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Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003

Section 519: No charge in respect of exercise of option

2104.This and the following section derive from section 185(3) and (4) of ICTA and explain the conditions for relief from income tax on the exercise of an option and on post-acquisition benefits.

2105.The relief and the exceptions are set out in a more straightforward way and in a positive framework. No liability to income tax arises in the circumstances set out in this section (subject to the two conditions in subsections (2) and (3)) on the exercise of an option in accordance with the approved provisions of the scheme. Under condition A, the option is exercised after three years from the date on which it is granted. This period between grant and exercise is the norm for a SAYE scheme.

2106.There are a number of circumstances however for an early (pre-three year) exercise which are catered for in SAYE schemes. Rules about these appear in Schedule 3 to this Act. Following on from section 185(4) of ICTA, this section identifies those circumstances for which tax relief is provided. But under condition B the position is expressed positively, although the formulation makes reference to the circumstances where tax relief is not available on the early exercise of an option.

2107.There is a clarification of the time limit in section 185(4) of ICTA, which refers to the exercise of an option within three years of its being obtained in subsections (2) and (3)(a). This section confirms that the period is inclusive of the date of the grant. So, if granted an option on 1 January 2002, an employee can be confident that it can be exercised on the same date three years later and the exercise will qualify for income tax relief. See Change 129 in Annex 1.

2108.There are similar clarifications in the CSOP code and there are references to time limits elsewhere in the notes on the approved schemes. These are instances where, to a greater or lesser extent, doubt may exist as to whether or not the “trigger date”, from which a period is measured, is to be included in the period. As the law ignores fractions of a day when computing periods of this nature, the start date for the various periods has been identified.

2109.The Inland Revenue practice under which the charge on the exercise, assignment and release of unapproved share options is lifted after the death of an option holder has now been given statutory effect in section 477(4). There is a cross-reference to this section in subsection (4). Also, to make it clear that the operation of section 477 acts in conjunction with the approved share scheme rules, which concern the time when a share option lapses after death, there is also a signpost to paragraph 32 of Schedule 3 to this Act in subsection (5)(a).

2110.In subsection (5)(b) there is a direct signpost to paragraph 42(3) of Schedule 3 to this Act, under which, for SAYE, the option holder is protected against the possibility of approval being withdrawn from an approved scheme.

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