18 Nov Employee Shares Scheme Reform
The Government is reforming the taxation of employee share schemes to bolster entrepreneurship in Australia and support innovative start-up companies. It said the changes to the tax treatment of employee share schemes that were introduced by the former Government in 2009 have effectively brought to a halt the use of such schemes for start-up companies in Australia.
The Government said it would unwind those 2009 changes, beginning with reversing the changes made to the taxing point for options, to ensure that employees may opt to have “discounted” options taxed when they are exercised (ie converted to shares), rather than upon acquisition by the employee. This change would apply to employees of all companies.
The Government also announced that it will allow employee share scheme options or shares that are provided to employees at a small discount by eligible start-up companies not to be subject to upfront taxation, provided that the shares or options are held by the employees for at least three years.
Options issued to employees by eligible start-up companies under certain conditions will have the employee’s taxation events deferred until the sale of the shares. In addition, shares issued to employees by eligible start-up companies at a small discount will have those discounts exempted from tax for the employees.
The Government will also extend the maximum time for tax deferral on discounted options and shares issued to employees by eligible start-up companies from the current seven-year period by a further eight years – that is, a 15-year deferral period.
The Treasurer is expected to consult widely on the draft legislation. The legislation is proposed to come into effect from 1 July 2015.