26 CFR § 1.422-4 - $100,000 limitation for incentive stock options.

§ 1.422-4 $100,000 limitation for incentive stock options.

(a) $100,000 per year limitation -

(1) General rule. An option that otherwise qualifies as an incentive stock option nevertheless fails to be an incentive stock option to the extent that the $100,000 limitation described in paragraph (a)(2) of this section is exceeded.

(2) $100,000 per year limitation. To the extent that the aggregate fair market value of stock with respect to which an incentive stock option (determined without regard to this section) is exercisable for the first time by any individual during any calendar year (under all plans of the employer corporation and related corporations) exceeds $100,000, such option is treated as a nonstatutory option. See § 1.83-7 for rules applicable to nonstatutory options.

(b) Application. To determine whether the limitation described in paragraph (a)(2) of this section has been exceeded, the following rules apply:

(1) An option that does not meet the requirements of § 1.422-2 when granted (including an option which, when granted, contains terms providing that it will not be treated as an incentive stock option) is disregarded. See § 1.422-2(a)(4).

(2) The fair market value of stock is determined as of the date of grant of the option for such stock.

(3) Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (b)(4) of this section, options are taken into account in the order in which they are granted.

(4) For purposes of this section, an option is considered to be first exercisable during a calendar year if the option will become exercisable at any time during the year assuming that any condition on the optionee's ability to exercise the option related to the performance of services is satisfied. If the optionee's ability to exercise the option in the year is subject to an acceleration provision, then the option is considered first exercisable in the calendar year in which the acceleration provision is triggered. After an acceleration provision is triggered, the options subject to such provision are then taken into account in accordance with paragraph (b)(3) of this section for purposes of applying the limitation described in paragraph (a)(2) of this section to all options first exercisable during a calendar year. However, because an acceleration provision is not taken into account prior to its triggering, an incentive stock option that becomes exercisable for the first time during a calendar year by operation of such a provision does not affect the application of the $100,000 limitation with respect to any option (or portion thereof) exercised prior to such acceleration. For purposes of this paragraph (b)(4), an acceleration provision includes, for example, a provision that accelerates the exercisability of an option on a change in ownership or control or a provision that conditions exercisability on the attainment of a performance goal. See paragraph (d), Example 4 of this section.

(5)

(i) An option (or portion thereof) is disregarded if, prior to the calendar year during which it would otherwise have become exercisable for the first time, the option (or portion thereof) is modified and thereafter ceases to be an incentive stock option described in § 1.422-2, is canceled, or is transferred in violation of § 1.421-1(b)(2).

(ii) If an option (or portion thereof) is modified, canceled, or transferred at any other time, such option (or portion thereof) is treated as outstanding according to its original terms until the end of the calendar year during which it would otherwise have become exercisable for the first time.

(6) A disqualifying disposition has no effect on the determination of whether an option exceeds the $100,000 limitation.

(c) Bifurcation -

(1) Options. The application of the rules described in paragraph (b) of this section may result in an option being treated, in part, as an incentive stock option and, in part, as a nonstatutory option. See § 1.83-7 for the treatment of nonstatutory options.

(2) Stock. A corporation may issue a separate certificate for incentive option stock or designate such stock as incentive stock option stock in the corporation's transfer records or plan records. In such a case, the issuance of separate certificates or designation in the corporation's transfer records or plan records is not a modification under § 1.424-1(e). In the absence of such an issuance or designation, shares are treated as first purchased under an incentive stock option to the extent of the $100,000 limitation, and the excess shares are treated as purchased under a nonstatutory option. See § 1.83-7 for the treatment of nonstatutory options.

(d) Examples. The following examples illustrate the principles of this section. In each of the following examples E is an employee of X Corporation. The examples are as follows:

