Filing an 83(b) Election for Vested Stock: An Actionable Guide

Man working on computer presumably considering vested stock.

A vesting provision is a great tool when employees of a start-up company receive payment in the form of equity, also referred to as vested stocks. It especially comes in handy if a founder or employee leaves the company right after receiving the stocks. This is because the vesting provision outlines clearly when and how shares of the company will be distributed to those entitled to receive it. Just like salaries, stocks that are received by individuals are taxable. The taxable amount will be the fair market value at the time of transfer.

When to make an 83(b) election for vested stock

As a tax strategy, shareholders of companies who are expecting an increase in the value of their vested stocks in the future choose to make an 83(b) election. An 83(b) election is an option provided by the IRS for taxpayers. This allows them to pay for the tax on the value of the stocks subject to their vesting agreement at the present value. Often this proves to be a favorable choice over waiting for the actual vesting. This election should be made within 30 days after the receipt of the stock grant.

83(b) election in action for vested stock

Let’s say that XYZ, Inc. is a start-up company. In exchange for services rendered by its employee, it has granted the employee 10,000 shares at $.01 per share (fair market value) subject to a two-year vesting period. The two-year vesting period is 50% for the first year and the remaining 50% for the second year. Let’s further assume that the employee has filed an 83(b) election with the IRS in a timely manner. After the grant, the employee will include the stocks received on his tax return. The employee will then pay the tax due for the 10,000 shares at $.01 per share.  If the employee falls under the 24% tax bracket, he’s liable for $24. Upon vesting, the employee is no longer required to pay taxes on the shares received.

Vested stock without the 83(b) election

Without the 83(b) election, if the price increased to $2 per share after a year, the employee will pay tax due of $2,400 upon receipt of 5,000 shares. If the price increased to $3 per share after two years, the employee will have to pay $3,600 upon receipt of the remaining 5,000 shares. Through 83(b) election for their vested stock, the employee was able to save $5,976 on his tax due. However, this scenario is not always the case. If the stock’s value drops and 83(b) was filed, it will be a disadvantage since the taxpayer will be paying a higher amount at grant date.

Though it may seem that making an 83(b) election for their vested stock will always yield beneficial outcomes, it is always prudent for taxpayers to seek assistance from their tax preparer or tax attorney before making one.

Author Bio
David McKeegan
David McKeegan, the founder of Cleer.Tax is both an MBA and Enrolled Agent. As an entrepreneur and small business owner himself, he really understands the pain points that company owners and founders have in regards to tax compliance and having clean financial statements. What really differentiates David is his ability to distill complicated tax matters into layman’s terms, making the advice actionable and accessible to all.
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