Companies grant early-exercise stock options mainly to limit the taxes you will pay at exercise or later at the sale of the stock. However, an exercise of incentive stock options (ISOs) can have negative tax consequences in a disqualifying disposition (e.g. an early sale of ISO stock). This article reviews the tax effects of early-exercise ISOs and compares the tax results to those of early-exercise nonqualified stock options.
The biggest surprise for employees with stock options at pre-IPO companies is often the amount of taxes they need to pay when their company goes public or is acquired. When they exercise their options after the IPO or as part of the acquisition, selling the stock at the same time, a large chunk of their proceeds goes to pay federal and state taxes. This article looks at ways to reduce this tax burden.
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Deciding whether to exercise now or later has always been difficult. It has become even more confusing with a twist at pre-IPO companies that allows you to exercise options immediately upon grant.
Early-exercise options are associated with risks and tax complexities. These issues, however, should not scare you from taking advantage of them when you know how to maximize their value.
Featuring reverse vesting, early-exercise stock options are usually granted only by pre-IPO companies. The IRS regulations on ISOs increase risk in early-exercise options, making it crucial that you understand the tax treatment.
The final rules clarify and consolidate a tangle of proposed, temporary, and final regulations, as well as other guidance, that governed the taxation of ISOs, including rules for disqualifying dispositions.