Restricted Stock Units RSU Towerpoint Wealth
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Restricted Stock Units | RSU 04.28.2021

Restricted Stock Units | A common program many publicly traded companies offer to their employees is an Employee Stock Purchase Plan. But ESPPs aren’t the only stock plan out there. Many companies have a different type of stock compensation program that allows them to grant you shares, called Restricted Stock Units, or RSUs for short. 

Restricted Stock Units are a way for an employer to compensate employees by granting them actual shares of company stock. The grant is “restricted” because it is subject to a vesting schedule. Therefore, the employee typically only receives the shares after the vesting date. Once the shares are delivered, the grant is considered compensation income and your taxable income is the market value of the shares.  

When you later sell the shares, you will also recognize income on any appreciation over and above the market price of the shares back on the vesting date. Your holding period will determine whether the gain is subject to short-term ordinary income rates, or lower long-term capital gains rates. 

Watch this video from our Sacramento Wealth Advisor and CPA, Matt Regan, to learn the taxation rules associated with RSUs, and the importance of planning to limit your overall tax liability.

Sacramento Certified Public Account, Matt Regan
Sacramento Wealth Advisor | Sacramento Financial Advisor

Restricted Stock Units, RSUs | Last week, I spoke about a common program many publicly traded companies offer to their employees, an Employee Stock Purchase Plan, or ESPP for short. If you recall, these plans afford you an opportunity to buy shares of the company you work for at a discounted price. But ESPPs aren’t the only stock plan out there. Many companies have a different type of stock compensation program that allows them to grant you shares, called Restricted Stock Units, or RSUs for short. 

Hi Everyone, Matt Regan here from Towerpoint Wealth, and today I am going to discuss the basics of RSUs.

As I just mentioned, RSUs are a way for an employer to compensate employees by granting them actual shares of company stock. The grant is “restricted” because it is subject to a vesting schedule. As you would expect, the employee typically only receives the shares after the vesting date. 

Vesting schedules are often time-based, requiring you to work at the company for a certain period before your RSUs begin to vest. A common schedule is a “graded” vesting schedule, which means the vesting of the grant occurs in serial portions. Vesting schedules can also have “cliff” vesting, which means 100% of the RSU grant vests after you have completed a specific stated service period of say three or four years. And finally, the vesting schedule can also be performance-based, meaning tied to company-specific or stock-market targets.

With RSUs, you are only taxed when the shares are delivered, which is almost always at vesting. Your taxable income is the market value of the shares upon vesting. The grant is considered compensation income, and is subject to mandatory federal, state, and local income and employment tax withholding. The most common practice of paying these taxes is by surrendering the necessary amount of newly delivered shares back to the company. This holds or “tenders” shares to cover your tax obligation. When you later sell the shares, you will also recognize income on any appreciation over and above the market price of the shares back on the vesting date. Your holding period will obviously determine whether the gain is subject to short-term ordinary income rates, or lower long-term capital gains rates. 

So, there you have it. While RSU’s may not be as complicated as ESPP plans, the tax planning for them is just as important. Understanding when your shares will vest gives you the opportunity to plan in advance to ensure you can limit your overall tax liability. Feel free to contact me on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram to discuss the taxation of RSU’s in greater detail. Thanks, and have a great day.