Click here to view Part 1 of our series and learn more about the stock option landscape or Part 2 to learn more about the accounting and tax ramifications of issuing stock options.
What To Do?
As discussed above, there are significant risks that a company brings upon itself if it decides to issue stock options without properly valuing the options and the equity of the company. Rather than issuing stock options, if a company wants to offer an employee the opportunity to obtain an ownership interest, the most efficient and “clean” method may be to allow the employee to purchase shares from the company or from existing owners. There is no valuation requirement in this case (unless a party wants to hire an expert to ensure that they the transaction price is fair and reasonable) which also eliminates the out-of-pocket cost for the employer. In fact, a business actually recognizes a cash inflow when an employee purchases shares directly from the company.
I am a valuation expert and I directly benefit from work associated with the valuation of stock options, so why am I telling you to consider alternative routes of compensation? Too often, the companies that issue stock options without having them professionally valued are the same companies that will fight against having their options valued at all due to the cost associated with the valuation. I simply want to spread awareness that there are other avenues of compensating employees and giving them opportunities for equity ownership that may be more cost efficient for companies that are under the illusion that issuing stock options does not require a cash outlay.
If you take anything away from this article, remember that issuing stock options is not a “cashless” expense. Consider that there are other alternatives for compensating employees other than using stock options. Remember that there are transaction costs associated with issuing stock options, specifically, hiring a valuation expert, that will create real out-of-pocket cost for any company. Unless you are ready to comply with the valuation requirements associated with issuing stock options, you may be better off simply not using them and compensating employees in another manner. Finally, just like selling a home, if you are going to issue stock options make sure that you bring in an expert to ensure that the value of the company and options are determined and documented appropriately – and be prepared to pay the “commission” for these services.
The information in this article is not meant to represent legal or tax advice. Please consult with a Skoda Minotti business valuation professional or your tax/legal advisor regarding the applicability of these issues to your particular situation.
Visit our web site for more information on our business valuation services. Skoda Minotti is a CPA, business and financial advisory firm with offices in Cleveland and Akron.