Why Should Startups File an 83(b) Election?

When you launch a startup, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made. One of the most critical decisions that founders must make is how to manage their stock grants. The 83(b) Election is an essential tool available to startups and founders that can help them avoid certain taxes associated with their stock grants, take advantage of beneficial tax rates, and control the timing of income from their stock. In this article, we’ll look at the 83(b) Election, its benefits and drawbacks, when it should be filed, and how to file it. 


In summary, the 83(b) election is a valuable tool for startup founders to maximize the benefits of their stock grants and avoid certain taxes associated with them. Filing this election within 30 days of receiving a grant can offer entrepreneurs control over when they realize capital gains from their stock and help them secure beneficial tax rates. However, it is crucial to understand all risks and drawbacks associated with filing an 83(b), such as forfeiting all its benefits if not filed within the allotted time frame. With enough knowledge about how it works, entrepreneurs can leverage this powerful tool to gain maximum advantage from their stock grants.

Understanding the 83(b) Election

The 83(b) Election is a powerful tool for startup founders, allowing them to save money on taxes and control the timing of income from their stock grants. It is crucial to understand how it works to take advantage of the benefits associated with this form.

When a founder exercises an option to purchase stock in their company, they can choose to file an 83(b) election with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) within 30 days of exercising the option, which allows them to pay taxes on the stock when they receive it rather than when they exercise the option or when they sell the stock. This can result in significant tax savings and earlier taxation of gains for entrepreneurs.

However, filing for this election has risks and drawbacks that must also be considered. If not filed within 30 days of exercising an option, entrepreneurs must pay taxes at ordinary income rates instead of capital gains rates, which could result in significant additional tax liabilities. Additionally, if not filed correctly or at all, companies may face penalties and interest payments from the IRS.

In addition to filing with the IRS, entrepreneurs must also file their 83(b) election with their company, granting the options for it to be valid. Startups must consult a qualified CPA or attorney before filing this form to ensure all required steps are taken correctly, and all necessary documentation is submitted accurately and on time.

By understanding these risks and taking all necessary steps properly, startup founders can benefit significantly from filing an 83(b) Election while avoiding any potential legal issues or penalties down the line.

Benefits of Filing an 83(b) Election

Filing an 83(b) election can offer several potential benefits, but it’s important to note that these benefits depend on your specific financial situation and the terms of your equity compensation. Consulting with a tax professional or financial advisor before deciding is highly recommended. Here are some potential benefits of filing an 83(b) election:

  • Acceleration of Tax Liability: The primary benefit of an 83(b) election is that it allows you to accelerate the recognition of income associated with the equity grant. Instead of paying taxes when the equity vests, you pay taxes on the initial grant value at the time of acquisition. If the stock appreciates between the grant and vesting dates, you could pay lower taxes by locking in a lower valuation.
  • Lower Tax Rate: If the value of the equity at the time of grant is relatively low compared to its expected future value, you might be subject to a lower tax rate on the grant amount. This could be especially advantageous if you believe the value of the equity will increase significantly over time.
  • Tax Savings: By paying taxes on the grant amount at the time of acquisition, you can potentially save on taxes compared to paying taxes on the vested amount, which could be higher due to appreciation in value.
  • Potential for Capital Gains Treatment: If you hold the equity for at least one year after making the election, any subsequent appreciation in value might be eligible for capital gains treatment when you sell the equity. This could result in a lower tax rate than ordinary income tax rates that typically apply to compensation.
  • Risk Management: If your equity has a high likelihood of appreciating, filing an 83(b) election might help you mitigate the tax impact of that appreciation. This is particularly relevant for early-stage startups with a strong growth trajectory.

However, it’s important to be aware of potential risks and downsides:

  • Loss of Investment: If the value of the equity decreases after you’ve paid taxes on the grant amount, you won’t be able to recover the taxes paid. This is a risk associated with filing an 83(b) election.
  • Liquidity Concerns: Paying taxes on the grant amount could strain your liquidity if you’re unprepared for the tax liability.
  • Complexity: Filing an 83(b) election requires careful consideration, accurate documentation, and adherence to strict deadlines. Failing to meet the requirements can result in the election being invalidated.
  • Potential for Higher Initial Taxes: Depending on the value of the equity at the time of grant, you might end up paying higher taxes upfront than if you had waited for the vesting period.
  • Individual Circumstances Vary: Everyone’s financial situation is different, and what might benefit one person may not be advantageous for another. It’s crucial to consider your specific circumstances and consult with professionals to make an informed decision.

In summary, while there can be significant benefits to filing an 83(b) election, it’s not a one-size-fits-all decision. It’s essential to carefully evaluate your situation, understand the potential tax implications, and seek advice from tax professionals or financial advisors before proceeding.

Drawbacks of Filing an 83(b) Election

Filing an 83(b) Election can be an excellent way for startup founders to save money on taxes and control the timing of income from their stock grants. However, several drawbacks must be considered before taking advantage of this tool.

