Michael Gray, CPA’s Option Alert #127

An irregular alert for issues relating to employee stock options

September 24, 2014
© 2014 by Michael Gray, CPA
ISSN 1931-2768

(If you find this information valuable, please pass it on to a colleague!)

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Extended 2013 calendar year individual income tax returns are due October 15

Remember the extended due date for 2013 income tax returns is October 15, about three weeks away. If you haven’t done so already, get the information to prepare your tax returns to your tax return preparer now. This is the extended tax season for tax return preparers, so plan on preparers being under stress and grumpy.

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Should you hold the stock after exercising an incentive stock option (ISO)?

When you have decided to exercise an incentive stock option (ISO) and consider the federal alternative minimum tax (AMT) and the net investment income tax, the benefits of holding stock after exercising an incentive stock option are reduced. The “brass ring” of having the gain from the sale of the stock eligible for long-term capital gains rates (15% or 20%) seems attractive, but the 28% alternative minimum tax rate applies for the excess of the fair market value of the stock at exercise over the option price (“spread”) when the option is exercised. (California also has a 7% alternative minimum tax. Find out the rules for your state.) The minimum tax credit for this tax “prepayment” is hard for many taxpayers to recover, because they are already subject to the AMT, due to deductions disallowed for the AMT computation, including state income taxes, real estate taxes and miscellaneous itemized deductions. That means the “spread” at exercise is probably going to be taxed at a 28% federal tax rate when the dust settles.

In addition, long-term capital gains are subject to the 3.8% net investment income tax when the taxpayer has high adjusted gross income. That means the total federal tax rate for the initial spread would be 31.8%, versus a maximum federal tax rate of 39.6%. Is an 8% tax benefit worth the risk of exposure to market volatility of the stock? It could fall much more than that.

The main time it makes sense to hold the stock is when the “spread” is low and the option price is low. Then you can probably afford to pay for the stock and AMT (if any) and to take the risk that the value of the stock could fall. When you do this, you forgo the “time value premium” for the option. If you have the alternative of just buying the stock for about the same price without exercising the option, you will probably be in a better position by doing that, because you will still have the options to exercise if the value of the stock increases with no downside risk for the options.

An alternative is to exercise the option and immediately sell the stock, provided the stock is publicly traded or there is a “liquidity event” such as a sale of the employer company. In that case, the gain will be taxed as additional wages, subject to federal tax rates up to 39.6%, but exempt from employment taxes such as social security and medicare taxes.

I discuss this in more detail in my book, Secrets of Tax Planning for Employee Stock Options, 2014 Edition. You can buy it at Amazon.com or call Dawn Siemer at 408-918-3162 to order it directly for a 25% discount. For more details, visit http://www.siliconvalleypublishingcompany.com/products/secrets-of-tax-planning-for-employee-stock-options-2014-edition

These are general comments. You really should meet with a tax professional familiar with incentive stock options (that’s our business!) to discuss your individual situation and have tax planning computations done. To make an appointment with Michael Gray, call Dawn Siemer at (408)918-3162 on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays or Fridays.

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Do you need help with amended income tax returns?

We have already been meeting with folks who want a second look at their 2013 income tax returns for possible corrections. Call Dawn Siemer at 408-918-3162 on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays to make an appointment.

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Does your group need a speaker?

We are seeking opportunities to speak before groups. Topics include recent tax developments, tax issues relating to real estate, how estate planning has changed recently, tax issues relating to alternative investments using retirement accounts, and marketing topics such as “How I created a public access television show broadcast on eleven Bay Area stations.” To make arrangements, call Michael Gray at 408-918-3161.

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Please share your good experiences with Michael Gray, CPA.

As you know, more and more people are going to the internet to find information about service providers. We hope you will share some good words about experiences that you have had with our firm. Some of the sites where you can share your experiences include yelp.com, siliconvalley.citysearch.com, and Google+.

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Financial Insider Weekly broadcast schedule for September and October.

Financial Insider Weekly is broadcast in San Jose and Campbell on Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Pacific Time. You can watch it on Comcast channel 15 for San Jose and Campbell. The show is broadcast as streaming video at the same time at www.creatvsj.org.

Here are the scheduled interviews for the rest of September and October.

