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Annotated diagram of Schedule DTax errors can be costly! Don't draw unwanted attention from the IRS. Our Tax Center explains and illustrates the tax rules for sales of company stock, W-2s, withholding, estimated taxes, AMT, and more.


Nonqualified stock options (commonly abbreviated NQSOs) are the most common type of option. Browse an overview of this section below, or explore the subtopics to the left. See also the NQSO sections of the Tax Center.

Test Your Knowledge Test and improve your knowledge with our NEW! NQSOs quiz and its study guide in the answer key.

Test Your Knowledge Test and improve your knowledge with our Stock Options quiz and its study guide in the answer key.

Listen to our podcast on the basics of stock options, or watch our videos on core concepts and taxes.

  Articles   FAQs  

Stock Options 101: The Essentials

Matt Simon
Your company has granted you stock options. Now what? This article explains the essential facts that you must know to understand your stock options and make the most of them.

VIDEO! Employee Stock Options: Core Aspects To Know

Bruce Brumberg
With expert insights from the editor-in-chief of, this video covers the essential aspects of employee stock options that you must know to make the most of them, including the key concepts of vesting, exercise, and the option term. Running time: 4:12.

Stock Option Fundamentals (Part 1): Know Your Goals And Terms

Marilyn Renninger
Stock options aren't just for the folks on mahogany row any more. But turning stock options into the real green stuff takes some know-how. You need to know certain features of your grant to decide when to exercise your options and sell the stock.

VIDEO! Employee Stock Options: NQSO Taxation

Bruce Brumberg
To make the most of nonqualified stock options (NQSOs), you must understand their taxation. Learn the tax basics of NQSOs in this video, which features clear and concise explanations by the editor-in-chief of Running time: 2:58.

Getting The Most From Your Stock Options This is premium content

William Baldwin
Podcast included! Stock options are a major element of your long-term incentive compensation, offering tremendous potential to accumulate personal wealth. Given your stock options' complexity, it’s essential to develop a strategy to realize their full potential.

Stock Option Fundamentals (Part 3): Income Taxes And Withholding This is premium content

Marilyn Renninger
Here's some advice for financial fitness: take stock of taxes before you exercise! When and how you exercise your stock options can have a major impact on how much tax and which taxes you'll pay.

Stock Option Terms: What You Can Expect This is premium content

Richard Friedman
UPDATES! Get a sense of what you should, and should not, expect in the terms of your stock option grant. A major survey of companies looks at trends in vesting schedules, post-termination exercise rules, and other plan features.

Stock Option Fundamentals (Part 2): Vesting And Expiration This is premium content

Marilyn Renninger
You cannot cash in your stock options immediately. The options must first be vested, and you don't own them forever.

Stock Option Fundamentals (Part 4): NQSO Taxation This is premium content

Marilyn Renninger
You're ready to delve deeper into how and when different taxes apply to NQSOs. You need to consider taxes at exercise and at sale to put together a strategy that maximizes the value of your options.

How To Avoid The Most Common Stock Option Mistakes (Part 1)

Beth Walker
Avoid the mistakes others made with options during past ups and downs in the stock markets. Situations where common errors tend to arise can be classed into nine categories, including option-term expiration, job termination, corporate mergers, financial planning, and various life events.

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What are the top 10 questions I should ask about my stock options?

You should know the answers to the following questions. Understanding the topics involved will help you make the most of your stock options and prevent costly mistakes...

How is the spread at exercise of an NQSO taxed for federal income-tax purposes?

The full spread for a nonqualified stock option is included in your gross income for the year of exercise as ordinary income...

When I hold NQSO shares after exercise, what tax applies when I later sell the stock?

Capital gains tax applies on the amount of your gains above...

What are capital gains and capital losses? What are the capital gains tax rates?

Capital gain is income that arises from the sale of a capital asset. Gain from the sale of securities held for investment, such as shares acquired from stock compensation...

Is the spread at exercise of a nonqualified stock option subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes? This is premium content

Yes. The spread at exercise of an NQSO is considered "wages" for the purposes of...

Is the exercise spread of NQSOs subject to federal unemployment taxes?

There is a federal tax (called FUTA) to help fund unemployment benefits. FUTA is imposed on...

Is the spread at exercise of a nonqualified stock option subject to state and local taxes? This is premium content

Many states, along with some counties and cities, impose...

May I have my employer withhold more taxes upon my exercise of an NQSO than the minimum required amount? This is premium content

Your actual tax bracket may be higher or lower than the mandatory federal withholding rate. Whether your company can withhold more depends on...

What is backup withholding? How do I prevent it or recover it? This is premium content

Backup withholding is a form of tax withholding on income from stock sales, along with interest income, dividends, or other types of payments that are reported on Form 1099. Your brokerage firm is required to make backup withholding if you are...

How does a non-US resident reclaim US backup withholding? This is premium content

If you are a nonresident alien and do not complete and file Form W-8BEN with the IRS upon receiving stock-sale proceeds, such as those stemming from equity awards, your brokerage firm will assess backup withholding on the proceeds. To reclaim backup withholding, take the following steps...

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