This Guide contains a lot of material. And it’s dense. Some readers may wish to read front to back, but you can also search or navigate directly to parts that are of interest to you, referring back to foundational topics as needed.
Equity compensation lies at the intersection of corporate law, taxation, and employee compensation, and so requires some basic understanding of all three. You might think compensation and taxation are separate topics, but they are so intertwined it would be misleading to explain one without the other. We cover material in logical order, so that if you do read the earlier sections first, later sections on the interactions of tax and compensation will be clearer.
We start with Equity Compensation Basics: What compensation and equity are, and why equity is used as compensation.
But before we get much further, we need to talk about what stock is, and how companies are formed. Fundamentals of Stock Corporations covers how companies organize their ownership, how stock is issued, public companies and private companies, and IPOs and liquidity (which determine when equity is worth cash).
While not everyone reading this works at an early stage company, those who do can benefit from understanding the role of equity in Startups and Growth. This is good context for anyone involved in a private company that has taken on venture capital.
How Equity is Granted is the core of this Guide. We describe the forms in which equity is most commonly granted, including restricted stock grants, stock options, and RSUs.
Now is where it gets messier—taxes:
After these technical concerns, we move on to how you can think about all this in practice. These sections focus on scenarios common to employees and candidates, but are also of likely interest to founders and hiring managers:
Plans and Scenarios: Whether you have equity now or will in the future, it is helpful to learn how to think about the value of equity and its tax burden. We also cover whether you can sell private stock.
Offers and Negotiations: Equity often comes up as you’re negotiating or debating whether to accept a job offer. Here we cover what to expect, what to ask, tips and pitfalls, and more.
Finally, we offer some additional resources:
Documents and Agreements: A bit more detail on the actual legal paperwork you’re likely to see as you negotiate and after you’ve accepted an offer.
Further Reading: A curated list of what else you can read on the subject, including many papers, books, and articles that have informed this Guide.