Publication Date

6-15-2012

Abstract

[Excerpt] The practice of granting a company’s employees, officers, and directors options to purchase the company’s stock has become widespread among American businesses. According to Information Technology Associates, 15% to 20% of public companies offer stock options to employees as a part of their compensation package, and over 10 million employees receive them. During the technology company boom of the 1990s, they were especially important to start-up companies, allowing them to avoid paying large cash salaries to attract talent.

Employee stock options have been extolled as innovative compensation plans benefitting companies, stockholders, and employees. They have been condemned as schemes to enrich insiders at the expense of ordinary stockholders and as tax avoidance devices.

This report explains the tax treatment of various types of employee stock options recognized by the Internal Revenue Code, examines some of the issues that have arisen because of the real and perceived tax benefits accorded employee stock options, and describes key laws and regulations concerning stock options, and discusses the “book-tax” gap as it relates to stock options and S. 1375 (Ending Excessive Corporate Deductions for Stock Options Act).

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Suggested Citation
Bickley, J. M. (2012). Employee stock options: Tax treatment and tax issues. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.

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