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Employer compensation in the United States refers to the cash compensation and benefits that an employee receives in exchange for the service they perform for their employer. Typically, cash compensation consists of a wage or salary , and may include commissions or bonuses. Benefits consist of retirement plans , health insurance , life insurance, disability insurance , vacation, employee stock ownership plans , etc. Variable pay is based on the performance of the employee.
Commissions, incentives, and bonuses are forms of variable pay. Benefits can also be divided into as company-paid and employee-paid. Some, such as holiday pay, vacation pay, etc. Others, are often paid, at least in part, by employees—a notable example is medical insurance. Compensation in the US as in all countries is shaped by law, tax policy, and history.
Health insurance is a common employee benefit because there is no government sponsored national health insurance in the United States, and premiums are deductible on personal income tax. Salary, bonuses, and non-equity incentives are often called "Total Cash Compensation". In the United States , wages for most workers are set by market forces , or else by collective bargaining , where a labor union negotiates on the workers' behalf. Fourteen states and a number of cities have set their own minimum wage rates that are higher than the federal level.
For certain federal or state government contracts, employers must pay the so-called prevailing wage as determined according to the Davis-Bacon Act or its state equivalent. Activists have undertaken to promote the idea of a living wage rate which account for living expenses and other basic necessities, setting the living wage rate much higher than current minimum wage laws require. In the United States, the distinction between periodic salaries which are normally paid regardless of hours worked and hourly wages meeting a minimum wage test and providing for overtime was first codified by the Fair Labor Standards Act of Five categories were identified as being "exempt" from minimum wage and overtime protections, and therefore salariable—executive, administrative, professional, computer, and outside sales employees.
Employee stock options  are call options on the common stock of a company. Their value increases as the company's stock rises. Employee stock options are mostly offered to management with restrictions on the option such as vesting and limited transferability , in an attempt to align the holder's interest with those of the business shareholders.
Options may also be offered to non-executive level staff, especially by businesses that are not yet profitable, insofar as they may have few other means of compensation. They may also be remuneration for non-employees: There is usually a period before the employee can " vest ", i. Vesting may be granted all at once "cliff vesting" or over a period time "graded vesting" , in which case it may be "uniform" e.
They may be either:. Besides stock options, other forms of individual equity compensation  include:. Because most employee stock options are non-transferable and are not immediately exercisable although they can be readily hedged to reduce risk, the IRS considers that their "fair market value" cannot be "readily determined", and therefore "no taxable event" occurs when an employee receives an option grant. Depending on the type of option granted, the employee may or may not be taxed upon exercise.
Non-qualified stock options those most often granted to employees are taxed upon exercise. Incentive stock options ISO are not, assuming that the employee complies with certain additional tax code requirements.
Most importantly, shares acquired upon exercise of ISOs must be held for at least one year after the date of exercise if the favorable capital gains tax are to be achieved.
However, taxes can be delayed or reduced by avoiding premature exercises and holding them until near expiration day and hedging along the way. According to US generally accepted accounting principles in effect before June , stock options granted to employees did not need to be recognized as an expense on the income statement when granted, although the cost was disclosed in the notes to the financial statements.
This allows a potentially large form of employee compensation to not show up as an expense in the current year, and therefore, currently overstate income. Many assert that over-reporting of income by methods such as this by American corporations was one contributing factor in the Stock Market Downturn of This lowers operating income and GAAP taxes. This means that cash taxes in the period the options are expensed are higher than GAAP taxes. The delta goes into a deferred income tax asset on the balance sheet.
There is then a balancing up event. If the original estimate of the options' cost was too low, there will be more tax deduction allowed than was at first estimated. The term "fringe benefits" was coined by the War Labor Board during World War II to describe the various indirect benefits which industry had devised to attract and retain labor when direct wage increases were prohibited.
Employee benefits in the United States might include relocation assistance ; medical, prescription, vision and dental plans ; health and dependent care flexible spending accounts ; retirement benefit plans pension, k , b ; group-term life and long term care insurance plans; legal assistance plans; adoption assistance; child care benefits; transportation benefits; and possibly other miscellaneous employee discounts e.
Companies provide benefits that go beyond a base salary figure for a number of reasons: To raise productivity and lower turnover by raising employee satisfaction and corporate loyalty, take advantage of deductions, credits in the tax code.
