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August 29, Non-Qualified Stock Options: Basics Features and Taxation Two main types of stock options are offered to employees of technology companies: non-qualified stock options and incentive stock options. This article covers the basic features and tax treatment of non-qualified stock options.
In contrast, incentive stock options, or ISOs, are qualified to receive favorable income tax treatment. Basic Features Your non-qualified stock option is a legal agreement between you and the company.
It spells out the terms under which the company is willing to sell its stock to you. The price you can buy stock is known as the exercise price or strike price.
Your option may have a short grace period after you terminate employment during which you can exercise your option.
You then pay the exercise price for the number of shares you buy. Your stock option gives you the right but not the obligation to buy shares of the company stock. Stock options are normally subject option and their features vesting provisions designed to encourage employees to stay with the company.
Here's what all these terms mean: Option: You pay for the option, or right, to make the transaction you want. You are under no obligation to do so. Derivative: The option derives its value from that of the underlying asset. This underlying value is one of the determinants of the option's price.
Vesting means you may exercise your option only after you have worked for the company the required time. Vesting then continues monthly. As you vest, you gain the right to buy a number of shares proportional to vesting completed.
Once you exercise your option and buy shares typically after they have vestedyou can hold the shares or you can sell them. Selling the shares typically requires that the shares be tradable on a public stock exchange, such as after a startup company has had its initial public offering IPO of stock or as with a mature company whose stock has been trading publicly for many years. Under some circumstances, you may be option and their features to sell shares of private company stock.
The strike price may be set by reference to the spot price market price of the underlying security or commodity on the day an option is taken out, or it may be fixed at a discount or at a premium. The seller has the corresponding obligation to fulfill the transaction i.
You will owe income tax once you exercise your non-qualified stock option. For this reason, many option holders sell at least enough shares when they exercise their options to pay the tax owed.
Another common approach is a same-day exercise and sale, in which all exercised shares are sold immediately once they are purchased. This income is usually reported on your paystub.
Call and Put Options Defined
There are no tax consequences when you first receive your non-qualified stock option, only when you exercise your option. Also, while there are no direct alternative minimum tax AMT consequences to exercising a non-qualified stock option as there are for ISOshigher reported income may subject you to AMT.
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When you exercise your option and buy shares, your cost basis in those shares is the stock price on the day you exercised. When you later sell your shares, taxation follows the normal rules for gains and losses on investments.
If you hold the shares for one year or paying options, any gain is taxed at the favorable long-term capital gains rates.
If you hold the shares for less than one year, any gain is taxed at your ordinary income tax rates, which are usually higher.
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Some pre-IPO companies have stock option plans that allow option holders to exercise their stock options before they vest. Early exercising private company stock options in conjunction with making a Section 83 b tax election can convert a large portion of taxable income from ordinary income into capital gain. This will reduce taxes paid.
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With an 83 b election, you have your option taxed at early option and their features before the company price appreciates and before the option vests.
If you have non-qualified stock options, be sure to understand their basic features such as exercise price, vesting schedule, early exercise availability, grace period on termination, and end date. Also be sure to understand the tax consequences of exercising your options and selling shares to aid in your overall tax planning.
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