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IRS.gov Website
Rev. date: 12/23/2014


Stock Options

Tax Topic 427
rule
If you receive an option to buy stock as payment for your services, you may have income when you receive the option, when you exercise the option, or when you dispose of the option or stock received when you exercise the option. There are two types of stock options:
Refer to Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income, for assistance in determining whether you have been granted a statutory or a nonstatutory stock option.
If your employer grants you a statutory stock option, you generally do not include any amount in your gross income when you receive or exercise the option. However, you may be subject to alternative minimum tax in the year you exercise an ISO. For more information, refer to the Instructions 6251 (PDF). You have taxable income or deductible loss when you sell the stock you bought by exercising the option. You generally treat this amount as a capital gain or loss. However, if you do not meet special holding period requirements, you will have to treat income from the sale as ordinary income. Add these amounts, which are treated as wages, to the basis of the stock in determining the gain or loss on the stock's disposition. Refer to Publication 525 for specific details on the type of stock option, as well as rules for when income is reported and how income is reported for income tax purposes.
After exercising an ISO, you should receive from your employer a Form 3921, Exercise of an Incentive Stock Option Under Section 422(b). This form will report important dates and values needed to determine the correct amount of capital and ordinary income (if applicable) to be reported on your return.
After your first transfer or sale of stock acquired by exercising an option granted under an employee stock purchase plan, you should receive from your employer a Form 3922, Transfer of Stock Acquired Through an Employee Stock Purchase Plan under Section 423(c). This form will report important dates and values needed to determine the correct amount of capital and ordinary income to be reported on your return.
If your employer grants you a nonstatutory stock option, the amount of income to include and the time to include it depends on whether the fair market value of the option can be readily determined.