IRS Amends Section 83(b) Election Procedures
In what is possibly the least controversial decision ever made by the IRS, the agency has adopted its proposed amendment to the procedures for filing Section 83(b) elections, eliminating the requirement that taxpayers file a copy of the election with their tax return for the year that they make the election.
It’s Nice that We Can All Agree on Something
The amendment, which was proposed last year (see “IRS Proposes Amendment to 83(b) Election,” received no comments at all. Zip. Zero. No one requested a public hearing and no hearings were held. Cue the sound of crickets (ok, technically that’s the sound of frogs—I don’t have a video of cricket sounds). Hence the amendment was adopted with no changes from the original proposal.
In the context of stock compensation, Section 83(b) elections are most frequently filed when employees exercise stock options prior to vesting. They are also sometimes filed upon grant of restricted stock. The election accelerates the taxable event for the award to the date of exercise (in the case of stock options) or grant (in the case of restricted stock). Employees wishing to file a Section 83(b) election must submit the election to their IRS service center within 30 days of the event triggering the election. Employees must also provide a copy of the election to their employer. Prior to this proposed amendment, a copy of the election also had to be included with employees’ tax returns for the year.
Now that the IRS is encouraging taxpayers to file tax returns electronically, the requirement to include the election with tax returns has proved to be problematic, since few efiling systems can attach a scanned document to the return. There was also a concern that taxpayers might be able to revoke an election after the 30-day election period by simply failing to include it with their tax return.
The amendment is effective for transactions occurring on or after January 1, 2016 but the IRS permitted taxpayers to rely on it for Section 83(b) elections filed in 2015. For more information, see the NASPP Alert “IRS Finalizes Amendment to Section 83(b) Election.”
More Frogs and Tax Developments
I took that frog sound video when I was visiting the Hilton Americas – Houston where the 24th Annual NASPP Conference will be held. It’s at a pond in the park across the street from the hotel. You know what else you can do in Houston besides hear the awesome sound of frogs at night? You can get an update on this and other recent tax developments directly from IRS and Treasury staffers during the session “The IRS and Treasury Speak.” Register by September 9 for the early-bird discount.
Tags: early exercise, restricted stock, Section 83, Section 83(b) election
With the FASB and the SEC issuing significant announcements impacting stock and executive compensation, it only seems right that we should also be dealing with changes to the tax regs impacting stock compensation. Luckily the IRS has obliged with a proposed amendment to the procedures for filing Section 83(b) elections.
I’m going to assume that you all know what a Section 83(b) election is and when it would be filed. If not, read the discussion of “Early Exercise” in the NQSO Portal and the discussion of “Section 83(b) Elections for Restricted Stock Awards” in the article “Taxation of Restricted Stock Awards,” available in the Restricted Stock Portal.
Previously, award and option holders wishing to file a Section 83(b) election had to mail the election to their IRS service center within thirty days of the triggering transfer (a grant of restricted stock or exercise of an unvested option) and also include a copy of their election with their tax return for that year. With the IRS now encouraging taxpayers to file their returns electronically, the requirement to include a copy with your tax return has turned out to be problematic. Many (dare I say all?) of the systems used to electronically file returns with the IRS simply don’t have the capability of including a copy of a Section 83(b) election, forcing taxpayers to file on paper—a situation in which everyone, both the IRS and the taxpayer, loses.
Last year, in PLR 201438006, the IRS ruled that a Section 83(b) election is valid even if the taxpayer fails to include a copy of the election with his/her tax return for the year (see my February 3, 2015 blog entry, “Grab Bag“). This ruling was to avoid giving taxpayers an opportunity to rescind their election by simply failing to include the copy with their tax return but it also steered us on a course for the recently proposed amendment (if the election is valid without including a copy with your return, why is the copy necessary).
The proposed amendment would simply eliminate this requirement altogether. There’s really no need for it; as the IRS notes in the preamble to the proposed regs, they already have the original and they scan that for their records upon receipt of it. The requirement to file the copy with your tax return is an anachronism, harkening back to a day before electronic forms and scanners were commonplace.
The IRS does note that taxpayers should keep a copy of the election in their records until the statute of limitations expires for the return on which the sale of the shares subject to the election is reported.
The proposed regulations would apply to all stock transferred (grants of restricted stock and exercises of unvested stock options) on or after January 1, 2016 but taxpayers can rely on them for stock transferred in 2015.
Tags: early exercise, restricted stock, Restricted Stock Award, Section 83, Section 83(b) election, tax return
It’s been a while since I posted a stock compensation grab bag. Here are a few recent developments that don’t warrant their own entry but are still worth knowing about.
HSR Filing Thresholds
Good news: now executives can acquire even more stock! Under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, executives that acquire company stock in excess of specified thresholds are required to file reports with the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice. The thresholds at which these reports are required have increased for 2015. See the memo we posted from Morrison & Foerster for the new thresholds, which are effective as of February 20, 2015.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out our handy HSR Act Portal.
Final FATCA Regs
The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) requires employees to report any overseas accounts that hold specified foreign financial assets, which could be interpreted to include stock awards issued by non-US corporations. The assets (stock awards, for our purposes) are reported on IRS Form 8938 (“Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets”), which is filed with the annual tax return. Final FATCA regulations, released in December 2014, clarify that unvested awards, do not need to be reported on Form 8938 until they have “substantially vested” (except in the case of a Section 83(b) election).
Dodd-Frank Rulemaking Update
The SEC has pushed back its agenda of rulemaking projects under the Dodd-Frank Act. The proposed rules for clawback requirements, disclosure of hedging policies, and pay-for-performance disclosures and the final rules for the CEO pay ratio disclosure have been pushed back to October 2015 (just in the time for the 23rd Annual NASPP Conference). This is despite comments from SEC Chair Mary Joe White last fall that the SEC was pushing to issue the final CEO pay ratio rules by the end of year. That’s a big delay—from the end of 2014 to October 2015—especially given the pressure on the SEC to issue these rules.
Section 83(b) Election Update
When making a Section 83(b) election, employees are required to include a copy of the election with their tax return for the year in which the election is made. In PLR 201438006, the IRS ruled that a Section 83(b) election was valid even though the taxpayer failed to attach a copy of the election to his Form 1040. If the failure had invalidated the election, employees could effectively revoke the election by “forgetting” to include it with their tax return—and, as we all know, Section 83(b) elections are irrevocable once the deadline to file them has elapsed.
Tags: clawback, Dodd-Frank Act, Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, hedging policies, HSR Act, IRS, pay ratio, pay-for-performance, SEC, Section 83(b) election