Re: What Is ESOP? - CiteHR
STARNAND
Executive
Fayeg
Human Resources Officer

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Hi, Please can any body give me the detail about ESOP. or how IT companies are working on it.Please send the PPt for the same. Thanks Sandhya
Hi,

I found this on the site.

How an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) Works

Employee ownership can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Employees can buy stock directly, be given it as a bonus, can receive stock options, or obtain stock through a profit sharing plan. Some employees become owners through worker cooperatives where everyone has an equal vote. But by far the most common form of employee ownership in the U.S. is the ESOP, or employee stock ownership plan. Almost unknown until 1974, about 11,000 companies now have these plans, covering over 8 million employees.

Companies can use ESOPs for a variety of purposes. While most of the press attention has focused on ESOPs in public companies used as a takeover defense, this explains less than 2% of all ESOPs. Nor are buyouts of failing companies (1% of the plans) or exchanges of stock for concessions (3% of the plans) common purposes. Instead, ESOPs are most commonly used to provide a market for the shares of departing owners of successful closely held companies, to motivate and reward employees, or to take advantage of incentives to borrow money for acquiring new assets in pretax dollars. In almost every case, ESOPs are a contribution to the employee, not an employee purchase.

ESOP Rules

An ESOP is a kind of employee benefit plan, similar in some ways to a profit-sharing plan. In an ESOP, a company sets up a trust fund, into which it contributes new shares of its own stock or cash to buy existing shares. Alternatively, the ESOP can borrow money to buy new or existing shares, with the company making cash contributions to the plan to enable it to repay the loan. Regardless of how the plan acquires stock, company contributions to the trust are tax-deductible, within certain limits.

Shares in the trust are allocated to individual employee accounts. Although there are some exceptions, generally all full-time employees over 21 participate in the plan. Allocations are made either on the basis of relative pay or some more equal formula. As employees accumulate seniority with the company, they acquire an increasing right to the shares in their account, a process known as vesting. Employees must be 100% vested within three to six years, depending on whether vesting is all at once (cliff vesting) or gradual.

When employees leave the company, they receive their stock, which the company must buy back from them at its fair market value (unless there is a public market for the shares). Private companies must have an annual outside valuation to determine the price of their shares. In private companies, employees must be able to vote their allocated shares on major issues, such as closing or relocating, but the company can choose whether to pass through voting rights (such as for the board of directors) on other issues. In public companies, employees must be able to vote all issues.

Uses for ESOPs

To buy the shares of a departing owner: Owners of privately held companies can use an ESOP to create a ready market for their shares. Under this approach, the company can make tax-deductible cash contributions to the ESOP to buy out an owner's shares, or it can have the ESOP borrow money to buy the shares (see below). In C corporations, once the ESOP owns 30% of all the shares in the company, the seller can reinvest the proceeds of the sale in other securities and defer any tax on the gain.

To borrow money at a lower after-tax cost: ESOPs are unique among benefit plans in their ability to borrow money. The ESOP borrows cash, which it uses to buy company shares or shares of existing owners. The company then makes tax-deductible contributions to the ESOP to repay the loan, meaning both principal and interest are deductible.

To create an additional employee benefit: A company can simply issue new or treasury shares to an ESOP, deducting their value (for up to 25% of covered pay) from taxable income. Or a company can contribute cash, buying shares from existing public or private owners. In public companies, which account for about 5% of the plans and about 40% of the plan participants, ESOPs are often used in conjunction with employee savings plans. Rather than matching employee savings with cash, the company will match them with stock from an ESOP, often at a higher matching level.

Caveats

As attractive as these tax benefits are, however, there are limits and drawbacks. The law does not allow ESOPs to be used in partnerships and most professional corporations. ESOPs can be used in S corporations, but do not qualify for the rollover treatment discussed aboved and have lower contribution limits. Private companies must repurchase shares of departing employees, and this can become a major expense. The cost of setting up an ESOP is also substantial -- perhaps $30,000 for the simplest of plans in small companies and on up from there. Any time new shares are issued, the stock of existing owners is diluted. That dilution must be weighed against the tax and motivation benefits an ESOP can provide. Finally, ESOPs will improve corporate performance only if combined with opportunities for employees to participate in decisions affecting their work.

Dear Fayeg, Thank you very much Very good explanation on ESOP Can u tell me one thing, this ESOP rules varies from time to time or company to company? Regards, Kumar
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