First and foremost, filing an 83(b) Election requires paying taxes on the total fair market value of the company’s stock at the time of the grant. This means that any appreciation in the value of the stock after it is granted will not be taxed. Additionally, there is no guarantee that the founder can recoup any taxes paid if the startup fails.

Another potential drawback is that filing an 83(b) Election may trigger an audit by the IRS if done incorrectly or without complete documentation. The timeline for filing with both the IRS and the company must also be considered; it must occur within 30 days of receiving a stock grant to gain maximum benefit from this tool.

Finally, startups must consider what happens if they terminate employees who have filed an 83(b). In such cases, those employees may still owe tax on their vested shares even though they no longer work for the company. Understanding all these factors is essential before deciding whether to take advantage of this tool.

To properly file an 83(b), entrepreneurs must pay close attention to detail and follow specific steps and guidelines set out by both federal and state governments. The necessary steps include preparing Form 83-B with supporting documentation such as copies of relevant agreements between parties, submitting form 83-B electronically or via regular mail, obtaining a receipt from IRS, notifying your employer (if applicable), and keeping records in case you are audited by IRS later down the line.

When to File an 83(b) Election

The 83(b) Election is an excellent option for startup founders looking to reduce their tax burden associated with stock grants. This election must be filed within 30 days of receiving the restricted stock, as it can only be made before any risk of forfeiture or vesting has occurred. It’s important to consult a legal professional to make sure all paperwork is in order and to submit the documents along with a cover letter explaining why you are filing this election and why the IRS should accept it. The documents should then be sent via certified mail to ensure the IRS has received delivery.

Filing the 83(b) Election quickly after receiving the grant can maximize its advantages for entrepreneurs. Once filed, the election cannot be revoked without IRS consent and penalties may apply; therefore, it is integral that startups understand exactly when they need to file an 83(b) Election and what steps are necessary in order for it to be approved by the IRS. This tool can save money on taxes while providing control over income from their stock grants.

How to File an 83(b) Election 

Filing an 83(b) election is a tax-related process that applies to certain types of equity compensation, typically involving stock options or restricted stock units (RSUs). It allows you to include the value of the equity grant as income in the year it’s granted rather than waiting until it vests. This can have potential tax benefits, but it also comes with risks, so it’s important to consult with a tax professional before making this decision. Here’s how you can file an 83(b) election:

  • Obtain the Necessary Forms: Obtain a copy of IRS Form 83(b), which is also known as “Election to Include in Gross Income the Compensation for the Transfer of Property.” You can download this form from the IRS website.
  • Complete the Form: Carefully fill out the Form 83(b). It will require information such as your name, address, social security number, details of the transferred property (stock or options), and a property description. You will also need to include the property’s fair market value at the time of grant, the amount paid for the property (if any), and the date the property was granted.
  • Draft a Letter: In addition to the Form 83(b), you need to write a letter to the IRS that includes the following information:
    • A statement that you are making an 83(b) election under Section 83(b) of the Internal Revenue Code.
    • A description of the property for which the election is being made.
    • The date of the transfer of the property.
    • A copy of the completed Form 83(b).
  • Send to the IRS: Send the completed Form 83(b) and the letter to the IRS within 30 days of the date you received the property. Meeting this deadline is crucial; otherwise, your election will be invalid. Make sure to send the forms via certified mail with a return receipt to have proof of the submission date.
  • Keep Copies: Keep copies of all the documents you submitted, including the Form 83(b, the letter, and proof of mailing. These will be important for your records and to prove that you made the election on time.
  • Notify Relevant Parties: If applicable, notify your employer or the company issuing the equity grant about your 83(b) election. They may require a copy of your election for their records.
  • Consult a Tax Professional: Before making an 83(b) election, it’s strongly recommended that you consult a tax professional or financial advisor. Filing an 83(b) election has potential tax implications, and your specific situation can vary. A professional can help you understand the risks and benefits and correctly guide you through the process.

Remember that this information is based on my knowledge up until September 2021. Tax laws and regulations can change, so always verify the most up-to-date information from official sources or consult with a qualified tax advisor.


In conclusion, filing an 83(b) Election is a powerful tool that can help startups take advantage of beneficial tax rates, avoid taxable events, and control the timing of income from stock grants. It is important to understand the potential drawbacks before taking advantage of this tool so that you can make the most of it. Filing an 83(b) Election requires submitting a form to the IRS and providing a copy to your company within 30 days of receiving your stock grant. With proper planning and execution, startups can maximize their financial benefit through filing an 83(b) Election.

When considering filing an 83(b) Election, there are some key points to keep in mind: research and consult with tax professionals or legal advisors if necessary; review the rules regarding taxes based on your state’s laws; consider what will happen if you ever leave or get terminated from the startup; and understand how much money you could potentially save through filing an election. Considering all these factors will help ensure that you are making a decision that is best for your situation.

Filing an 83(b) Election is not always necessary for every startup founder but should be considered when determining how best to manage taxes associated with stock grants. Ultimately, the decision whether or not to file should be made on a case-by-case basis after careful consideration of all the risks and benefits involved.

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