What are Stock Appreciation Rights (SARs)?
Stock Appreciation Rights

Employees or independent contractors might be given stock appreciation rights (SARs), which are a sort of compensation. A SAR permits an employee to enjoy the growth in the value of a company's stock over a specified period of time. Employees or independent contractors can do so by cashing out SAR or exercising it for stock. It's critical to understand how stock appreciation rights function if a company has them as an employee perk or if offered them as a freelancer. Employees do not own stock in their company directly. They can instead get the difference in the value of an employer's stock share when it rises in value.

When we exercise a stock appreciation right, the corporation may offer cash or shares of stock worth the same amount. On the other hand, when we execute a stock option, you are purchasing shares of the company's stock. We'd have to sell the shares after exercising the option if we wanted to convert them to cash.


Employee pay in the form of stock appreciation rights (SARs) is connected to the company's stock price over a predetermined period of time. SARs, unlike stock options, are usually paid in cash and don't require the employee to possess any assets or contracts. Employers benefit from SARs since they don't have to issue extra shares or dilute their ownership in the company.

How do SARs Work?

Employees and independent contractors who have stock appreciation rights can profit from gains in the value of the firm stock over a set period of time. Participants who exercise a SAR can get the proceeds of a stock increase in cash or in an equivalent number of shares without having to buy the stock.

Companies may provide these advantages for a variety of reasons. They may decide to provide SARs if:

  • Employees and independent contractors will be able to participate in the company's equity value, but not in the stock itself.
  • More traditional pay arrangements, such as an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) or a profit-sharing plan, are either prohibitively expensive or constrained by corporate policies.
  • Their purpose is to augment existing stock ownership schemes without immediately offering more stock.

Taxation and SARs:

When we exercise our stock appreciation rights, the proceeds are taxed. If we obtain stock instead of cash and later sell the stock, we may face capital gains tax on the increased value. Non-qualified and incentive stock options are taxed differently.

When you exercise your options with NSOs, we'll pay regular income tax. This tax is based on the difference between the fair market value of the shares at the time they were exercised and the price you paid for them. If we sell the shares for a profit, we will also incur capital gains tax. We'd only have to pay capital gains tax on incentive stock options if we sold the stock.

SARs: Their Benefits and Drawbacks:

SARs' biggest benefit is their adaptability. SARs can be structured in a number of ways to suit the needs of various people. This adaptability, on the other hand, necessitates a variety of decisions. Companies that issue SARs must decide which employees will earn them, how much these bonuses will be worth, how liquid the SARs will be, and what vesting procedures to utilize.

SARs are popular with employers since the accounting laws are more advantageous than in the past. They're treated the same way as traditional stock option programs, with fixed rather than variable accounting. However, compared to standard stock plans, SARs require fewer shares to be issued and erode the share priceless. SARs, like all kinds of equity remuneration, can help motivate and retain personnel.

What distinguishes phantom stock from stock appreciation rights?

A promise to pay an employee a bonus in one of two methods is referred to as phantom stock. Employees can be paid the value of the company's stock or the increase in value over a set period of time. Phantom stock plans aren't tax-qualified, and payments are usually made on a set schedule. Stock splits and dividends may be reflected as well.

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