Example 1. General rule.
Effective January 1, 2004, X Corporation adopts a plan under which incentive stock options may be granted to its employees. On January 1, 2004, and each succeeding January 1 through January 1, 2013, E is granted immediately exercisable options for X Corporation stock with a fair market value of $100,000 determined on the date of grant. The options qualify as incentive stock options (determined without regard to this section). On January 1, 2014, E exercises all of the options. Because the $100,000 limitation has not been exceeded during any calendar year, all of the options are treated as incentive stock options.
Example 2. Order of grant.
X Corporation is a parent corporation of Y Corporation, which is a parent corporation of Z Corporation. Each corporation has adopted its own separate plan, under which an employee of any member of the corporate group may be granted options for stock of any member of the group. On January 1, 2004, X Corporation grants E an incentive stock option (determined without regard to this section) for stock of Y Corporation with a fair market value of $100,000 on the date of grant. On December 31, 2004, Y Corporation grants E an incentive stock option (determined without regard to this section) for stock of Z Corporation with a fair market value of $75,000 as of the date of grant. Both of the options are immediately exercisable. For purposes of this section, options are taken into account in the order in which granted using the fair market value of stock as of the date on the option is granted. During calendar year 2004, the aggregate fair market value of stock with respect to which E's options are exercisable for the first time exceeds $100,000. Therefore, the option for Y Corporation stock is treated as an incentive stock option, and the option for Z Corporation stock is treated as a nonstatutory option.
Example 3. Acceleration provision.
(i) In 2004, X Corporation grants E three incentive stock options (determined without regard to this section) to acquire stock with an aggregate fair market value of $150,000 on the date of grant. The dates of grant, the fair market value of the stock (as of the applicable date of grant) with respect to which the options are exercisable, and the years in which the options are first exercisable (without regard to acceleration provisions) are as follows:
Date of grant Fair market value of stock First
exercisable
Option 1 April 1, 2004 $60,000 2004
Option 2 May 1, 2004 50,000 2006
Option 3 June 1, 2004 40,000 2004
(ii) In July of 2004, a change in control of X Corporation occurs, and, under the terms of its option plan, all outstanding options become immediately exercisable. Under the rules of this section, Option 1 is treated as an incentive stock option in its entirety; Option 2 exceeds the $100,000 aggregate fair market value limitation for calendar year 2004 by $10,000 (Option 1's $60,000 + Option 2's $50,000 = $110,000) and is, therefore, bifurcated into an incentive stock option for stock with a fair market value of $40,000 as of the date of grant and a nonstatutory option for stock with a fair market value of $10,000 as of the date of grant. Option 3 is treated as a nonstatutory option in its entirety.
Example 4. Exercise of option and acceleration provision.
In 2004, X Corporation grants E three incentive stock options (determined without regard to this section) to acquire stock with an aggregate fair market value of $120,000 on the date of grant. The dates of grant, the fair market value of the stock (as of the applicable date of grant) with respect to which the options are exercisable, and the years in which the options are first exercisable (without regard to acceleration provisions) are as follows:
Date of grant Fair market value of stock First
exercisable
Option 1 April 1, 2004 $60,000 2005
Option 2 May 1, 2004 40,000 2006
Option 3 June 1, 2004 20,000 2005
On June 1, 2005, E exercises Option 3. At the time of exercise of Option 3, the fair market value of X stock (at the time of grant) with respect to which options held by E are first exercisable in 2005 does not exceed $100,000. On September 1, 2005, a change of control of X Corporation occurs, and, under the terms of its option plan, Option 2 becomes immediately exercisable. Under the rules of this section, because E's exercise of Option 3 occurs before the change of control and the effects of an acceleration provision are not taken into account until it is triggered, Option 3 is treated as an incentive stock option in its entirety. Option 1 is treated as an incentive stock option in its entirety. Option 2 is bifurcated into an incentive stock option for stock with a fair market value of $20,000 on the date of grant and a nonstatutory option for stock with a fair market value of $20,000 on the date of grant because it exceeds the $100,000 limitation for 2003 by $20,000 (Option 1 for $60,000 + Option 3 for $20,000 + Option 2 for $40,000 = $120,000).

(iii) Assume the same facts as in paragraph (ii) of this Example 4, except that the change of control occurs on May 1, 2005. Because options are taken into account in the order in which they are granted, Option 1 and Option 2 are treated as incentive stock options in their entirety. Because the exercise of Option 3 (on June 1, 2005) takes place after the acceleration provision is triggered, Option 3 is treated as a nonstatutory option in its entirety.

Example 5. Cancellation of option.
In 2004, X Corporation grants E three incentive stock options (determined without regard to this section) to acquire stock with an aggregate fair market value of $140,000 as of the date of grant. The dates of grant, the fair market value of the stock (as of the applicable date of grant) with respect to which the options are exercisable, and the years in which the options are first exercisable (without regard to acceleration provisions) are as follows:
Date of grant Fair market value of stock First
exercisable
Option 1 April 1, 2004 $60,000 2005
Option 2 May 1, 2004 40,000 2005
Option 3 June 1, 2004 40,000 2005
On December 31, 2004, Option 2 is canceled. Because Option 2 is canceled before the calendar year during which it would have become exercisable for the first time, it is disregarded. As a result, Option 1 and Option 3 are treated as incentive stock options in their entirety.

Assume the same facts as in paragraph (ii) of this Example 5, except that Option 2 is canceled on January 1, 2005. Because Option 2 is not canceled prior to the calendar year during which it would have become exercisable for the first time (2005), it is treated as an outstanding option for purposes of determining whether the $100,000 limitation for 2005 has been exceeded. Because options are taken into account in the order in which granted, Option 1 is treated as an incentive stock option in its entirety. Because Option 3 exceeds the $100,000 limitation by $40,000 (Option 1 for $60,000 + Option 2 for $40,000 + Option 3 for $40,000 = $140,000), it is treated as a nonstatutory option in its entirety.

(iv) Assume the same facts as in paragraph (i) of this Example 5, except that on January 1, 2005, E exercises Option 2 and immediately sells the stock in a disqualifying disposition. A disqualifying disposition has no effect on the determination of whether the underlying option is considered outstanding during the calendar year during which it is first exercisable. Because options are taken into account in the order in which granted, Option 1 is treated as an incentive stock option in its entirety. Because Option 3 exceeds the $100,000 limitation by $40,000 (Option 1 for $60,000 + Option 2 for $40,000 + Option 3 for $40,000 = $140,000), it is treated as a nonstatutory option in its entirety.

Example 6. Designation of stock.
On January 1, 2004, X grants E an immediately exercisable incentive stock option (determined without regard to this section) to acquire X stock with a fair market value of $150,000 on that date. Under the rules of this section, the option is bifurcated and treated as an incentive stock option for X stock with a fair market value of $100,000 and a nonstatutory option for X stock with a fair market value of $50,000. In these circumstances, X may designate the stock that is treated as stock acquired pursuant to the exercise of an incentive stock option by issuing a separate certificate (or certificates) for $100,000 of stock and identifying such certificates as Incentive Stock Option Stock in its transfer records. In the absence of such a designation (or a designation in the corporation's transfer records or the plan records) shares with a fair market value of $100,000 are deemed purchased first under an incentive stock option, and shares with a fair market value of $50,000 are deemed purchased under a nonstatutory option.
[T.D. 9144, 69 FR 46415, Aug. 3, 2004; 69 FR 70551, Dec. 7, 2004]