Do You Own Stock in a Company? Here’s Some Tax Strategy For You!

Do you have a 401(k), an ESOP, a profit-sharing plan, or any qualifying employer-sponsored retirement plan where you own stock in your company? If not, This means that you should start planning for when you retire or leave your current job and have to deal with your stock. Your choice could have significant ramifications for your tax situation.

If you’re moving to employment, most people won’t give it a second thought. They will transfer their assets from their employer’s retirement plan into an IRA or 401(k). It is a direct rollover with no immediate tax ramifications.

However, if you later decide to sell the shares, you will be subject to ordinary income tax rates of up to 37%. (and could be going higher).  It is true even though stock sales are typically taxed at capital gains rates of 0%, 15%, or 20%, depending on how long the stock has been held.

Tip: If you sell stocks out of an IRA, you don’t have to worry about capital gains.

Example. Over the previous ten years, Jill’s employer has contributed shares to her 401(k) plan. When Jill retires at 65, the stock will have a fair share market value of $10,000 and a cost basis of $10,000. Jill contributes the whole amount to her retirement account (IRA). The rollover is tax-free for her. She sells the stocks two years later and takes a $100,000 distribution from her IRA. She has to pay regular income tax on the withdrawal, not capital gains tax.

There Is Another Way to Do Tax Planning

Another option is available. However, even while the initial investment may appear high, the savings in taxes can be substantial in the long term. Transferring stock into a taxable brokerage account beats moving it over into an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement plans. In the year of transfer, you’ll owe tax at the regular rate on the stock’s cost basis.

However, you will not be taxed until you sell your stock if its value increases (fair market value minus cost basis). Net unrealized appreciation is the name given to this sum (NUA). The long-term capital gains tax rate is 15 percent for most persons if you sell the business stock in that year or later. For long-term capital gains treatment of your NUA, you don’t have to hold the shares for a year following distribution.

There is one more advantage. A tax increase on net investment income of 3.8% does not apply to your NUA profit.

You will be required to pay taxes on the long-term capital gains rate if you hold the stock for further than one year before the distribution date on any additional appreciation in the store. However, suppose your income exceeds the NUA amount. In that case, you will be subject to a 3.8 percent net investment income surcharge on the additional appreciation. If you sell the stock at the right time and the right price, you may be able to save a significant amount of money in taxes.

If you sell the stock at the right time and at the right price, you may be able to save a significant amount of money in taxes.

Example. When Sally retires, let’s assume she transfers her company shares to a taxable brokerage account. In that year, she’ll owe $2,200 in taxes at her 22% marginal tax rate on her $10,000 cost basis. Until Sally sells the stock, she won’t owe any taxes on the $90,000 in NUA. She will owe $13,500 in taxes when she sells due to the 15 percent capital gains rate applied to her NUA. For the first $100,000 in stock sale proceeds, she pays $15,700 in total tax rather than $22,000.

It sounds simple, and that’s because it is. To benefit from the NUA tax treatment, you must meet several rigorous criteria.

First of all, the distribution must be made from employer shares held in a qualifying retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). It doesn’t matter if the stock was given to you by your employer or if you paid for it out of pocket before taxes.

Stocks in nonqualified deferred compensation plans, such as conventional IRAs, SEP-IRAs, and Simple IRAs, are not eligible for NUA treatment.

The next step is to distribute your employer stock: 

  • In-kind
  • Part of a lump amount, and 
  • when a triggering event has occurred.

Distribution of Goods in Kind

The employer stock must be distributed to a taxable account “in kind.” As a result, you’ll have to make a direct transfer of the shares to your trading account. You can’t sell the stock and then move the money, or move the cache from your IRA to a taxable account and then sell the money from that.

Lump-Sum Distribution

The shares must be distributed as a portion of a lump-sum distribution from your employer’s retirement plan. To qualify, you must distribute your whole vested balance in all assets from all eligible programs you hold with your employer within the same calendar year.

