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Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003

Section 524: No charge in respect of exercise of option

2129.This and the following section bring together section 185(3) and (5) of ICTA and incorporate paragraph 27(3) of Schedule 9 to ICTA, which was formerly referred to in section 185(3).

2130.These two sections explain the conditions for relief from income tax on the exercise of an option and on post-acquisition benefits. As with the SAYE provisions, this section makes the circumstances of relief and the exceptions more straightforward, expressing them in a positive form.

2131.No liability to income tax arises in the circumstances set out in the condition in subsection (2). The option has to be exercised between three years and ten years after receipt and three years after a previous exempt exercise, as defined in subsection (3).

2132.There are therefore three dates crucial to this relief. The three year period in subsection (2)(a)(i) begins with the day on which the option is granted. There is a minor change in relation to the exercise on the tenth anniversary of the grant in subsection (2)(a)(ii). See Change 129 in Annex 1.

2133.In subsection (2)(b) the rule makes it clear that the period is inclusive of the exercise of the current option. (In section 185(5)(b) of ICTA the period looks back to the date of an earlier exercise.) The effect is that if there is an exempt exercise of an option on 1 January 2002, an employee can be confident that a further exercise on the same date three years later will qualify for income tax relief.

2134.There are similar clarifications in the SAYE code and there are references to time limits elsewhere in the explanatory notes on the approved schemes. These are instances where it might be open to doubt 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, this section identifies the start date for the various periods.

2135.The Inland Revenue practice under which the charge on the exercise, assignment and release of unapproved share options after the death of an option holder is lifted has now been given statutory effect in section 477(4). There is a new 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 a signpost to paragraph 25 of Schedule 4 in subsection (5).

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