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En morot från staten – Kvalificerade personaloptioner ur ett rättssäkerhetsperspektiv

Ranvinge, Linnea LU (2016) JURM02 20162
Department of Law
Abstract (Swedish)
Alltsedan incitamentsprogrammen introducerades i Sverige med inspiration från USA i mitten på 1900-talet har beskattningen av dem orsakat såväl tillämpningsproblem som debatt. Det handlar om de situationer där ett företag erbjuder anställda aktier i bolaget antingen i form av värdepapper eller personaloptioner. Den förra medför en rättighet direkt, medan den senare innebär en framtida rätt under förutsättning att anställningen fortgår under viss tid. Kort sagt tänds för den anställde ett hopp om att få ta del av såväl vinst som utdelning, medan bolaget önskar incentivera personalen för att på så sätt öka bolagets vinst. I nuläget beskattas personaloptioner först vid utnyttjandet, d.v.s. när innehavaren utnyttjar optionen för att förvärva... (More)
Alltsedan incitamentsprogrammen introducerades i Sverige med inspiration från USA i mitten på 1900-talet har beskattningen av dem orsakat såväl tillämpningsproblem som debatt. Det handlar om de situationer där ett företag erbjuder anställda aktier i bolaget antingen i form av värdepapper eller personaloptioner. Den förra medför en rättighet direkt, medan den senare innebär en framtida rätt under förutsättning att anställningen fortgår under viss tid. Kort sagt tänds för den anställde ett hopp om att få ta del av såväl vinst som utdelning, medan bolaget önskar incentivera personalen för att på så sätt öka bolagets vinst. I nuläget beskattas personaloptioner först vid utnyttjandet, d.v.s. när innehavaren utnyttjar optionen för att förvärva aktier i bolaget, vilket vanligtvis sker vid den villkorade anställningstidens slut. Optionerna likställs med en förmån och värdestegringen beskattas därför som inkomst av tjänst fram till utnyttjande, medan efterföljande utdelning och kapitalvinst beskattas som kapital. Med tanke på den höga tjänstebeskattning som ett förvärv av personaloptioner för med sig har programmen inte fått önskat genomslag och kritiken har varit massiv mot att regelverket är för komplicerat och skattesatsen för hög. Regeringen tillsatte därför en utredning i mars 2014 för att se över regleringen (Incitamentsutredningen).

Incitamentsutredningen föreslår en helt ny typ av personaloptioner, s.k. kvalificerade personaloptioner, vilka ska undantas från förmånsbeskattning. Hela värdeökningen under innehavstiden ska istället beskattas som inkomst av kapital, vilket medför en avsevärt lägre skattesats. Förslaget träffar enbart ett fåtal företag och innehåller en mängd villkor för att skattesubventionen ska falla väl ut enligt utredningen. Den här uppsatsen syftar till att kritiskt granska lagförslaget utifrån ett rättssäkerhetsperspektiv. Inledningsvis utreder och definierar jag rättssäkerhet, vilket anses medföra en existens av rättsregler som följs av samhälle och statsapparat samt ett krav på att tillämpningen av dessa regler i praktiken kan förutses av enskilda. Rättssäkerheten säkerställs delvis i grundlagen, bl.a. genom det skatterättsliga föreskriftskrav som stadgas. Min slutsats blir att lagförslaget i mångt och mycket når upp till rättssäkerhetens krav på tydlighet då villkoren är väl avgränsade och har utformats med enkelheten i fokus. Jag kritiserar däremot förslaget på fyra punkter. Jag anser att förslaget bör kompletteras med bestämmelser kring dels den anställdes omkostnadsbelopp, dels gällande informationsskyldighet för bolaget gentemot den anställde. Detta för att öka tillämpningens tydlighet, men även för att öka möjligheterna för den enskilde att förutse det aktuella incitamentsprogrammets risker. Vidare kritiserar jag förslagets omfattning, vilken enligt min mening resulterar i en alltför komplex tillämpning som helhet för att nå upp till rättssäkerhetens krav på förutsebarhet, inte minst med tanke på att kriterierna rör sig över ett brett spann av områden inom företagets verksamhet. Jag tycker även att det saknas en tydlig gränsdragning mellan värdepapper och personaloptioner då den tillämpning som växt fram i praxis är alltför osäker och otydlig för att uppdelningen i praktiken ska bli tillräckligt rättssäker. På det stora hela ser jag dock förslaget om kvalificerade personaloptioner som ett steg mot en mer rättssäker incitamentsbeskattning som med ett fåtal justeringar kan komma att möta såväl näringslivets som lagstiftarens mål. (Less)
Abstract
Since incentive plans first arrived to Sweden with inspiration from the U.S. in the middle of the 20th century the taxation of the programs have caused application problems as well as debate. The issue concerns situations where an employee is offered shares in the company based on securities or stock options. The employee hopes that he or she will get a piece of the profit in the future, while the company wishes to increase the profit by motivating employees to work harder. Today, stock options are taxed when exercised, i.e. at the time when the employee purchases the underlying shares. Normally this is the case when the period of employment stated in the contract comes to an end. Stock options are compared with income and the profit is... (More)
Since incentive plans first arrived to Sweden with inspiration from the U.S. in the middle of the 20th century the taxation of the programs have caused application problems as well as debate. The issue concerns situations where an employee is offered shares in the company based on securities or stock options. The employee hopes that he or she will get a piece of the profit in the future, while the company wishes to increase the profit by motivating employees to work harder. Today, stock options are taxed when exercised, i.e. at the time when the employee purchases the underlying shares. Normally this is the case when the period of employment stated in the contract comes to an end. Stock options are compared with income and the profit is therefore taxed with income tax up until the point when the options are exercised. Following dividend and profit are taxed with capital gains tax. As a result of the high income tax in Sweden, the incentive plans have not got the impact wanted by the government and the business sector. The criticism has been massive against the law; the tax rate is too high and the legislation way too complicated. Therefore, in March 2014, the government appointed an inquiry to review the established law (the Incentive Inquiry).