You don’t remove the whole amount simultaneously, but your account balance must always be zero by December 31.

Nor are you obligated to transfer all the plan assets into a taxed account. You can roll certain assets into such an IRA or your new job 401(k) plan. For instance, you may roll cash or collective investment schemes into an IRA.

Also, it would help if you didn’t have to move all your employer shares into a taxable account. You can transfer part and roll the remainder into an IRA. It implies you may cherry-pick only the lowest-basis claims for the NUA distribution.

Something That Sets Off a Chain of Events

One of the triggering events must occur before your lump-sum distribution may be made.

  • You’ve reached the age of 59 and a half due to your resignation from the company.
  • Death or disability 
  • Once you’ve reached the age of 59 and a half, you’ll be eligible for a lump-sum payment at any point in time. If you’re still working, your pension plan must enable you to take payouts while you’re still employed.

The 10% early withdrawal penalty on your shares’ cost basis applies to distributions taken before age 59 1/2 if you accept a lump-sum payment (not on their fair market value). However, if you leave your employment beyond 55, you will not be subject to the penalty.

NUA Treatment Has Estate Planning Advantages

Your business shares can provide estate planning benefits by being transferred into an IRA or other tax-free retirement account. Ordinary income taxes and required minimum distribution requirements for IRAs and other qualified retirement plans do not apply to stocks not part of an eligible retirement plan after age 72.

It implies that you have the option to hold on to all of your investments in your brokerage account until you pass away. Your heirs will benefit from any increase in the stock while it was in your taxable account, thanks to a stepped-up basis. However, the untaxed NUA does not help your heirs based on your death date. The NUA is taxable to the heirs at capital gains rates since it represents income regarding a deceased person.

Does NUA Therapy Work for Me?

When it comes to tax planning, using NUA treatment isn’t always the most incredible option. Your cost basis in the shares will be instantly taxed, unlike if you rolled it over into an IRA. It’s up to you to decide if this is a good idea or not based on the following considerations.

The quantity of NUA that once you sell the store has. You’ll save more money in taxes by taking advantage of capital gains treatment if your NUA is higher. NUA treatment may be appropriate if the stock’s tax basis is less than 25% of its fair market value.

The amount of tax you owe is based on your original cost. This method will cost you money upfront in the form of taxes. If your company’s stock has a high-cost basis, you may be at a better tax rate.

Your age. The NUA approach may not make sense if you’re relatively young and have the implied option of holding the stock or the profits in an IRA, where they can continue to grow tax-deferred for an extended period. Your NUA’s capital gains treatment may outweigh the advantage of multiple-year, tax-deferred growth. Conversely, if you’re nearing retirement and planning to sell your business shares shortly, NUA therapy may be a great option.

The tax rate applies to you. If you expect your tax rate to shrink much after you retire, it may not be a good idea to go with NUA treatment.

Summing It Up

Here are five things you should remember after reading this article:

  1. Suppose you are an employee who owns company stock through a 401(k), an ESOP, a profit-sharing plan, or another qualifying employer-sponsored retirement plan. In that case, you typically roll the shares into an IRA upon retirement or separation. When you withdraw funds from your IRA through this rollover, you will be taxed at your ordinary income rate.
  2. Rather than rolling the stock into an IRA, you can elect NUA treatment by moving it to a taxable brokerage account. You must pay tax on your cost basis in the stock at ordinary income rates that year. However Implies, you will be taxed on the long-term capital gain rate appreciation once you sell the store.
  3. To qualify for NUA treatment, you must transfer all vested employer retirement plan funds as part of a lump-sum distribution received after you reach the age of 59 1/2 and leave your company. or perish.
  4. NUA stock is not subject to minimum distribution requirements since it is not held in a retirement plan. You may retain it in your account until the day of your death. Your heirs then receive a stepped-up basis in the stock when it is held in your taxable account.
  5. NUA therapy is most effective for elderly employees whose business stock has appreciated significantly. The basis for the store should not exceed 25% of its fair market value.

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