26 CFR 1.404(a)-1 - Contributions of an employer to an employees' trust or annuity plan and compensation under a deferred payment plan; general rule.
(1) Section 404(a) prescribes limitations upon deductions for amounts contributed by an employer under a pension, annuity, stock bonus, or profit-sharing plan, or under any plan of deferred compensation. It is immaterial whether the plan covers present employees only, or present and former employees, or only former employees. Section 404(a) also governs the deductibility of unfunded pensions and death benefits paid directly to former employees or their beneficiaries (see § 1.404(a)-12). For taxable years beginning after 1962, certain self-employed individuals may be covered by pension, annuity, or profit-sharing plans. For the rules relating to the deduction of contributions on behalf of such individuals, see paragraph (a)(2) of § 1.404(a)-8 and § 1.404(e)-1.
(2) Section 404(a) does not apply to a plan which does not defer the receipt of compensation. Furthermore, section 404(a) does not apply to deductions for contributions under a plan which is solely a dismissal wage or unemployment benefit plan, or a sickness, accident, hospitalization, medical expense, recreation, welfare, or similar benefit plan, or a combination thereof. For example, if under a plan an employer contributes 5 percent of each employee's compensation per month to a fund out of which employees who are laid off will be paid benefits for temporary periods, but employees who are not laid off have no rights to the funds, such a plan is an unemployment benefit plan, and the deductibility of the contributions to it is determined under section 162. As to the deductibility of such contributions, see § 1.162-9.
(3) If, however, the contributions to a pension, profit-sharing, stock bonus, or other plan of deferred compensation can be used to provide any of the benefits referred to in subparagraph (2) of this paragraph, then, except as provided in section 404(c), section 404(a) applies to the entire contribution to the plan. Thus, if in the example described in subparagraph (2) of this paragraph, the employer's contribution on behalf of each employee is set up as a separate account, and if any amount which remains in an employee's account at the time of retirement is paid to him at such time, the deductibility of the contributions to the plan is determined under section 404(a). For the regulations for determining whether the benefits referred to in subparagraph (2) of this paragraph can be included in a qualified pension or profit-sharing plan, see § 1.401-1(b).
(b) In order to be deductible under section 404(a), contributions must be expenses which would be deductible under section 162 (relating to trade or business expenses) or 212 (relating to expenses for production of income) if it were not for the provision in section 404(a) that they are deductible, if at all, only under section 404(a). Contributions may therefore be deducted under section 404(a) only to the extent that they are ordinary and necessary expenses during the taxable year in carrying on the trade or business or for the production of income and are compensation for personal services actually rendered. In no case is a deduction allowable under section 404(a) for the amount of any contribution for the benefit of an employee in excess of the amount which, together with other deductions allowed for compensation for such employee's services, constitutes a reasonable allowance for compensation for the services actually rendered. What constitutes a reasonable allowance depends upon the facts in the particular case. Among the elements to be considered in determining this are the personal services actually rendered in prior years as well as the current year and all compensation and contributions paid to or for such employee in prior years as well as in the current year. Thus, a contribution which is in the nature of additional compensation for services performed in prior years may be deductible, even if the total of such contributions and other compensation for the current year would be in excess of reasonable compensation for services performed in the current year, provided that such total plus all compensation and contributions paid to or for such employee in prior years represents a reasonable allowance for all services rendered by the employee by the end of the current year. A contribution under a plan which is primarily for the benefit of shareholders of the employer is not deductible. Such a contribution may constitute a dividend within the meaning of section 316. See also §§ 1.162-6 and 1.162-8. In addition to the limitations referred to above, deductions under section 404(a) are also subject to further conditions and limitations particularly provided therein.
(c) Deductions under section 404(a) are generally allowable only for the year in which the contribution or compensation is paid, regardless of the fact that the taxpayer may make his returns on the accrual method of accounting. Exceptions are made in the case of over payments as provided in paragraphs (1), (3), and (7) of section 404(a), and, as provided by section 404(a)(6), in the case of payments made by a taxpayer on the accrual method of accounting not later than the time prescribed by law for filing the return for the taxable year of accrual (including extensions thereof). This latter provision is intended to permit a taxpayer on the accrual method to deduct such accrued contribution or compensation in the year of accrual, provided payment is actually made not later than the time prescribed by law for filing the return for the taxable year of accrual (including extensions thereof), but this provision is not applicable unless, during the taxable year on account of which the contribution is made, the taxpayer incurs a liability to make the contribution, the amount of which is accruable under section 461 for such taxable year. See section 461 and the regulations thereunder. There is another exception in the case of certain taxpayers who are required to make additional contributions as a result of the Act of June 15, 1955 (Public Law 74, 84th Cong., 69 Stat. 134), and the regulations thereunder.