The Incentive Inquiry introduces a new category of stock options; so called qualified stock options. A qualified stock option will not be subject to income tax when exercised as stock options are today. Instead the underlying shares will be subject to capital gains tax at sale, resulting in a much lower tax rate. However, the company and the stock option plan will have to meet certain conditions for the options to be qualified. Many of the conditions concern the size of the company and the value of the options; only smaller companies will be able to offer qualified options to its employees according to the proposal. This was necessary for the law to become successful according to the inquiry. This thesis aims to investigate if the proposed amendments are compatible with legal security , which is defined in the first part of the thesis as an existence of legal rules followed by both society and government. Furthermore, the application of the legislation should be predictable for the law to be legally secure. The principle of legal certainty is in some ways protected in the Swedish Constitution.

The conclusion is that the proposal to a large extent corresponds with legal security and its demands on a clear and predictable legislation. The conditions are well defined and the committee is overall suggesting a clear and direct legislation. However, I criticise four parts of the proposal. Firstly, the bill should be complemented with an article regarding the employee’s cost amount , focusing on how and when the value paid for the options should be withdrawn from the taxable income. Secondly, the company should be obligated to notify the employee regarding the risks of incentive plans before the agreement is made; not only for the taxpayer to become aware of the risks, but also to make the legislation clearer. Furthermore, I criticise the scope of the proposal, which in my opinion will result in an application too complicated to become legally certain and predictable. Not to mention the wide range of areas among the conditions stated, making it even harder for the taxpayer to foresee the final tax rate. Lastly, I ask for a legislative and clear demarcation between securities and stock options since the interpretation in legal usage cannot be considered clear enough for the taxpayer to understand the consequences when it comes to the taxation. However, all in all, I do see the Incentive Inquiry’s proposal concerning qualified stock options as an excellent first step towards a more legally certain taxation of incentive programs, which with a few amendments could fulfil both the demands of the business sector and the aims of the legislator. (Less)
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author
Ranvinge, Linnea LU
supervisor
organization
alternative title
A Carrot from the State – Qualified Stock Options from a Legal Security Point of View
course
JURM02 20162
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
Skatterätt, Personaloptioner, Incitamentsprogram, Rättssäkerhet
language
Swedish
id
8897764
date added to LUP
2017-01-18 12:31:45
date last changed
2017-01-18 12:31:45
@misc{8897764,
  abstract     = {Since incentive plans first arrived to Sweden with inspiration from the U.S. in the middle of the 20th century the taxation of the programs have caused application problems as well as debate. The issue concerns situations where an employee is offered shares in the company based on securities or stock options. The employee hopes that he or she will get a piece of the profit in the future, while the company wishes to increase the profit by motivating employees to work harder. Today, stock options are taxed when exercised, i.e. at the time when the employee purchases the underlying shares. Normally this is the case when the period of employment stated in the contract comes to an end. Stock options are compared with income and the profit is therefore taxed with income tax up until the point when the options are exercised. Following dividend and profit are taxed with capital gains tax. As a result of the high income tax in Sweden, the incentive plans have not got the impact wanted by the government and the business sector. The criticism has been massive against the law; the tax rate is too high and the legislation way too complicated. Therefore, in March 2014, the government appointed an inquiry to review the established law (the Incentive Inquiry). 

The Incentive Inquiry introduces a new category of stock options; so called qualified stock options. A qualified stock option will not be subject to income tax when exercised as stock options are today. Instead the underlying shares will be subject to capital gains tax at sale, resulting in a much lower tax rate. However, the company and the stock option plan will have to meet certain conditions for the options to be qualified. Many of the conditions concern the size of the company and the value of the options; only smaller companies will be able to offer qualified options to its employees according to the proposal. This was necessary for the law to become successful according to the inquiry. This thesis aims to investigate if the proposed amendments are compatible with legal security , which is defined in the first part of the thesis as an existence of legal rules followed by both society and government. Furthermore, the application of the legislation should be predictable for the law to be legally secure. The principle of legal certainty is in some ways protected in the Swedish Constitution. 

The conclusion is that the proposal to a large extent corresponds with legal security and its demands on a clear and predictable legislation. The conditions are well defined and the committee is overall suggesting a clear and direct legislation. However, I criticise four parts of the proposal. Firstly, the bill should be complemented with an article regarding the employee’s cost amount , focusing on how and when the value paid for the options should be withdrawn from the taxable income. Secondly, the company should be obligated to notify the employee regarding the risks of incentive plans before the agreement is made; not only for the taxpayer to become aware of the risks, but also to make the legislation clearer. Furthermore, I criticise the scope of the proposal, which in my opinion will result in an application too complicated to become legally certain and predictable. Not to mention the wide range of areas among the conditions stated, making it even harder for the taxpayer to foresee the final tax rate. Lastly, I ask for a legislative and clear demarcation between securities and stock options since the interpretation in legal usage cannot be considered clear enough for the taxpayer to understand the consequences when it comes to the taxation. However, all in all, I do see the Incentive Inquiry’s proposal concerning qualified stock options as an excellent first step towards a more legally certain taxation of incentive programs, which with a few amendments could fulfil both the demands of the business sector and the aims of the legislator.},
  author       = {Ranvinge, Linnea},
  keyword      = {Skatterätt,Personaloptioner,Incitamentsprogram,Rättssäkerhet},
  language     = {swe},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {En morot från staten – Kvalificerade personaloptioner ur ett rättssäkerhetsperspektiv},
  year         = {2016},
}