Employment-related securities and options: what are securities: RSUs and dividend equivalents
A restricted stock unit (RSU) plan may sometimes allow tracking of dividends as well as the market price of the stocks or shares themselves. The RSU may pay out what are often referred to as “dividend equivalents” in either cash or shares and such payments may be rolled up and paid out at the time the RSU vests or paid out on a regular basis, perhaps to match the payment of actual dividends on shares in the company. Such payments will generally be taxed as earnings in the year they are received, unless the entitlement amounts to a right to acquire securities, in which case, from 6 April 2016, the charge will be under Chapter 5 of Part 7 (see ERSM110015).
The fact that the RSU yields a future income stream to the employee does not of itself mean that money’s worth can be attached to the right to that income stream. In many cases the conditional entitlement to future dividend equivalents will be no more realisable for immediate cash than a promise of future salary, and will not therefore represent money’s worth.
In exceptional cases where the RSU does represent money’s worth, you should refer the taxpayer’s proposed valuation of the award to Shares and Assets Valuation.
See examples in ERSM20194.