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Stock-option confusion

By CompiledLane Hartill and Stephen Humphries / September 11, 2000



Employees say they know more about Einstein's Theory of Relativity than about the tax implications of exercising their stock options, according to a nationwide poll conducted for OppenheimerFunds Inc.

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The mutual-fund company's survey found an estimated 12 million American workers own employee stock options. Still, there appears to be widespread ignorance about them.

The poll found 39 percent of those already owning stock options admitted they knew "little" or "nothing" about them in general, while 35 percent said that they knew only "something" about them.

The survey also found:

*52 percent said they knew "little" or "nothing" about the tax implications of exercising (cashing in) options.

*75 percent said they knew "little" or "nothing" about the Alternative Minimum Tax, an important component of tax-planning considerations.

*11 percent have allowed some of their options to expire.

OppenheimerFunds reckons that despite all the confusion, only 36 percent of option owners have sought professional advice about stock options.

Yet even if workers don't understand stock options, some still want more, according to the findings. Twenty-eight percent of those polled said that they would be willing to take a lower base salary in exchange for stock options.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society