In an attempt to encourage entrepreneurship in Australia and support innovative start-up companies, the government announced on Tuesday it would reform the tax treatment of Employee Share Schemes (EES).
With this initiative, the coalition government will be unwinding changes to the tax treatment of EES made by the previous Labor government in 2009.
Employee Share Schemes give employees a financial share of the company's potential success. As such, they help start-up companies to attract and retain high-quality staff.
"As a starting point, the government will reverse the changes made in 2009 to the taxing point for options," a joint statement from the Prime Minister's office said.
"This change will apply to all companies and will mean that discounted options are generally taxed when they are exercised ( converted to shares), rather than when the employee receives the options."
"Further, the government will allow Employee Share Scheme options or shares that are provided at a small discount by eligible start-up companies to not be subject to up-front taxation, so long as the shares or options are held by the employee for at least three years."
"Options under certain conditions will have taxation deferred until sale. Shares (issued at a small discount) will have that discount exempt from tax."
To be eligible for this concessional treatment, a company will have aggregate turnover of not more than 50 million Australian dollars, be unlisted and be incorporated for less than 10 years.
The statement also said the government would extend the maximum time for tax deferral from seven years to 15 years, in order to give start-ups more time to be competitive and succeed.
"The government will also update the 'safe harbor' valuation tables, which are used by companies to value their options, so they reflect current market conditions," it said. "The integrity provisions introduced in 2009 and the 1,000 AUD up-front tax concession for employees who earn less than 180,000 AUD per year will be retained."
The new legislation is proposed to come into effect on July 1, 2015.