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M. John Burgess

Bank of America Plaza
101 E. Kennedy Boulevard
Suite 2800
Tampa, FL 33602


Vicki Wray

John brings a depth of experience to his law practice. Focused on employee benefit plans, he is a certified public accountant with an extensive tax and accounting background, which includes experience as an auditor with a large accounting firm. Clients draw on John’s ability to take a 360 degree view of their benefit plans and how they affect other areas of their business. His significant experience includes:

  • Tax-qualified pension plans
  • Employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs)
  • Health and welfare plans
  • Executive compensation arrangements

He routinely counsels clients on plan documentation (drafting plan documents, SPDs, amendments, and plan administrative procedures), plan qualification, and other benefit plan issues, including tax and fiduciary matters. John regularly represents clients before the Internal Revenue Service(IRS) and Department of Labor (DOL) in benefits matters. In addition, clients draw on his wide-ranging experience in benefits issues in the context of business mergers and acquisitions, including assistance with due diligence on benefit plans sponsored by an acquired company.

Currently, John devotes a significant portion of his practice to ESOPs, advising clients on matters such as plan design, distribution policies, the structure and implementation of ESOP transactions, and administration matters. Active within the ESOP community, he frequently presents on ESOP issues at national and regional conferences.

Practicing for more than 15 years, John is also well-versed in individual, corporate, partnership, and estate and gift taxation issues at both the federal and state levels. He uses such knowledge to assist clients in tax planning and compliance issues, including matters for international employees and non-profit organizations.

Clients value John’s significant experience assisting in the correction of errors in both qualified and non-qualified retirement plans, including representing clients in Voluntary Compliance Program applications before the IRS. He regularly assists clients with executive employment agreements, severance agreements, change in control agreements and non-qualified deferred compensation plans, including compliance with Internal Revenue Code Sections 409A, 457(b) and 457(f).

Outside the office, John and his family are fans of Cleveland and Tampa Bay sports. He also plays golf and helps to lead an early morning workout group near his home.

Representative Matters

  • Assists clients with retirement and welfare benefit plan designs and implementation, including equity compensation programs.
  • Provides fiduciary training and compliance advice in the administration of employee benefit plans subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
  • Regularly provides employee benefit and ERISA expertise for the merger and acquisition activities of public and private companies, including due diligence reviews, review and negotiation of acquisition agreements, and counseling clients through integration activities.
  • Represents clients in employee stock ownership plan transactions.
  • Represents clients in matters with the Office of Chief Accountant of the Employee Benefits Security Administration relating to Form 5500 compliance.

Professional and Community Affiliations

  • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
  • The Florida Bar, Tax Section
  • Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants
  • National Center for Employee Ownership
  • The ESOP Association
  • Tampa Bay Pension Council

News Releases


11.29.2018Client Alert: IRS Proposes New Rules for Hardship Withdrawals
03.01.2018Aiding Employees After a Disaster Via Sec. 139, Journal of Accountancy Tax Practice Corner (2018)
02.19.2018New Disability Claims Procedures for ERISA Plans Become Effective on April 1, 2018
10.10.2017Client Alert: Congress Provides More Hurricane Relief for Employees and Employers
09.25.2017Client Alert: How Employers Can Aid in Hurricane Irma Recovery
March/April 2011Co-Author, "ESOP Distribution Policies," Compensation & Benefits Review
January/February 2011"Strategies for ESOPs Under the New Diversification Requirements," Compensation & Benefits Review
April 2009"The COBRA Subsidy in the Stimulus Package: What It Is and What You Need to Do Now," Employment Law Strategist
2002"When Tax Law and Indian Law Collide: How Pull-Tab Games Got to the Supreme Court," Cleveland State Law Review

Events and Presentations

10.03.2017National Center for Employee Ownership Fall ESOP Forum
04.12.2016"Unique Issues in Starting and Sustaining an ESOP in Small Companies," NCEO 2016 Employee Ownership Conference, Minneapolis, MN
03.18.2016"The IRS Determination Letter Program and your ESOP," ESOP Mid-Atlantic Chapter Meeting, Williamsburg, VA
04.23.2015"Terminating or Freezing Your ESOP," NCEO 2015 Employee Ownership Conference, Denver, CO
03.23.2015"Life After Dudenhoeffer," ESOP Invitational, Pinehurst, NC
04.08.2014"Basic ESOP Distribution Rules," NCEO 2014 Employee Ownership Conference, Atlanta, GA
03.24.2014"Regulatory Update," ESOP Invitational, Williamsburg, VA
04.25.2013"Basic ESOP Distribution Rules," NCEO/Beyster Institute 2013 Employee Ownership Conference, Seattle, WA
03.25.2013"Basic ESOP Administration," ESOP Invitational, Pinehurst, NC
04.25.2012"Basic ESOP Distribution Rules," NCEO/Beyster Institute 2012 Employee Ownership Conference, Minneapolis, MN

Alternate biographies





  • LL.M., Case Western Reserve University School of Law, 2003
  • J.D., magna cum laude, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University, 2002
  • B.B.A., cum laude, University of Cincinnati, 1997

Bar and Court Admissions

  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Ohio
  • United States Tax Court