Signing with the Team: Strategies for Employees in .NET

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The Department of Finance had been under pressure over the last few years to help Canadian corporations particularly high-tech businesses attract and retain top-notch, talented workers and make our tax treatment of employee stock options more competitive with conditions in the United States The outcome The 2000 federal budget proposed to allow employees to defer the taxable bene t from exercising employee stock options for publicly listed shares until the disposition of the shares, subject to an annual $100,000 limit, which I ll talk more about in a minute Employees who sell their shares will be eligible to claim the 50-percent stock option deduction in the year the bene t is included in income The rules also apply to employee options to acquire units of a mutual fund trust By the way, employee stock options granted by CCPCs are not affected by the proposed measure (we ve been able to defer the taxable bene t on these types of options until the year of sale for some time now) Who is eligible for this deferral If you re an employee who, at the time the option was granted, dealt with your employer (or any related company) at arm s length and was not a speci ed shareholder (generally, one who owns 10 percent or more of the company s shares), then you may be eligible What options are eligible An eligible option is one under which the shares to be acquired are ordinary common shares; the shares are of a class of shares traded on a prescribed Canadian or foreign stock exchange, and the total of all amounts payable to acquire the shares, including the exercise price and any amount payable to acquire the options, is not less than the fair market value of the shares at the time the option is granted Follow me You should be aware that the rules apply to eligible options exercised after February 27, 2000, regardless of when the option was granted or became vested ( rst became exercisable) Now, back to the $100,000 limit You ll be limited to exercising $100,000 worth of options per year of vesting to enjoy the deferral If you exercise more than this amount, the taxable bene t arising on the excess options will be taxed in the year you exercise the options (not the year you sell the shares) The $100,000 limit
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applies to the value of the stock options in the year that they vest (the year that you rst have the right to exercise the options under the option agreement), and not the year you exercise the options The value of a stock option here is simply the fair market value of the underlying share at the time the option was granted, and the $100,000 limit applies across all stock option plans of the employer corporation and related corporations Finally, the taxable bene t will be deferred until the time you dispose of the shares acquired under the option or, if earlier, the time you die or become a non-resident of Canada for tax purposes What are the reporting requirements If you exercise stock options that qualify for the deferral, be sure to: Notify your employer in writing of the amount of the stock option bene t you want to defer The deadline for options exercised in 2006 is January 15, 2007 Your stock option bene t could be subject to payroll withholdings unless you submit your noti cation immediately after exercising your options (some provinces may still levy payroll withholding taxes) Designate the options that will provide the greatest tax deferral Consider whether it s bene cial to sell some of your shares within 30 days after exercising your options (This would allow you to designate those option shares as the specific shares being sold rather than having to blend the cost of these shares with other shares you might already own in the same company Doing so could reduce your taxable capital gain on the sale) File Form T1212, Statement of Deferred Stock Option Benefits, with your tax return Will this deferral really help you While it may seem like a windfall that the tax collector is willing to defer the taxation of your stock option bene ts, you re not likely to take advantage of this provision if you re handling your stock options properly You see, in most cases you shouldn t exercise your stock options unless you re planning to sell the shares right away What s the bene t of exercising your stock options if you re going to hold the shares for any length of time beyond that exercise date Tim, my shares could go up in value if I hold them; isn t that a
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