RABBI TRUST: Definition + Detailed Guide

RABBI TRUST: Definition + Detailed Guide
RABBI TRUST: Definition + Detailed Guide

To allow your employer to contribute more than the IRS limit each year, the RPB offers the Rabbi Trust.

 The amount paid by the employer to the rabbi trust is not considered part of the employee’s salary and is deferred from taxes.  This means that the employee does not have to pay any tax on this amount until he actually receives money from the trust.

What Is Rabbi Trust?

Rabbi Trust is an unqualified deferred compensation plan in which funds are invested in an irrevocable trust and saved for the benefit of employees for retirement. 

Although the funds are earmarked for your retirement, such as your 403 (b) account, there are important differences, especially regarding the distribution that RPBs are here to help you understand.

How Does Rabbi Trust Work?

Because the assets of the rabbi trust are subordinated to the creditors of the employer, the trust will be considered a “trust of the principal.”  This means that the trust’s assets are treated as employer’s assets for tax purposes. 

As a result, deductions are not allowed when the employer contributes to the trust and the employer is currently taxing any income from trust assets.  The employer is not allowed to deduct until the year in which the participant or beneficiary recognizes the income from the distribution from the trust.

In the context of the employer-employee relationship, the doctrine of constructive receipt provides that income is included in the gross income of the employee in the tax year in which it is actually or constructively received by the employee.

Income is considered “constructively” received in the tax year during which it is credited to the employee’s account, allocated or otherwise provided so that the employee can receive it at any time.

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Rabbi Trust Example

For example, an employee receives $60,000 a year in wages.  Every month, the employer contributes $500 to the rabbi trust.  Employee tax income is $60,000 per year.

An additional $6,000 is not considered taxable income until the employee withdraws money or receives an actual check from the trust.  This allows the employee’s assets to grow with the tax deferred within the trust.

Trust is irrevocable and uncontrollable to employers.  After the employer contributes to the rabbi’s trust, he or she is not allowed to return the money.

What Is Rabbi Trust Administration?

Rabbi trusts are commonly used as financing instruments for deferred compensation plans such as “top-hat” plans and excess benefit plans (these arrangements are also sometimes referred to as supplementary pension plans or SERPs). 

Because rabbi trusts are not eligible pension funds under Section 401 (a) of the IRC, contributions to the trust are not deducted by the employer until the plan’s payments to the plan are subject to income tax.

The growing interest in unqualified deferred compensation agreements increases the likelihood that trustees of qualified pension plans will also be asked to act as a trustee of the employer’s rabbi trust. 

But the arrangements with the rabbi are not trusts of section 401 (a) of the Tax Code (IRC) and represent various issues regarding risk management, compliance and taxation by qualified trust trusts. 

Rabbi Trust Accounting

In a typical rabbi trust, such as an unqualified unfunded deferred compensation plan, the employer implements a trust to pay future compensation to employees or independent contractors. 

The trust is usually designed in such a way that the employer owns the trust in accordance with the rules of the trust, which provides the right to tax any trust income to the employer. 

A property planning and taxation strategy may arise for employees who are beneficiaries of the rabbi’s trust and do not require all deferred compensation and any accrued interest.  The author explains the general rules and benefits of rabbinical trusts, as well as the role that split-dollar life insurance agreements can play in leaving these trusts.

Origin Of Rabbi Trust

Because rabbi trusts, named after an unqualified synagogue plan for their rabbi’s synagogue, are not covered by IRC section 401, the annual interest income on the trust building is taxed.  The timing of the inclusion in the employee’s contribution to an unqualified plan depends on whether the plan is funded or unfunded. 

If the plan’s assets are deposited solely for the benefit of the employee, for example, in a conditional custody account owned by the employee, the plan is considered a funded plan. 

According to the financial plan, the employee should normally include contributions to the plan before gross income in the first year in which his or her rights to the contributions may be transferred or are not subject to a significant risk of forfeiture.


