Share Options - PAYE Withholding Requirements

The shift of share options from the Irish self-assessment system to PAYE withholding from 1 January 2024 is a significant change arising from Finance (No. 2) Bill 2023. Prior to this, employees were required to report and remit taxes within 30 days of exercising an option on Form RTSO1.  Additionally, they were required to file an income tax return for the relevant year.

The changes set out in the Finance Bill outline that under the new system, employers are now required to report and make withholdings under the PAYE system on any gains arising after 1 January 2024 on the exercise, assignment or release of share options by employees.

While employees are certain to welcome this change, companies have been given a limited time frame to implement additional procedures to ensure they are compliant with the new obligations.

What should employers do to prepare for the upcoming change in employer reporting obligations?

  • It is advisable that employers communicate this change in the tax treatment to their employees. Companies should also update their share option plan documentation in light of this change.
  • Employers will need to review the share option plan documentation in the context of funding the liabilities. This is because employees will need to be able to fund the tax liability collected through the PAYE system. A number of shares (received from the exercise) may need to be sold under a ‘sell to cover mechanism’ to ensure the necessary funds are available. This is particularly important for companies that allow previous employees to exercise their share option after their employment has terminated.
  • Employers should also ensure accurate records are maintained on an ongoing basis for all share option grants. With regards to mobile employees, employers will also need to monitor both Irish and worldwide workdays during the grant to vest period. This is required to calculate the Irish taxes due on the date of the exercise of the options. Furthermore, a process must be in place to determine whether the gain is subject to PRSI or exempt.
  • Employers will need to ensure that the process for reporting the gains arising from the exercise of share options is completed within the required timeframe. Gains arising from the exercise of share options are regarded as notional payments. Therefore, they must be reported on or before the exercise of the option.

Employer Annual Share Reporting

Employers are still obliged to file an RSS1 return by 31 March following the calendar tax year to report the grant, exercise, assignment, or release of an option.

If you require assistance with the annual share reporting return for share options, please contact us.