This excerpt taken from the AMZN DEF 14A filed Apr 27, 2007.
Federal Income Tax Consequences
The material U.S. federal income tax consequences to the Company and to any person granted a stock award or an option under the 1997 Plan who is subject to taxation in the United States under existing applicable provisions of the Code and underlying Treasury Regulations are substantially as follows. The following summary does not address state, local or foreign tax consequences and it is based on present law and regulations as in effect as of the date hereof.
NSOs. No income will be recognized by an optionee upon the grant of an NSO. Upon the exercise of an NSO, the optionee will recognize taxable ordinary income in an amount equal to the excess of the fair market value at the time of exercise of the shares acquired over the exercise price. Upon a later sale of those shares, the optionee will have capital gain or loss equal to the difference between the amount realized on such sale and the tax basis of the shares sold. Furthermore, this capital gain or loss will be long-term capital gain or loss if the shares are held for more than one year before they are sold. If payment of the option price is made entirely in cash, the tax basis of the shares will be equal to their fair market value on the exercise date (but not less than the exercise price), and the shares holding period will begin on the day after the exercise date.
If the optionee uses already-owned shares to pay the exercise price of an NSO in whole or in part, the transaction will not be considered to be a taxable disposition of the already-owned shares. The optionees tax basis and holding period of the already-owned shares will be carried over to the equivalent number of shares received upon exercise. The tax basis of the additional shares received upon exercise will be the fair market value of the shares on the exercise date (but not less than the amount of cash, if any, used in payment), and the holding period for such additional shares will begin on the day after the exercise date.
ISOs. No income will be recognized by an optionee upon the grant of an ISO. The rules for the tax treatment of an NSO also apply to an ISO that is exercised more than three months after the optionees termination of employment (or more than 12 months thereafter in the case of permanent and total disability, as defined in the 1997 Plan).
Upon the exercise of an ISO during employment or within three months after the optionees termination of employment (12 months in the case of permanent and total disability), for regular tax purposes the optionee will recognize no ordinary income at the time of exercise (although the optionee will have income for alternative minimum income tax purposes at that time equal to the excess of the fair market value of the shares over the exercise price). If the acquired shares are sold or exchanged after the later of (i) one year from the date of exercise of the option and (ii) two years from the date of grant of the option, the difference between the amount realized by the optionee on that sale or exchange and the option exercise price will be taxed to the optionee as long-term capital gain or loss. If the shares are disposed of in an arms length sale before such holding period requirements are satisfied, then the optionee will recognize taxable ordinary income in the year of disposition in an amount equal to the excess of the fair market value of the shares received on the exercise date over the exercise price (or, if less, the excess of the amount realized on the sale of the shares over the exercise price), and the optionee will have short-term or long-term capital gain or loss, as the case may be, in an amount equal to the difference between (i) the amount realized by the optionee upon the disposition of the shares and (ii) the exercise price paid by the optionee increased by the amount of ordinary income, if any, so recognized by the optionee.
Company Deduction. In all the foregoing cases, the Company will be entitled to a deduction at the same time and in the same amount as the participant recognizes ordinary income, subject to certain limitations. Among these limitations is Section 162(m) of the Code. As discussed above, certain performance-based compensation is not subject to the Section 162(m) limitation on deductibility. Stock options and restricted stock and performance share awards can qualify for this performance-based exception if they meet the requirements set forth in Section 162(m) and Treasury Regulations promulgated thereunder. The 1997 Plan has been drafted to allow, but not require, compliance with those performance-based criteria.
April 27, 2007