What is the difference between ESOP and stock?

Employee stock ownership and stock purchase look similar, but their effects on a firm and its staff are radically different. ESOP shares could become integral to a company’s performance, whereas stock plans primarily aid talent acquisition. Even though an ESOP can offer substantial tax benefits, it takes significantly more administrative work than a stock plan.


ESOP shares classify as a retirement savings plan, comparable to a 401(k) or individual retirement fund, whereas companies use share options as employee benefits, comparable to health insurance. In an ESOP, the corporation contributes its shares to employee retirement plans.

This may be accomplished through cash or stock donations to the program or by permitting the ESOP to secure a bank loan to purchase business shares.

Under a standard stock option, the company provides qualified employees with the opportunity to buy company shares at a discount upon meeting specific conditions, such as three years of service.

A firm may, for instance, offer staff to buy 500 shares of the company for $10 per share at any point during the following five years. Alternatively, the corporation could permit the employee to delay exercising his options until the company’s stock reaches a specified price.

Tax Advantages

A firm may deduct contributions and debt payments to an employee stock ownership plan. Once the ESOP controls 30% of the business, the shareholder may delay taxable profits on the sale of their shares if they reinvest the proceeds in an eligible asset, such as a different corporation. The share of an S-Corporation owned by an ESOP is not subject to taxation.

For instance, if an ESOP owns 60% of an S-Corporation, only 40% of the corporation’s income is subject to taxation. Employee contributions to an ESOP are not taxable, and employees can postpone paying the taxes on earnings until retirement. When employees pay taxes, they often pay a far lower rate on capital gains.

Employees receive shares under an incentivized stock option and pay taxes only on the gain. If the worker does not keep the shares for a particular period, often one year, he is taxed on the sale as if it were ordinary income. Workers pay for share options using earnings after taxes.


Employers use ESOPs and share options to attract and retain employees who contribute to the company’s success. ESOPs do have some business functions, though. For instance, owners may use an ESOP as an escape plan to avoid paying tax on the sale of the business. Due to deductions for contributions to the plan, an ESOP can increase cash flow. In addition, the business can match worker savings with shares instead of cash, increasing its cash reserves for expansion.


Consult a lawyer and a financial advisor before determining how to compensate staff with shares. The NCEO states that a minimum of $40,000 is required to implement even the most basic employee stock option plan. Any S-Corporation may establish an ESOP share price, although partnerships and most professional businesses are prohibited from doing so.

On occasion, ESOPs have a detrimental impact on employee morale. For instance, employees may resent not having a voice in management despite owning a portion of the company. In addition, employees invest the majority of their retirement funds in the company. In the event of bankruptcy, ESOP participants risk losing their entire retirement funds.

Plans for an employee stock option scheme shouldn’t be confused with ESOPs, which are retirement programs.

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