The Employee Ownership Update
June 21, 2001
Accounting Bodies Push for Reporting Option CostsMost members of the International Accounting Standards Board favor an international standard that would require companies to show the cost of options as a charge against current income, much as the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) proposed to do in the 1990s. Board members acknowledged that it would require a united front to make these changes, as countries not adopting the rules would have a competitive advantage. There was unanimous support for moving ahead on a project to evaluate how to establish such a standard, but no immediate action is expected.
In the U.S., FASB proposed requiring companies to use a formula, such as Black-Scholes, to estimate the present value of outstanding options and report that as a charge against current earnings. The proposal generated intense opposition and a threat of Congressional action, something unprecedented for the accounting body. As a result, companies are now only required to report a charge in their footnotes. International opposition may not be as fierce because option plans play a less significant role in most other countries in both executive and broad-based compensation than they do in the U.S. The IASB cannot impose standards on member countries, but there would be considerable pressure to conform to international norms.
IRS Allows Transitory Distribution to IRA in an S Corporation ESOPAn unpublished IRS private letter ruling has concluded that an S corporation ESOP can make a distribution of company stock to a participant's Individual Retirement Account (IRA) without breaking the S election. S corporation rules prohibit an IRA from owning company stock, but practitioners have argued that if the IRA immediately resells the distributed stock to the company or the ESOP, then it cannot practically be considered to have owned the shares. By allowing this kind of transaction, practitioners have argued, the IRS would save the extra hassle of distributing stock to the employees, which would then be sold back to the company or ESOP, with the proceeds put into the IRA.
The IRS has agreed with this argument, concluding that no useful tax purpose is met by requiring the extra step. Companies will have to monitor their distributions, however, so that no more are made on any one day than would be required to stay under the 75 shareholder limit for S corporations.