” Payments
Sections 280G and 4999 of the Code provide that executive officers and directors who hold significant equity interests and certain other service providers may be subject to additional taxes if they receive payments or benefits in connection with a change in control of our company that exceeds certain prescribed limits, and that we (or a successor) may forfeit a deduction on the amounts subject to this additional tax. Except in the case of Mr. Bates (as described above), we did not provide any executive officer, including any Named Executive Officer, with a “gross-up” or other reimbursement payment for any tax liability that he or she might owe as a result of the application of Sections 280G or 4999 during 2014 and we have not agreed and are not otherwise obligated to provide any executive officers, including any Named Executive Officer, with such a “gross-up” or other reimbursement payment.
Accounting for Stock-Based Compensation
The compensation and leadership committee takes accounting considerations into account in designing compensation plans and arrangements for our executive officers and other employees. Chief among these is FASB ASC Topic 718, the standard which governs the accounting treatment of stock-based compensation awards.
FASB ASC Topic 718 requires us to recognize in our financial statements all share-based payment awards to employees, including grants of options to purchase shares of our common stock and restricted stock awards that may be settled for shares of our common stock to our executive officers, based on their fair values.
FASB ASC Topic 718 also requires us to recognize the compensation cost of our share-based payment awards in our income statement over the period that an employee, including our executive officers, is required to render service in exchange for the award (which, generally, will correspond to the award’s vesting schedule).
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