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ESOPs have been a significant component of the compensation for the employees of start-ups, as it allows the founders and start-ups to employ highly talented employees at a relatively low salary amount with balance being made up via ESOPs.

Currently ESOPs are taxed as perquisites under section 17(2) of the Act read with Rule 3(8)(iii) of the Rules. The taxation of ESOPs is split into two components:

i. Tax on perquisite as income from salary at the time of exercise.

ii. Tax on income from capital gain at the time of sale.

The tax on perquisite is required to be paid at the time of exercising of option which may lead to cash flow problem as this benefit of ESOP is in kind.

In order to ease the burden of payment of taxes by the employees of the eligible start-ups or TDS by the start-up employer, it is proposed to amend section 192 of the Act, and insert sub-section (1C) therein to clarify that for the purpose of deducting or paying tax under sub-sections (1) or (1A) thereof, as the case may be, a person, being an eligible start-up referred to in section 80-IAC, responsible for paying any income to the assessee being perquisite of the nature specified in clause (vi) of sub-section (2) of section 17 of the Act, in any previous year relevant to the assessment year 2021-22 or subsequent assessment year, deduct or pay, as the case may be, tax on such income within fourteen days —

(i) after the expiry of forty eight months from the end of the relevant assessment year; or

(ii) from the date of the sale of such specified security or sweat equity share by the assessee; or

(iii) from the date of which the assessee ceases to be the employee of the person;

whichever is the earliest on the basis of rates in force of the financial year in which the said specified security or sweat equity share is allotted or transferred .

Similar amendments have been carried out in section 191 (for assessee to pay the tax direct in case of no TDS) and in section 156 (for notice of demand) and in section 140A (for calculating self-assessment).

This amendment will take effect from 1st April 2020

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