Many employer-provided cash benefits below a certain income level are tax-deductible to the employer and non-taxable to the employee. Some function as tax shelters for example, flexible spending accounts, k 's, b 's. Fringe benefits are also thought of as the costs of keeping employees other than salary. Full-time and high wage workers are much more likely to have benefits, as the charts to the right indicates.
Benefits can be divided into as company-paid and employee-paid. Others, are often paid, at least in part, by employees. A notable example is medical insurance, which has risen in cost dramatically in recent decades and been shifted to employees by many American employers.
Some benefits, such as unemployment and worker's compensation, are federally required and arguably can be considered a right, rather than a benefit. American corporations often offer cafeteria plans to their employees. These plans would offer a menu and level of benefits for employees to choose from. In most instances, these plans are funded by both the employees and by the employer s.
The portion paid by the employees is deducted from their gross pay before federal and state taxes are applied. Some benefits would still be subject to the Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax FICA , such as k  and b contributions; however, health premiums, some life premiums, and contributions to flexible spending accounts are exempt from FICA.
The term perks is often used colloquially to refer to those benefits of a more discretionary nature. Common perks are take-home vehicles , hotel stays, free refreshments, leisure activities on work time golf , etc. They may also be given first chance at job promotions when vacancies exist. Traditional pensions, known as Defined benefit pension plans , provides employees with a guaranteed paycheck or lump sum in retirement. Because of the high cost and responsibility of the employer to finance the plan, in recent years many companies have phased out their pension plans sometimes replacing them with defined contribution deferred compensation plans, which are defined by contribution.
Deferred compensation is any arrangement where an employee receives wages after they have earned them. Deferred compensation plans in the US often have the benefit of employers' matching all or part of the employee contribution. ERISA, has many regulations, one of which is how much employee income can qualify. In an ERISA-qualified plan like a k plan , the company's contribution to the plan is tax deductible to the plan as soon as it's made, but not taxable to the individual participants until it's withdrawn.
Employee benefits provided through ERISA are not subject to state-level insurance regulation like most insurance contracts, but employee benefit products provided through insurance contracts are regulated at the state level. The tax benefits in qualifying plans were intended to encourage lower-to-middle income earners to save more, high income-earners already having high savings rates.
A Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation NQDC plan is a written agreement between an employer and an employee where the employee voluntarily agrees to have part of their compensation withheld by the company, invested on their behalf, and given to them at some pre-specified point in the future.
Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation is also sometimes referred to as deferred comp which technically would include qualifying deferred comp but the more common use of the phrase does not , DC, non-qualified deferred comp, NQDC or golden handcuffs. Income tax is deferred until the recipient receives payment. Depending on the firm and employee, DC can be optional or mandatory, contributions may come only from salary, or may allow gains from stock options.
The benefit feature of NQDC plans vary. Some plans provide matching contributions, which can be awarded at the boards discretion or by a formula. The contributions in the plan may earn a guaranteed minimum rate of "investment," or at a premium over the market rate. Deferred comp is only available to senior management and other highly compensated employees of companies.
Plans are usually put in place either at the request of executives or as an incentive by the Board of Directors. They're drafted by lawyers, recorded in the Board minutes with parameters defined. There's a doctrine called constructive receipt, which means an executive can't have control of the investment choices or the option to receive the money whenever he wants.
If he's allowed to do either of those 2 things or both, he often has to pay taxes on it right away. In a deferred comp plan, unlike an ERISA such as a k plan , the company doesn't get to deduct the taxes in the year the contribution is made, they deduct them the year the contribution becomes non-forfeitable.
If John keeps working there after , it doesn't matter because he was allowed to receive it or "constructively received" the money in Other circumstances around deferred comp. Most of the provisions around deferred comp are related to circumstances the employee's control such as voluntary termination , however deferred comp often has a clause that says in the case of the employee's death or permanent disability, the plan will immediately vest and the employee or estate can get the money.
Long-term incentives are paid five or at least three years out. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Executive pay in the United States. United States Department of Labor.
Wall Street Journal 03 March What You Need to Know. Conflict with Federal Law? Davis, Edge, Jerry T. Retrieved from " https: Webarchive template wayback links All articles with unsourced statements Articles with unsourced statements from June Views Read Edit View history.