Update on Proposed Changes to the Tax Treatment of Employee Stock Options

News release

December 19, 2019 – Ottawa, Ontario – Department of Finance Canada

The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that Canada's tax system is fair, efficient, and functioning as intended to make sure that our economy is working for the middle class and all Canadians.

Earlier this year, the Government announced its intention to move forward with changes to the tax treatment of employee stock options. Today, Finance Minister Bill Morneau provided an update on the proposed changes.

Many smaller, growing companies—such as start-ups—do not have significant profits, which can limit their ability to attract and retain talented staff. In these cases, employee stock options can be a helpful form of remuneration that is linked to the future success of the business.  

It is essential that these emerging businesses be able to continue to grow and expand. However, as shown in the table below, the tax benefits of the employee stock option deduction disproportionately accrue to a very small number of high-income individuals. The Government does not believe that employee stock options should be used as a tax-preferred method of compensation for executives of large, mature companies. 

To address this inequity, the Government intends to move forward with changes to limit the benefit of the employee stock option deduction for high-income individuals employed at large, long-established, mature firms. In its approach, the Government will be guided by two key objectives: to make the employee stock option tax regime fairer and more equitable for Canadians, and to ensure that start-ups and emerging Canadian businesses that are creating jobs can continue to grow and expand.

On June 17, 2019, the Government tabled a Notice of Ways and Means Motion in the House of Commons proposing changes to the taxation of employee stock options.

As part of the June 17 announcement, stakeholders were invited to provide input on the characteristics of companies that should be considered start-up, emerging, and scale-up companies for purposes of this measure. Such corporations would not be subject to the new rules. The consultations closed on September 16, 2019, and Minister Morneau thanks all those who contributed.

The Government is carefully reviewing the input received during the consultations to ensure that the new regime meets both of its key objectives. As a result, the proposed changes to the tax treatment of employee stock options will not come into force on the previously proposed date of January 1, 2020.

The Government will announce details on how it intends to move forward with the measure in Budget 2020. The new coming-into-force date, to be announced in Budget 2020, will provide individuals and businesses time to review and adjust to the new employee stock option tax rules.

Distribution of employee stock option deduction by income (2017)

Individual's total income1 ($)
Stock option deduction claimed
Number of individuals Average amount
Aggregate amount
($ millions)
Per cent of aggregate amount
Under 200,000 20,140 6,000 120 6
200,000 to 1,000,000 14,160 44,000 630 30
Over 1,000,000 2,330 577,000 1,340 64
Overall 36,630 57,000 2,090 100
1 Including stock option benefits.
Source: Tax filer data for the 2017 taxation year.
Numbers may not add due to rounding.


"Our government has a plan to strengthen the economy by investing in Canadians. We are supporting these investments with a fair, efficient and competitive tax system that leaves more money in the hands of the middle class and people working hard to join it. We will carefully consider the views of stakeholders as we move forward to ensure that Canada's tax system is being used to support jobs and growth, rather than creating unfair tax advantages that disproportionately benefit the wealthy."

- The Honourable Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance


Media may contact:

Pierre-Olivier Herbert
Director of Media Relations
Office of the Minister of Finance

Media Relations
Department of Finance Canada

General Enquiries

Phone: 613-369-3710
Facsimile: 613-369-4065
TTY: 613-369-3230
E-mail: fin.financepublic-financepublique.fin@canada.ca

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