CRA Appeals Service Header Image — Gateway Surrey

The Canadian Stock Options Tax: Complete 2023 Guide

April 17, 2023 Andrew AdolphAudits

Rewarding employees with stock options is a win-win situation for both parties, as it not only provides an incentive for hard work but also a savvy investment opportunity. However, navigating the tricky waters of  the Canadian stock options tax laws can be overwhelming. To help you steer clear of any unforeseen administrative hurdles, here’s a comprehensive guide that lays out everything you need to know.

The Canadian Stock Options Tax Complete 2023 Guide


Taxation of Non-Qualified Stock Options (NSOs)

Unlocking the potential of non-qualified stock options (NSOs) comes with a tax benefit that can truly pay off. This means that you can enjoy the difference between the share’s fair market value at the time of exercise and the exercise price. However, it’s important to recognize that this benefit is classified as employment income, according to the CRA. You’ll need to factor in the federal and provincial income tax involved.

Let’s dive a little deeper into how this benefit works. Suppose you decide to exercise NSOs at an exercise price of $50 per share, and the shares’ fair market value is $100 per share. This would give you a taxable benefit of $50 per share. In other words, the difference between $100 and $50.

The cherry on top? Your employer is responsible for withholding income tax, CPP, and EI from your paycheck. So you can rest easy, knowing that the tax won’t sneak up on you later on. Overall, NSOs offer a unique way to benefit from your employer’s equity compensation plan.

Taxation of Capital Gains

Don’t forget Capital Gains tax when it comes to selling shares obtained through NSOs. If the selling price exceeds the fair market value at the time of purchase, you may be subject to paying taxes on half the profits made. However, holding onto the shares for at least two years before selling may make you eligible for the capital gains deduction and lessen the tax burden. Keep this in mind to avoid any unexpected financial surprises down the road.

Taxation of Incentive Stock Options (ISOs)

Do you know how taxation works for Incentive Stock Options (ISOs)? It’s actually pretty interesting. Unlike regular stock options, ISOs aren’t taxed when you exercise them, but when you sell the shares you acquired through the options. The taxable benefit is based on the difference between the sale price and the fair market value of the shares at the time of exercise.

So, let’s say you exercise your ISOs at $10 per share when the fair market value is also $10 per share, but sell them later for $20 per share. You would owe tax on the $10 taxable benefit per share at your marginal tax rate. It’s important to understand the nuances of ISO taxation to make informed decisions about your stock options.

Navigating the taxation of stock options in Canada can be a dizzying experience, with a sea of rules and regulations to wade through. While the above information gives a general sense of what to expect, it’s important to remember that every situation is unique. To ensure you stay afloat and fully comprehend the tax implications of your specific circumstance, it’s advisable to seek the guidance of a seasoned tax professional. Don’t get swept away by uncertainty – let an expert help you navigate the choppy waters of stock option taxation.

Bottom Line

If that seemed like too much information and you are still perplexed, don’t worry, you’re not alone. When it comes to the Canadian stock options tax laws, things are even more confusing than usual. If you need help navigating your taxes when it comes to your stocks, give me a call. I wouldn’t advise you to muddle with Canadian stock options tax if you have no clue what you’re doing. I’m a former CRA auditor and can assure you that you are in compliance come tax time. For any other tax-related questions, feel free to check out my blog or book a free consultation. The Canadian government also has an abundance of tax information available for you to check it. For more information, just click here on this link.






Book Free Consultation

Andrew Adolph

Andrew Adolph is a CPA and former CRA auditor with 25 Years of experience. He helps businesses to not par any more in sales taxs than the law says they must and acts as an advocate for you if you are being audited, so you can fous on your business.