Automatic RSU Sales at Vesting: Costing You More in Israeli Taxes

Israel shekel money tax payment

Automatic RSU Sales at Vesting: Costing You More in Israeli Taxes

What is “sell to cover,” and why is it a Trojan horse?


In the Restricted Stock Units (RSUs) world, the “sell to cover” mechanism is a common practice among U.S. companies but may hurt your Israeli taxes. This approach is designed to simplify the tax obligations for employees upon the vesting of their RSUs. Essentially, “sell to cover” involves the automatic sale of a portion of the vested shares sufficient to cover the estimated tax liability resulting from the vesting event. This process ensures employees comply with U.S. tax regulations without outlaying cash to cover their tax dues.


However, while “sell to cover” might seem like a convenient solution in the U.S. context, it can lead to unintended and costly tax consequences for U.S. citizens with RSUs under an Israeli 102 stock plan. The automatic sale of shares not only settles U.S. tax obligations but sets in motion a chain reaction of high Israeli taxes, which then requires the sale of even more shares. A tax may not have been needed if planned properly with the tips below.


The Challenge at Hand


When those RSUs are automatically sold, it creates an Israeli tax under the 102 plan, which can be as high as 50% instead of the beneficial 28% capital gain rates. This is due to how 102 plans work. In Israel, the sale of shares obtained through RSUs is subject to tax, but the critical factor is the timing of the sale:

  • Within Two Years: If shares are sold within two years of the grant date, the proceeds are taxed as ordinary income, which can be as high as 50%.
  • After Two Years: Holding the shares for more than two years significantly changes the tax treatment, allowing for a more favorable capital gains tax rate of 28% on any growth from grant.

The automatic sale of shares to cover U.S. taxes can thus trigger an immediate and high tax liability in Israel, contrary to the taxpayer’s intentions or desires to reduce tax liability. Below are three ways to solve this challenge.


Strategic Solutions


  1. Negotiate With Your Employer: Engage with your HR or payroll department to explore alternatives to the automatic sale of shares. Some companies may offer the option to cover the estimated U.S. tax liability in cash, allowing you to retain your shares and decide the most tax-efficient time to sell. While this may be a solution for some, you probably don’t want to lay out the cash yourself. Additionally, this doesn’t solve the issue of double taxes on your RSUs between the two countries.
  • Utilize Foreign Tax Credits: Work with a tax professional specializing in this area to ensure that your U.S. tax filings are optimized to claim foreign tax credits for taxes paid in Israel. This can offset some U.S. tax liabilities and reduce the need for automatic share sales. However, the value of RSUs can sometimes be so high that even after maximizing tax credits, you may still need to sell some shares to cover taxes. In this case, instead of just selling to cover the U.S. tax, there is a better option. Enter number 3 below.
  • Tax Planning and Timing: Work with a tax professional to develop a strategy that aligns with U.S. and Israeli tax laws. This might involve calculating the precise number of shares you need to sell to create the right amount of Israeli taxes to cover your U.S. tax on the vesting. Unlike “sell to cover,” which works backward without considering the Israeli taxes, this reshapes the plan to have Israeli tax in mind first. Figure out how much you need from Israeli taxes to cover your U.S. tax and only sell those shares.


Need Expert Guidance? We’re Here to Help


Navigating the intricate tax implications of “sell to cover” strategies for RSUs can be daunting, especially for U.S. citizens in Israel or Israelis planning to relocate to the U.S.

With over 45 years of expertise in this specialized area, our firm is adept at working with you to create calculations you can understand and control to reduce your double tax exposure and get the most from your equity grants.

Whether you’re facing uncertainties about your RSU taxation, considering the best time to sell, or simply seeking to maximize your financial outcomes while minimizing tax liabilities, we’re here to provide the tailored support and guidance you need. You can contact us here.


Did you enjoy this post? Sign up to receive our latest News & Insights!

Field are marked with * are required.

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: . You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact