Analysis: Musk’s Tesla stock sale poll raises taxing questions

SpaceX proprietor and Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks all the easiest diagram by a dialog with legendary sport designer Todd Howard (no longer pictured) at the E3 gaming convention in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 13, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Listing

Nov 9 (Reuters) – When Elon Musk asked his Twitter followers final weekend if he could perhaps merely peaceable promote 10% of his Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) stock, he said he become posing the query because “mighty is made these days of unrealized good points being one diagram of tax avoidance.”

But the timing of his upcoming stock sale could perhaps clear up a considerable tax headache for himself and build Tesla billions of bucks from its indulge in tax invoice earlier than congressional Democrats clamp down on such breaks and verify out to hike taxes for the super-prosperous, tax and company compensation consultants said.

Musk could perhaps time the proposed sale to coincide with a federal tax invoice of in the case of $11 billion that could perhaps perhaps be triggered by exercising a bit of his Tesla stock ideas value $26.6 billion as of Monday’s shut.

The ideas expire in August 2022 and Musk has said beforehand he doesn’t withhold mighty money around, because his wealth is tied up in his 17% stake in Tesla. He could perhaps borrow against Tesla shares to lift debt to pay the taxes on the decisions.

The ideas were granted to Musk in 2012, the year Tesla first rolled out its Model S and built actual 3,100 cars.

Practically a decade later, Tesla is now the enviornment’s most treasured vehicle maker, with annual deliveries drawing shut 1 million vehicles and factories beneath construction across the globe.

Musk would must pay fat income tax on the massive procure within the shares’ value, but could perhaps promote some with out further capital good points taxes.

Tesla could perhaps spend the movement to buy a corresponding income tax deduction of more than $5 billion for the transfer of shares to Musk, taking good thing a few decades-aged feature of company tax law, said Steve Rosenthal, senior fellow at the City-Brookings Tax Policy Heart.

Here is a profit that Tesla would possibility dropping if Musk waited mighty longer, because Democratic lawmakers indulge in proposed a 15% company different minimum tax that could perhaps perhaps order such deductions as phase of President Joe Biden’s sweeping social and local weather spending opinion.

“Musk gets the final disclose when Tesla takes a substantial deduction, which they’d per chance merely no longer procure to buy subsequent year,” said Steve Rosenthal, a tax attorney and senior fellow at the City-Brookings Tax Policy Heart, a Washington think-tank.

Musk and Tesla did no longer at present acknowledge to requests for comment.


To pick out up the stock ideas, Musk had to hit efficiency targets, including a $4 billion enlarge in Tesla’s market capitalization and operational objectives connected to vehicle construction.

The procure on exercising the decisions would be taxed at the tip payment of 37% plus an further 3.8% surcharge for Medicare, tax consultants said. California and Texas, where he now lives, would salvage further taxes.

Brian Foley, an self reliant compensation expert, said Musk had two ideas to pay for the tax invoice – promote stock or borrow against it. The second possibility is risky because Musk could perhaps receive himself within the crimson were Tesla shares to lose value, he said.

“While you happen to’ve got stock that has appreciated as mighty as his stock has, which is insanely appreciated, I feel it’s miles colorful to promote the shares,” Foley said.

Musk did no longer make obvious in his proposal why he would promote 10% of his shares.

In one among his tweets final weekend, Musk alluded to his doable tax liabilities with out referring namely to the exercising of ideas.

“Gift, I enact no longer buy a money wage or bonus from wherever. I most attention-grabbing indulge in stock, thus the fitting manner for me to pay taxes in my thought is to promote stock,” Musk wrote.


Tesla’s practice of using the exercising of ideas as a tax profit has lengthy been a feature of U.S. company tax law, which permits some substantial companies to decrease their tax liabilities to zero as they compensate executives closely with stock.

Biden has railed against substantial companies paying small in taxes and has backed Democrats’ proposal for the 15% company minimum tax that excludes stock connected deductions, which can per chance perhaps curtail the abilities of companies to sever their tax bills.

The minimum tax is a key revenue-raising measure in Biden’s “Originate Relief Better” invoice that could perhaps perhaps inspire pay for trendy pre-college, an expanded child tax credit score and a host of green energy and electric vehicle tax breaks.

The provision has been estimated to lift $319 billion in fresh revenue over 10 years.

While the draft Originate Relief Better laws reveals the company minimum tax starting up within the 2023 tax year, parts of the bundle indulge in shifted in most modern weeks to satisfy lawmakers’ requires.

Democrats’ most modern version of the invoice doesn’t indulge in a proposed tax on the unrealized Investment good points of billionaires that Musk referred to in his tweet.

This provision become dropped from the invoice in prefer of a 5% income tax surcharge on earnings of $10 million and an 8% surcharge on earnings above $25 million – a provision that also could perhaps ensnare Musk whether it’s miles enacted earlier than his stock possibility good points are taxed at traditional income tax charges.

Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in Unique York, David Lawder in Washington, D.C. and Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco
Bettering by Greg Roumeliotis and Lincoln Feast

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Have confidence Tips.

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