Articles Tagged with Stock Options

Fotolia_180008799_Subscription_Monthly_M-300x200Startup companies often use stock options to attract new quality talent. If you have decided to do so, there are some special considerations when deciding the best approach to compensate your employees. Two common approaches include restricted stock and stock options.

What is Restricted Stock?

Restricted stock is a stock plan that gives particular employees a right to purchase stock shares. These restricted shares may be at a discounted value, fair market value, or even at no cost. Despite the right to buy the restricted stock, the shares are not actually owned by the employee until a particular triggering event occurs. For example, a company may restrict the transfer of the stock until a particular amount of time has elapsed (e.g., three years from the date of hire). Another example would be a condition regarding company performance (e.g., $1m in gross revenue). The employee then takes possession after the triggering event occurs, thereby lifting the “restriction” on the stock.

Issuing equity in a company is a popular form of employee compensation. This trend is especially popular here in Silicon Valley, where startup companies often defer cash compensation to their employees in exchange for a share of future growth through the issuance of equity. If you own a non-public company, you may wish to compensate your employees partially by issuing them equity in the company. Equity aligns incentives between employers and employees while enabling employees to build up wealth over a longer term. Equity issuance can be done in different ways, including by issuing restricted stock grants or by issuing stock options. Each of these forms of compensation can have its own pros and cons and you want to make sure you carefully analyze the decision and decide which is best for your circumstances.

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Restricted Stock

Restricted stock is a stock award that will not fully transfer to the employee until certain conditions have been met. These conditions can include a certain length of time working for your company, meeting certain performance or financial goals or milestones, and more. These restrictions can be helpful for owners to ensure that employees do not simply walk away from your venture and that they must wait for the award to vest before they receive the stock benefits. In addition, by making an 83(b) election with the IRS within a certain period of time after the restricted stock grant, employees can save significantly on the tax burden once the stock vests. If no election is made, however, employees may face hefty tax liability at the time of vesting depending on the value of the shares. Restricted stock is less risky and easier to manage in comparison to regular stock.  However, restricted stock has less favorable tax treatment than options.

Many companies issue stock options as a form of compensation or as an incentive to various parties. At their most basic, stock options are the right of a party to buy company stock at a predetermined price for a period of time. Generally, the agreed-upon price is similar to the market price at the time at which the option is issued. Two of the most commonly issued types of stock options are Incentive Stock Options (ISOs) and Nonstatutory Stock Options (NSOs). The information below provides some basic information about each type and highlights some of the differences between the two. For specific information regarding these types of stock options and how they may affect your business, call the Structure Law Group today to speak with a qualified business attorney.

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Incentive Stock Options

Incentive stock options can only be issued to employees, which means that members of the board of directors or independent contractors cannot be granted ISOs. These options are not subject to federal income tax when they are granted or exercised, but alternative minimum tax