What Is Rabbi Trust Taxation?

Your employer is considered the owner of the trust and is responsible for paying all taxes and reporting all trust income.

As an employee, you will not pay taxes on your part until you start receiving the distribution.  But even then, the trustee is responsible for withholding all relevant federal, state, and local taxes before you receive your payments.

For example, suppose your salary is $150,000 a year, and the company you work for invests an additional $1,500 a month in a rabbi’s trust as payment.  The time of tax will come; you will pay taxes only from your salary of 150,000 dollars.  Contributions to the rabbi’s trust will increase without tax until retirement.

Advantages Of  Rabbi Trust

  • In a rabbi’s trust, employees’ assets can grow tax-free until they decide to withdraw money.
  • The main purpose of the rabbi’s trust is to protect unqualified employee benefits.  Many firms set up trusts to improve executive promises.
  • Shareholders and the financial community recognize the use of slave trusts as a legitimate and even beneficial corporate practice.
  • There are no tax breaks for firms that restrict the use of a rabbinic trust, unlike other forms of trust.

  Disadvantages Of Rabbi Trust

  • The risk that the trust’s assets will be seized by the company’s creditors in the event of bankruptcy is a major drawback for participants.
  • An employee who is considering a deferred compensation agreement in the form of a trust should consider the company’s financial condition in the future.
  • When you take the distribution from your trust account, the money is considered as an additional salary, not retirement income.

 Rabbi Trust FAQ

At What Point Does Rabbi Trust Provide Tax Deduction To An Employer?

Rabbi trust does not provide the employer with any tax rebates until the year in which the employee receives benefits from the trust.  In this case, the employer may make deductions from taxable income in the amount of the distribution of earmarked funds to the employee.  This makes its use limited compared to other types of trusts. 

Can A Company Claim The Assets Held By The Rabbi Trust?

Rabbi trust is most often used by the employer to provide a source of funds to meet the employer’s obligations to managers under the ineligible benefits program.  Under federal and state law, the company’s general creditors may claim assets that are in the slave trust in the event of insolvency.

Is Rabbi Trust A Smart Choice?

Rabbi trusts allow employers to help certain employees set aside part of their income and increase their qualified retirement plans.  Employers should consider the cost of deferring the deduction and payment of income tax, and employees should consider the economic health of the employer.  Employees who do not require the use of all or part of their deferred compensation or do not wish to pay income tax on a prospective distribution should consider the benefits of what is called “rabbi rescue”.

What Is IRS Model For Rabbi Trust?

  Because taxpayers cannot depend on the PLR ​​of other taxpayers (Private Letter Ruling), many employers have submitted PLRs for their project trusts after the initial rabbinical PLR trust was granted.  In the end, the IRS decided to limit the issuance of PLR.  To avoid this, the US Internal Revenue Service has published Tax Procedure 92-64, which restricts future applications of PLR.  The IRS states that a future PLR ​​will only be granted if the employer confirms that the trust corresponds to the rabbinic’s model language of trust.  PLR will only be awarded in exceptional cases for a trust that does not meet these criteria.  Therefore, few employers applied for a PLR after the exemplary rabbinic trust language was published.


The rabbi trust increases the employee’s financial security because the assets stored in it are not subordinated to the employer and are often set up as irrevocable.  Therefore, as soon as the employer contributes to the rabbi’s fund, he will not be able to return the money.  In addition, employees are not required to pay taxes on the amount of money that the employer contributes to the trust, as it is not considered part of their salary.  This means that until the employee actually receives money from the trust, he will not be required to pay taxes on this amount.

  When you’re considering how to incorporate your Rabbi Trust balance into your retirement savings plan, we suggest you discuss distribution options and tax implications with a tax professional to make sure you fully understand the impact on your finances after retirement.


thompsoncoburn.comRabbi trusts: Taxation basics and drafting beyond the model language

cpajournal.com – Implementing and Exiting Rabbi Trusts

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