ESOPs in India – Benefits, Tips, Taxation & Calculator

You must have heard stories of crorepati employees of Infosys or some other big organisation – I am talking about 10 years back when salaries were comparatively low. Most of the Indian’s still don’t understand the power of equities but those employees knowingly or unknowingly get benefitted from ESOPs.

Last week I was working with one of our clients on his financial plan review & he shared details about his ESOP (which he never considered part of plan earlier) – we did some calculation & our eyes popped out – based on current rate (after adjusting cost & all the taxes) benefits were more than 20% of his net worth.

Read – How to calculate our net worth & why it’s so important


What are ESOPs- definition / meaning 

ESOPs are Employee Stock Option Plans – few call them Employee Stock Ownership Plans in India. When an employee gets ESOPs from the company where he/she works, he/she gets the right to purchase a certain number of shares in the company at a predetermined price after a predetermined period or periods.. It is generally given as a reward for performance or tenure with the company. It also serves as a motivational tool as once you own stock, you actually own part of the company and if the company does well the stock value rises. ESOPs also help in retaining employees. Companies give ESOPs in parts & there is vesting schedule. So today an employee may get 3000 shares which would be given in sets of 1000 over a period of time. Usually employees have to wait for a certain duration to exercise their right to buy shares. This period is called vesting period. If the employee does not exercise the option of buying the shares within the vesting period, the options lapse and the employee does not get any rights. IT firms had started this trend but now many companies in different sectors give ESOPs to employees – even the startups are depending on ESOP to attract talent.

Read: Mutual Funds Vs Direct Equity – Aam Aadmi’s Question

How does an employee benefit from ESOPs?

An employee can create wealth from ESOPs if the timing (luck) is right and the company does well. ESOPs should be exercised when the ESOP value is at a lower price than the market value of the shares on that day. (to save tax but there are other factors that should be considered before exercising)

ESOP gain but Zero Risk Strategy

In employee want to take zero risk – he can exercise when company share is trading at a premium. If the employee sells the shares at the right time, he/she can make a neat profit – For example, if an employee gets 300 shares at Rs. 100 per share and the vesting period is 1 year, he/she can exercise the option of buying the shares after 1 year. It is advantageous if the employee exercises the option when the market value is greater than Rs.100 at that time. Suppose the market value is Rs.150 at that time, the employee can get the shares at Rs. 30000 and sell it at Rs. 45000, (Rs.150 x 300). He can make a profit of Rs. 15000. (there will be tax involved in this strategy – 30% perquisite tax & 15% short term capital gain — approximately  4500 + 2250 — still decent net gain of Rs 8250) Employees do not have any risk as they pay money only when they exercise the option. If the market price of the shares is high, they can take the shares and sell getting high profits. They have the option to not take the ESOPs as well.

Read15 types of risk that affect your investments

How do ESOPs help the company?

The company can preserve cash and dilute ownership if required. The company benefits by giving ESOPs to employees. Employees benefit from the increase in the share price, so they will focus on working towards making the company successful.

What are the pros & cons of ESOPs?

ESOPs can be of great value in the long run. For example, when Infosys was really small, it gave a lot of ESOPs to the employees. They all benefitted when it became such a successful company by selling the shares in the market. ESOPs are one of the ways to participate in equities. As an employee, you will know how the company is doing and its growth plans. You can accordingly decide your investment strategy in ESOPs like if you should exercise the option, when to exercise the option and when to sell. (can try)

Companies can give ESOPs to employees when they are short on cash as an incentive. Employees will be more focussed on delivering results as they have a stake in the company.

ESOPs may not be suitable for people who do not want to take risk. Sometimes ESOPs may backfire resulting in very less or no value for the employee. If you want liquidity, ESOPs are not the best option as there are many rules regarding when to exercise your options. There are also tax implications which should be considered carefully. (for every infosys there will be 10 other companies where ESOPs earned Zero profit)

In one of my earlier post I talked about ESOP –

WHY do we make financial mistakes

Most of the employees who get ESOP or ESPP benefits hold these stocks close to their heart. And in most of the cases I have seen that with time these stocks become their biggest financial asset or biggest equity assets. But I have to ask these people:

  • Is this (your company) the best stock available in the market?
  • Don’t you think you are losing the benefit of diversification?
  • What will happen if your company starts underperforming – you will see tough times in your job as well as your stocks will underperform?
  • And the worst case – what will happen if your company becomes next Satyam or Enron?

What are the tax implications on ESOPs?

– When the options are given by the company, there is no tax.

– When the options get vested, there is no tax.

– When the employee exercises his option of buying the shares, the difference between the market value and exercise value is treated as perquisite and is taxable as per the tax bracket that the employee falls in.

– When the employee sells the shares, the profit is treated as capital gains. If the shares sold within one year, 15% capital gains tax has to be paid just like in the usual purchase and sale of shares. If the stock is sold after 1 year, there is no tax as it is considered as long-term.

– If the employee has ESOPs of a company that is listed abroad, and sells the shares, short-term capital gains is added to income and one has to pay tax as per the tax slab that he/she falls into.

– If the capital gains are long-term, 10% tax has to be paid without indexation benefit or 20% tax has to be paid with indexation benefit.

ESOP Calculator India

ESOP Tax Calculator India

I have prepared no frill Employee Stock Option Plans (ESOP) tax calculator in excel – you can edit & use it according to your need. {you can also send suggestions & updated calculator to me on hemant (@) – I can add that here}

ESOP Tax Calculator – Download

How are ESOPs different from ESPS and RSUs?

Employee Stock Purchase Scheme (ESPS) allows employees to buy shares at some discount decided by the company as compared to the market price. Shares can be bought by employees via monthly deductions from their salary.

Restrictive Stock Units (RSUs) – When the employer gives RSUs, the employee gets the shares free of cost provided some conditions are met like a vesting period, employment time-frame etc. RSUs are gaining popularity in recent times.

Hope this article clarifies your douts about ESOP Plan. In the comment section – Please share your experience with ESOPs & if  you have any questions…

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