September 26, 2014, G. Scott Haislet, attorney at law, “New repair and capitalization income tax rules for business and rental real estate owners”
October 3, 2014, G. Scott Haislet, attorney at law, “The net investment income tax and real estate professionals”
October 10, 2014, Janis Carney, attorney at law, Carney Elder Law, “The women’s long-term care project”
October 17, 2014, repeat of “The women’s long-term care project”
October 24, 2014, Michael Jones, CPA, Thompson Jones LLP, “Community property issues for retirement accounts”
October 31, 2014, Michael Jones, CPA, Thompson Jones LLP, “Handling retirement accounts after a death”

Financial Insider Weekly is also broadcast as follows:

    • Monday at 1:30 p.m. in San Mateo County on PenTV, Comcast Channel 26 and Astound Channel 27
    • Monday at 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time on cable channel 19 in Morgan Hill and broadcast on the internet at the same time as streaming video at www.mhat.tv
    • Mondays at 6:30 p.m. on Midpeninsula Media Center, Comcast Channel 28 in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Stanford, Menlo Park & Atherton
    • Monday at 7:30 p.m. on Comcast channel 15 in Saratoga
    • Tuesday at 2:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Midpeninsula Media Center, Comcast Channel 28 in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Stanford, Menlo Park & Atherton
    • Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time on cable channel 19 in Morgan Hill
    • Broadcast on the internet at the same time as streaming video at

www.mhat.tv

  • Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. on Comcast channel 26 in Santa Cruz County and on Charter Communications Channel 72 in Watsonville and Capitola
  • Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. on Comcast channel 28 in Hayward, Alameda and Fremont and on AT&T U-Verse Channel 99, Hayward public access TV 28 in California
  • Friday at 2 p.m. on Comcast channel 26 in Santa Cruz County and on Charter Communications Channel 72 in Watsonville and Capitola
  • Friday at 1:30 p.m. in San Mateo County on PenTV, Comcast Channel 26 and Astound Channel 27
  • Friday at 3:30 p.m. on KCAT, Comcast channel 15 in Los Gatos
  • Friday at 4:00 p.m. on KMTV cable channel 15 in Cupertino, Los Altos and Mountain View
  • Friday at 6:00 p.m. on Comcast and Astound channel 29 in San Francisco. Online streaming video at www.bavc.org, “public access TV”
  • Friday at 8:00 p.m. on Comcast channel 28 in Hayward, Alameda and Fremont and on AT&T U-Verse Channel 99, Hayward public access TV 28 in California
  • Saturday at 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on Midpeninsula Media Center, Comcast Channel 28 in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Stanford, Menlo Park & Atherton
  • Saturday at 1:00 p.m. on Comcast channel 26 and AT&T U-verse channel 99 in Marin County

Past episodes of Financial Insider Weekly are posted on YouTube. One way to watch them is to go to our web site, www.financialinsiderweekly.com, and click on “Past Episodes.”

Let me know any ideas that you have for topics or guests. Guests will usually have to be located in or near the Silicon Valley in California.

Hope you can watch or record the show. Please tell your friends about it!

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Michael Gray regrets he can no longer answer emails personally. He will answer selected questions in this newsletter. Email your questions to mgray@stockoptionadvisors.com.

See the books mentioned at Silicon Valley Publishing Company or the Special Report, Nonqualified Stock Options – Executive Tax and Financial Planning Strategies at http://www.stockoptionadvisors.com/non-q_stock.

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Follow me on social media!

If you enjoy Twitter, please follow me at twitter.com/michaelgraycpa. I would especially appreciate retweets of our messages announcing episodes of Financial Insider Weekly.

I’m also on Facebook and Linked In. You can also follow me on other social media sites, www.facebook.com, www.linkedin.com/in/michaelgraycpa, and Google+.

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Check out my blog.

I have also started a blog at michaelgraycpa.com. Check it out!

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Do you know about our other newsletters?

For general tax developments, tax planning ideas, business development ideas and book reviews, subscribe to Michael Gray, CPA’s Tax & Business Insight.

We are now offering our real estate tax newsletter, Michael Gray, CPA’s Real Estate Tax Letter, free of charge. Like this newsletter, we will talk about new developments, have reports on special tax concerns, and answer questions and answers. To subscribe and read a sample issue, visit realestatetaxletter.com.

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Consult with a tax advisor

For our readers who aren’t tax advisors, this newsletter is intended to alert you about tax issues that could affect you. It is not a substitute for advice from a professional tax advisor. You will find that getting advice from a qualified advisor is a worthwhile investment.

Tax advisors should view the newsletter as an alert to become aware of issues relating to employee stock options for further research and study.

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Subscribe to Michael Gray, CPA’s Option Alert!

To receive the next issue of Michael Gray, CPA’s Option Alert with more employee stock option tax developments and answers to questions from our readers automatically via email, subscribe by filling out the form below.

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(Michael Gray is the author of Secrets of Tax Planning For Employee Stock Options, Stock Grants and ESOPs.)

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