Exercise Stock Options: Everything You Need to Know

Remember that there are tax implications to exercising your stock options. Make sure that you understand all of the legal and tax implications involved before before exercising your stock options. All stock options come with an expiration date, that is, the last date by which the option holder must exercise her option or lose it. Is the company an acquisition target? Cash exercise — wherein payment has to be made in cash for shares purchased by exercise of an ESO — is the only route for option exercise allowed by some employers. Options granted through an employee stock purchase plan or incentive stock option ISO plan are considered statutory stock options. Owning stock options does not mean owning stock.

Stock options give you the right to buy and sell shares at a predetermined price. You can contract to buy stock options or you may receive options on company stock as part of your employee compensation. You exercise your option when you use it to make a stock trade for the agreed-on amount.

Strike Price

The main benefit to this choice is avoidance of taxes. Keep in mind, however, that you must hold the shares used in the exchange for a stated period of time typically one or two years in order to avoid the transaction being treated as a sale and incurring tax costs.

Tax implications will play a key in role in your decisions on when and how to exercise your stock options. Remember, poor choices can have a devastating effect on your financial well being. Always consider consulting with a tax expert before exercising any stock option. The IRS recognizes two types of stock options: Options granted through an employee stock purchase plan or incentive stock option ISO plan are considered statutory stock options.

Tax Considerations for Incentive Stock Options. There are three main forms of taxes that must be considered when exercising an ISO: When you exercise your options and purchase your shares at a fair market value higher than the grant price, but do not immediately sell your shares, you will likely be required to pay a federal AMT, and possibly a state AMT.

In regard to long-term capital gains taxes, consider that you will pay a more favorable long-term capital gains tax rate if you exercise your options, hold the shares for more than a year, and then sell your shares more than two years after the option grant date. You then hold these shares for at least one year before selling them and pay taxes at the combined federal and state marginal long-term capital gains tax rate of The AMT will be credited against the taxes you owe when you sell your exercised stock earlier.

Alternatively, if you believe that your company's stock will appreciate rapidly, it may be worth exercising your stock options early and paying the higher tax rates.

The result may be to accumulate a great deal of wealth from owning a larger piece of a profitable company. There are many examples of employees at startups, like Instagram, who became millionaires overnight from their stock options alone.

Financial decisions can be extremely complicated, even for the most experienced investor. Make sure that you understand all of the legal and tax implications involved before before exercising your stock options. You can begin the process by discussing your situation directly with the legal professionals on UpCounsel's marketplace.

UpCounsel gives you access to some of the nation's best lawyers from top law schools like Yale and Harvard. Get all the facts you need first, so you'll be in a position to make the best decisions about your financial future. Thanks for using UpCounsel! We're offering repeat customers free access to our legal concierge to help with your next job. Our concierge can help you create the perfect job posting, find attorneys with specific experience and answer any questions about using UpCounsel or working with our attorneys.

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What Is a Stock Option? What is the Option Expiration Date? Here are four reasons to consider exercising your options before the expiration date: Exercise-and-Hold You purchase your option shares with cash and hold onto them. Exercise-and-Sell You purchase your option shares and then and immediately sell them.

Exercise-and-Sell-to-Cover You exercise the option and then immediately sell just enough shares to cover the purchase price, commissions, fees and taxes. Tax Considerations in Exercising Stock Options Tax implications will play a key in role in your decisions on when and how to exercise your stock options. You exercise 5, options and purchase 5, shares.

Was this document helpful? The Best Lawyers For Less. Content Approved by UpCounsel. Incentive Stock Options Stock Grants vs. Talk to Concierge Speak to our concierge, who will help you create your job post to get the best bids. Another alternative is to borrow from your broker to buy the stock, then reimburse him with some of your new shares. One risk of exercising your options is that your timing might be off.

A week after you exercise a call option, the stock could double in price; if you'd waited to exercise, you'd have made more money. A bigger risk is that the stock does the opposite of what you expect. It's less of a loss, however, than if you bought the stock. Your options are worthless if you don't exercise them before they expire. If the stock keeps going up, waiting until right before the option expires gives you the most bang for your buck.

If you see danger signals about the stock, exercising your options quickly is safer. During the s tech-stock bubble, some Silicon Valley employees exercised their stock options early, then sold off the shares they bought. When the tech bubble collapsed, they had cash instead of a pile of suddenly worthless options.

A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history.

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What does 'Exercise' mean Exercise means to put into effect the right specified in a contract. In options trading, the option holder has the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell the underlying instrument at a specified price on or . Mar 13,  · For example, if the current stock price is $75 per share and your strike price is $50 per share, then by exercising your option you can buy the shares at $50 and immediately sell them for the current market price of $75 for a $25 per share profit (less applicable taxes, fees, and expenses). Exercising a stock option means purchasing the shares of stock per the stock option agreement. The benefit of the option to the option holder comes when the grant price is lower than the market value of the stock at the time the option is exercised.