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Madeline Lewis' Legislative History of IRC Nondiscrimination Provision Wins ACEBC Award

3L's Legislative History of IRC Nondiscrimination Provision Wins ACEBC Award

By Jenny Whalen
Oct. 30, 2013

When Michigan Law 3L Madeline Lewis joins the Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation division at Day Pitney LLP next year, she will do so having already won professional recognition among practitioners in her field.

Writing on the legislative history of the nondiscrimination provision in sections 401(a) and 410(b) of the Internal Revenue Code, Lewis was awarded the Sidney M. Perlstadt Memorial Award in the 2013 American College of Employee Benefits Counsel (ACEBC) Student Writing Competition.

Entitled, "The Legislative of History of Nondiscrimination," Lewis' essay argues that the nondiscrimination provision was enacted primarily as a means to control the use of qualified retirement plans to avoid and delay taxation.

"The nondiscrimination provision is a provision in the tax code that says if you're going to give qualified pension benefits to employees, you must do so on a nondiscriminatory basis, meaning a certain number of your non-highly compensated employees must get the same benefits as your highly compensated employees," Lewis said. "This provision was a result of reforms around the time of World War II to make sure that people didn't use pensions as a means to avoid taxes."

Researching the origins of this tax issue on the recommendation of Michigan Law lecturer and 1986 alumnus Andrew Stumpff, Lewis found an area of law that appealed both to her past as a history major and her future in the field of employee benefits.

"I would recommend that anyone with a passion for a specific area of law consider writing a paper in that area," Lewis said. "Develop your ideas independently and use the resources that are so plentiful at law school to educate yourself on that topic so that when you do graduate, you go into your practice area with a greater understanding of that area's foundations."

For Lewis, a former journalist, this paper is one of many she intends to write to establish her expertise in the field of employee benefits law.

"This is an intellectually challenging, communal area of law, and there are a lot of unanswered questions that I want to educate myself and others on," Lewis added.

As the recipient of the Sidney M. Perlstadt Memorial Award, Lewis will receive a cash prize and be honored at this year's ACEBC induction dinner and ceremony.

A second Michigan Law author, 2013 graduate Mark Franke, will also be honored for his essay proposing a framework for dealing with Detroit's public pension obligations in bankruptcy, which won the ACEBC competition's Clarin M. Schwartz Memorial Award.

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