Ian Barr
Written By

Ian currently serves as a Financial Advisor with Pure Financial Advisors.  During more than 25 years in the private wealth management industry, he has helped a wide variety of high-net-worth families, executives, business owners, and other hard-working individuals achieve their financial goals. Among his broader financial planning capabilities, Ian has experience in retirement planning, investment [...]

Published On
April 16, 2024

Employee Stock Purchase Plans (ESPPs) are popular employee benefits programs offered by many companies as a way to allow employees to purchase company stock at a discounted price. ESPPs are designed to enable employees to purchase company stock through payroll deductions, often at a discount from the market price. These plans are a way to provide employees with sense of ownership and align their interests with the company’s performance over time.

How ESPPs Work

  1. Enrollment: Employees eligible to participate in an ESPP can typically choose to enroll during specified enrollment periods. Once enrolled, their employer sets aside payroll deductions to contribute funds towards the purchase of company stock.
  2. Offering Periods: ESPPs are available within certain windows of time which are called offering periods. These offering periods are typically six months in duration. During each offering period, payroll deductions accumulate until the end of the period.
  3. Purchase Period: At the end of each offering period, the accumulated funds are used to purchase company stock on behalf of participating employees. The purchase price is often set by the company at a discount from the fair market value of the stock on the day of purchase, providing employees with an immediate opportunity for profit.
  4. Discount: The discount offered on the purchase price can vary but is often capped by tax regulations. The discount is a key benefit of ESPPs and can range from 5% to 15% off the market price of the stock.
  5. Tax Implications: The discount received on the purchase price of the stock is typically considered ordinary income and is subject to ordinary income tax. Additionally, any gains realized when the stock is sold may be subject to capital gains tax, depending on how long you held the stock before you sold it.


  1. Discounted Stock Purchase: ESPPs offer employees the opportunity to purchase company stock at a discounted price, allowing them to potentially profit from the difference between the purchase price and the market value of the stock.
  2. Long-Term Investment: Participating in an ESPP encourages employees to become long-term investors in their company’s stock, aligning their financial interests with the company’s performance and fostering a sense of loyalty and commitment.
  3. Automatic Savings: ESPPs facilitate automatic payroll deductions, making it convenient for employees to save and invest in company stock without having to actively manage their investments.
  4. Potential for Growth: If the company’s stock price increases over time, employees may benefit from capital appreciation on their ESPP investments, further enhancing their financial picture.

Considerations for Employees

  1. Diversification: While ESPPs can be a valuable employee benefit, it’s essential for participants to consider diversification and avoid overexposure to their company’s stock. Holding a significant portion of wealth in a single stock can increase risk, and employees should evaluate their overall investment portfolio accordingly.
  2. Tax Implications: Employees should be aware of the tax implications associated with ESPPs, including the treatment of the discount received on the purchase price and any capital gains realized upon sale of the stock. It is important to understand your potential tax obligations so you can optimize your tax strategy.
  3. Market Volatility: Like any investment in the stock market, the value of company stock purchased through an ESPP can fluctuate with market conditions. Employees should be prepared for the possibility of volatility and consider their risk tolerance when participating in an ESPP.

In conclusion, Employee Stock Purchase Plans (ESPPs) offer employees a valuable opportunity to purchase company stock at a discounted price, fostering a sense of ownership and alignment with the company’s performance. By understanding how ESPPs work, their benefits, and important considerations for participation, employees can make informed decisions to maximize the value of this employee benefit while effectively managing their financial well-being.

Data as of April 2024.
Intended for educational purposes only. Opinions expressed are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Neither the information presented, nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Consult your financial professional before making any investment decisions. Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice.