While performance share plans are extremely variable in their features and terminology, they all have basic common elements that you should understand. Be sure to know the answers to the following questions. Learning about the topics involved will help you make the most of your performance share grant and prevent costly mistakes.

1. How do performance share grants differ from normal time-based restricted stock and RSUs?

2. What are the performance goals and metrics as stated in your company's plan? Are the measures relative to other companies in the same industry or to a market index?

3. What is the performance period during which the goal must be reached? How soon after the end of the period will I receive the shares?

4. Is there a sliding scale for share payout? Are there minimum, maximum, and target-level payouts? If so, what are they?

5. Is there an additional holding period on the shares I receive after they are paid out?

6. What would happen to your performance share grant if you were to lose your job, retire, become disabled, or die?

7. How does tax withholding work upon share payout?

8. Is there an election to defer the delivery of the shares (and the taxes) beyond the normal time of share payout?

9. Do I get dividends with performance share awards?

10. What happens to my performance share grant if my company is acquired?

In addition, you should understand the tax treatment, the reporting on your Form W-2, and the related tax return reporting. This website's Tax Center covers all tax topics involving stock compensation.