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There are a number of government approved share schemes which offer tax advantages to employees. One of these schemes is known as the Company Share Option Plans (CSOP). Under a CSOP, employees do not pay Income Tax or NICs provided the qualifying conditions are met. This applies to a qualifying option to buy up to £30,000 worth of shares at a fixed price. However, there may be a CGT liability when the shares are eventually sold.

The rules state you will not be chargeable to Income Tax if you exercise your options at a time when the CSOP scheme remains tax-advantaged and:

  • The exercise occurs between 3 and 10 years from the date of grant.
  • Where the plan rules allow, you cease employment within 3 years of the date of grant and you exercise within 6 months of the date you ceased for one of the following reasons:
    • injury or disability
    • redundancy
    • retirement
  • Where the plan rules allow, and you exercise your option within three years of the date of grant and within six months of the ‘event’ because:
    • your employment is transferred under the TUPE regulations;
    • your employer has been sold or transferred out of the group; and
    • you wish to accept a cash takeover offer for the shares, subject to certain conditions (the scheme organiser will advise you if this applies).
  • Where the plan rules allow your executors to exercise your options within twelve months of the date of your death.

The exercise of an option in all other circumstances will be chargeable to Income Tax.