There are many different share option schemes and this can cause confusion. A simple google search “employee share options explained” gives 79.1 million results. Most of these results try to cover the multitude of scheme constructions, variations and possibilities; an almost impossible task.
How do I get maximum benefit from my share options?
By Barry Davys
This article is published on: 29th August 2023
Share option schemes vary from country to country, from company to company and even to level of employee seniority or skill. The reality is, despite all these search results you will only know the full details of your share options arrangement when you get your contract.
Share options are, however, becoming more and more a part of pay packages. I have a reasonable proportion of my clients with these options and several have been able to exercise the right to sell at a generous profit. The tech sector is particularly keen on share options and their employees are keen too as they are fast growth companies which increases the chance of selling the options at a profit. Other sector companies also run share option schemes.
What is it about share options that is significant for you as an individual (and your family), especially if you are lucky enough to have a significant profit?
- Before you leave your company, check what the rules are for your particular scheme. Leaving clauses can include
→ loss of your options
→ Compulsory sale of shares back to the company
→ Sale of the shares in the open market but within a set time
- Shares you are entitled to can be for a parent company of your employer, the regional company e.g. XYZ Europe of the parent company and even the shares of the company that directly employs you e.g. XYZ SA. It is critical to know which company you have your share options in. I have seen a very sad error when someone sold options based on XYZ Europe share price when the shares were for actual only in XYZ SA. It resulted in a loss instead of profit on the sale of the share options
- Tax on share options schemes is based on where you as an individual live, not where the company that issues the scheme is based
- In Spain, profit from share options is added to your employment income and taxed at the corresponding top rate
- Tax planning is a possibility when selling the shares. However, you must do this before you sell the shares
- Also, before selling your shares, view the sale as a business owner. You may only be a minority owner but the shares do give you ownership. Assess the sale as if you own and are selling the whole business. This means looking at the likelihood of future growth, increase in profits, and how healthy the balance sheet is. As an employee you will have insight into the company prospects. You will have a gut feel about the prospects for the next year or two. Use this insight to help you decide when to sell for the best profit
- Options in a US company can result in you having assets in the US. Whilst inheritance tax (estate tax) is only payable on estates valued at more than $12.29 M (2023) for US citizens, the starting value for non-resident, non-US citizens is only $60,000. This is not a typo, it is $60,000. Above this figure, inheritance tax starts at 18% and rises to 40%If you have options over this figure you can mitigate the problem by selling some of your options. Before doing so, take professional advice from a financial planner who is familiar with this problem. Your personal circumstances will dictate whether you should reduce your US inheritance tax liability by selling some options.
Share options can give a valuable boost to your financial security. Yet, I often see the proceeds of a sale be treated as a windfall and spent quickly and inadvisably. Treats are fun and a healthy part of life. Perhaps, however, use only part of the proceeds for treats. This related article, What to consider when you have sold “your” business gives excellent insight on how to benefit from the proceeds of a sale.
If you are considering selling your share options or if you have share options and wish to discuss your situation, you can book a call with me Barry Davys, using my online system. The system allows you to choose a time that is convenient for you for the call.