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CircularNo.213/07/2024-GST

Subject: Clarification on the taxability of ESOP/ESPP/RSU provided by a company to its employees through its overseas holding company - reg.


F. No. CBIC-20001/4/2024-GST

Government of India

Ministry of Finance

(Department of Revenue)

Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs

GST Policy Wing

*****


North Delhi, New Delhi

Dated the 26th June 2024


To,

The Principal Chief Commissioners/ Chief Commissioners/ Principal Commissioners/ Commissioners of Central Tax (All)

The Principal Directors General/ Directors General (All)


Madam/Sir,


Subject: Clarification on the taxability of ESOP/ESPP/RSU provided by a company to its employees through its overseas holding company - reg.


Representations have been received from the trade and field formations seeking clarification regarding the taxability of Employee Stock Option (ESOP)/Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP)/ Restricted Stock Unit (RSU) provided by a company to its employees.


2.1 It has been represented that some of the Indian companies provide the option to their employees for allotment of securities/shares of their foreign holding company as part of the compensation package as per terms of contract of employment. In such cases, on exercising the option by the employees of Indian subsidiary company, the securities/shares of foreign holding company are allotted directly by the holding company to the concerned employees of Indian subsidiary company, and the cost of such securities/shares is generally reimbursed by the subsidiary company to the holding company.


2.2 Doubts are being raised regarding taxability of such a transaction under GST, i.e. whether such transfer of shares/ securities by the foreign holding company directly to the employees of the Indian subsidiary company and subsequent re-imbursement of the cost of such shares/ securities by the Indian subsidiary company to the foreign holding company can be considered as import of financial services by the Indian subsidiary company from the foreign holding company and whether the same can be considered as liable to GST in the hands of Indian subsidiary company on reverse charge basis.


3. In order to clarify the issue and to ensure uniformity in the implementation of the provisions of law across the field formations, the Board, in exercise of its powers conferred by section 168 (1) of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017 (hereinafter referred to as “CGST Act”), hereby clarifies the issues as under.


4. The companies are providing option of allotment of securities/shares to their employees as a means of incentivization and the same is commonly referred to as an Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP) or Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP) or Restricted Stock Unit (RSU). Such specific terminology usage depends on the agreed-upon compensation terms between the employer and the employee. ESPPs and ESOPs are typically presented as 'options' granted to employees, whereas RSUs take the form of awards or rewards contingent upon the employee meeting specific performance standards. Regardless of the terminology used, the fundamental essence of the transaction remains the same i.e. the allocation of securities or shares from the employer to employee as part of compensation package with the aim of motivating enhanced performance.


4.1 A transaction involving transfer of ESOP/ESPP/RSU to the employees of domestic subsidiary by the foreign holding company appears to involve the following steps:


• The domestic subsidiary company gives option/ facility of ESOP/ESPP/RSU to its employees as part of compensation package as per terms of employment.

• The employees exercise their stock options, either by purchasing shares at the grant price or by holding the options until they vest.

• The foreign holding company of the domestic subsidiary company issues ESOP/ESPP/RSU, which are securities/shares listed on the foreign stock exchange, to the employees of the domestic subsidiary company.

• The foreign holding company transfers the shares directly to the employees of the subsidiary company.

• The domestic subsidiary company generally reimburses the cost of such shares to the foreign holding company on cost-to cost basis either through an actual remittance or through an equity transfer as prescribed by the relevant Indian Accounting Standard.

• The employees hold the shares and may sell them at a later date, if they so choose.


4.2 The foreign holding company issues securities/shares as ESOP/SPP/RSU to the employees of the domestic subsidiary company on the request of the said domestic subsidiary company. However, Securities under GST Law are considered neither goods nor services in terms of definition of “goods” under clause (52) of section 2 of CGST Act and in terms of definition of “services” under clause (102) of the said section. Further, securities include ‘shares’ as per definition of “securities” under clause (h) of section 2 of Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956. Accordingly, purchase or sale of securities/shares, in itself, is neither a supply of goods nor a supply of services. Therefore, in the absence of such transaction, falling under the supply of ‘goods’ or ‘services’ as per GST Act, GST is not leviable on said transaction of sale/purchase/transfer of securities/shares.


4.3 Further, the companies offer ESOP/ESPP/RSU to their employees to motivate them to perform better, and to retain the employees, by aligning the interest of employees with that of company. The ESOP/ESPP/RSU is a part of remuneration of the employee by the employer as per terms of employment. As per Entry 1 of Schedule III of the CGST Act, the services by an employee to the employer in the course of or in relation to his employment are treated neither as supply of goods nor as supply of services. Therefore, GST is not leviable on the compensation paid to the employee by the employer as per the terms of employment contract which involve transfer of securities/shares of the foreign holding company to the employees of domestic subsidiary company.


4.4 The foreign holding company directly transfers the shares/securities to the employees of the domestic subsidiary company on the request of the said domestic subsidiary company. Reimbursement of such securities/ shares is generally done by domestic subsidiary company to foreign holding company on cost-to-cost basis i.e. equal to the market value of securities without any element of additional fee, markup or commission.Since the said reimbursement by the domestic subsidiary company to the foreign holding company is for transfer of securities/shares, which is neither in nature of goods nor services, the same cannot be treated as import of services by the domestic subsidiary company from the foreign holding company and hence, is not liable to GST under CGST Act.


4.5 However, if the foreign holding company charges any additional fee, markup, or commission from the domestic subsidiary company for issuing ESOP/ESPP/RSU to the employees of the domestic subsidiary company, then the same shall be considered to be in nature of consideration for the supply of services of facilitating/ arranging the transaction in securities/ shares by the foreign holding company to the domestic subsidiary company. In this case, GST will be leviable on such amount of the additional fee, markup, or commission, charged by the foreign holding company from the domestic subsidiary for issuance of its securities/shares to the employees of the latter. The GST shall be payable by the domestic holding company on reverse charge basis on such import of services from the foreign holding company.


4.6 Accordingly, it is clarified that no supply of service appears to be taking place between the foreign holding company and the domestic subsidiary company where the foreign holding company issues ESOP/ESPP/RSU to the employees of domestic subsidiary company, and the domestic subsidiary company reimburses the cost of such securities/shares to the foreign holding company on cost-to-cost basis. However, in cases where an additional amount over and above the cost of securities/shares is charged by the foreign holding company from the domestic subsidiary company, by whatever name called, GST would be leviable on such additional amount charged as consideration for the supply of services of facilitating/ arranging the transaction in securities/ shares by the foreign holding company to the domestic subsidiary company. The GST shall be payable by the domestic subsidiary company on reverse charge basis in such a case on the said import of services.


5. It is requested that suitable trade notices may be issued to publicize the contents of this Circular.


6. Difficulty, if any, in implementation of this Circular may please be brought to the notice of the Board. Hindi version would follow.



(Sanjay Mangal)

Principal Commissioner(GST)



Disclaimer: We have taken due care while copying content of the Circular for purely informational/academic purpose however mistakes may creep in while copying. Therefore, it is requested that Original Circular may please be referred. Fab Gyan and its Team will not be responsible for any mistake.


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