It isn’t often that the Chief Security Officer sits down with the corporation’s tax counsel.  That’s changing, though – particularly as more and more security executives and attorneys on both sides of this conversation begin to understand the issues required to defend and explain the company’s security-related tax strategies and deductions.

Executive Protection: Why the CSO and Tax Counsel Need to Talk

One of the key issues is whether the corporation files a U.S. tax return.  If so, it may need to demonstrate to the Internal Revenue Service that a Title 26, CFR-compliant “bona fide business-oriented security concern” exists.  Why is this so important?  Because it allows the company to treat the costs associated with the company’s executive protection program as legitimately deductible expenses from gross income for tax reporting purposes.  If such a “bone fide business-oriented security concern” is deemed not to exist, then any security-related expenses incurred for a given executive may need to be treated as a taxable benefit on his or her personal return.  One of the large expenditures at the center of this issue may involve the company’s use of executive aircraft.  Other costs may include those associated with local transportation of the CEO between home and office or even security-related issues at the executive’s private residences.

An Independent Assessment is Required

The company cannot undertake this assessment itself.  The assessment – or rather, the independent security study, as it is referred to in Title 26 – must be completed by an independent third party. While it is possible to scope an assessment very narrowly around the IRS’s requirements, it almost always makes sense – for largely the same cost and level of effort – to conduct a broader assessment of the company’s executive protection-related risks, requirements and capabilities as a whole.  This is a pretty savvy way of aligning the enterprise’s objectives on several fronts at once – from business, tax, risk management and strategic security perspectives. Even though CSOs are generally not hired for their tax and accounting expertise, their leadership in this arena is one way many security executives are demonstrating security’s value in alignment with the goals and priorities of other enterprise departments and functional programs.

Getting More Information

This is an important component of many, but not all, executive protection programs and executive protection services – and for some enterprises, a consistent component of their security strategy, undertaken regularly on a two-year cycle.  Ask your tax counsel about this issue.  Or give me a call and I would be happy to give you more background.  We’ve supported Fortune-ranked enterprises on this for many years and I can provide you with some perspective on what has worked for their CSOs and tax teams.