Payroll Taxes Apply to Phantom Income From Deferred Compensation.

The plaintiff retired in 2004 from being an airline pilot.  The airline had filed bankruptcy in 2002.  The plaintiff's non-qualified deferred compensation plan benefits vested upon his retirement, and the airline computed the present value of the benefits to be paid in accordance with I.R.C. Sec. 3121(v)(2) and withheld Medicare taxes.  The value of the benefits exceeded the FICA limit in 2004, and the computation of the present value of the benefits was computed without regard to the possibility that the benefits might not actually be paid because based on the definition of  "amount deferred" in terms of "present value" in Treas. Reg. Sec. 31.3121(v)(2)-(c)(2)(ii).  Based on that value, the airline withheld over $4,000 of payroll tax.  The deferred compensation liability of the airline, however, was largely discharged in bankruptcy such that the plaintiff received just over $60,000 of the approximately $300,000 of benefits owed to him - even though he paid payroll tax on the full amount.  The plaintiff challenged the regulations as invalid, but the IRS maintained that the regulations were appropriate and required payroll tax on the full benefit.  The court upheld the regulation as rational and a reasonable interpretation of I.R.C. Sec. 3121 and there was nothing in the statute requiring the IRS to refund the payroll taxes on account of the airline's bankruptcy.  The statute provided no exception when there was a risk of nonpayment.  Balestra v. United States, No. 2014-5127, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 17756 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 13, 2015), aff'g., 119 F. Cl. 109 (2014).