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Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP)


An Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP) is a program offered by companies which allows their employees to purchase company shares at a discounted price. The goal of an ESPP is to incentivize employees by offering them a stake in the company. Participating employees typically contribute to the plan through payroll deductions, which build up between the offering period and the purchase date.


The phonetics for “Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP)” would be something like this:- Employee: ihm-ploy-ee- Stock: stahk- Purchase: per-chuhs- Plan: plan – ESPP: ee-ess-pee-pee

Key Takeaways

Three Main Takeaways About Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP)

  1. Discount on Shares: One of the most appealing factors of an ESPP is that it often allows employees to purchase company stock at a discounted price. This discount can be as much as 15% less than the market price, making it an attractive option for employees wanting to invest in their company.
  2. Contribution through Payroll Deductions: ESPPs are done through payroll deductions, making it a simple method for employees to accumulate shares over time. In other words, rather than needing to invest a large amount upfront, they can slowly build their position in the company through regular paycheck deductions.
  3. Potential Tax Benefits: While tax rules vary, generally, the discount provided on ESPP shares is taxed at a lower rate, compared to ordinary income. Moreover, if employees hold onto their shares for longer periods of time (at least one year from the purchase date and two years from the offering date), they might qualify for long-term capital gains tax rates, which are typically lower.


The Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP) is an important incentive tool in the world of business and finance because it allows employees of a company to purchase company’s shares at a discounted price. This discount motivates employees to participate in the financial well-being of the company, promoting loyalty and long-term commitment. Additionally, an ESPP can boost morale by giving employees a sense of ownership and a direct stake in the company’s success. On a larger scale, it also aligns the interests of the employees with those of the shareholders since both are invested in the prosperity and growth of the company. Thus, ESPPs function as both a benefit to employees and a strategic advantage for companies.


The primary purpose of an Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP) is to foster employee engagement and loyalty towards the organization. It acts as a powerful tool that companies use to align their employees’ interests with the growth and success of the business. Because employees become partial owners through purchasing company stock, usually at a discount, they inherently develop a vested interest in the company’s prosperity. This not only encourages long-term commitment and reduces employee turnover but also instills a sense of empowerment and inclusivity among the staff.ESPPs also serve as a kind of compensation boost without affecting the company’s cash flow significantly. Employees can often buy shares at a lower-than-market price, resulting in potential for financial gain. If the company performs well, the value of its stock increases, and this provides employees with an opportunity for financial growth. Therefore, ESPPs act as an extra perk or benefit which can attract higher talent towards the organization and are also designed to serve as an additional savings or investment plan for the employees.


1. Example 1: Microsoft Corporation – Microsoft provides its employees with an Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP) which enables them to buy company stocks at a discounted price. This not only incentivizes employees to work towards the growth of the company, but also allows them to share in the company’s success.2. Example 2: Starbucks Corporation – Starbucks offers its employees, or ‘partners’ , an opportunity to become shareholders through its Bean Stock program. The ESPP allows employees to purchase stocks at a discount, incentivizing their contribution to the company and giving them a share in the profits.3. Example 3:, Inc – Amazon offers their full-time employees an Employee Stock Purchase Plan. Through this plan, employees are able to divert a percentage of their paycheck to purchase Amazon stocks at a discounted rate. This has helped Amazon in curbing employee turnovers and increasing their sense of ownership in the company.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP)?

An ESPP is a company-run program that allows employees to purchase company shares at a discounted price.

How does an ESPP work?

Employees contribute to their ESPP through paycheck withholdings. After a specific period, known as the offering period, the employer uses these funds to purchase company shares on the employee’s behalf at a pre-determined price.

What is the main benefit of an ESPP?

The primary benefit is the ability to purchase company shares at a discounted price, typically ranging from 10% to 15% less than the market price.

Is participating in ESPP mandatory?

No, participation in an ESPP is optional and is considered a company benefit.

Are there any restrictions on selling stock bought through an ESPP?

Some plans may have a holding period where employees must keep the stock for a certain amount of time before selling, however, this varies by company.

What are the tax implications of an ESPP?

The discount provided by employers on the stock purchase is usually considered taxable income. Any additional gains made after selling the shares might also be subject to capital gains tax.

Can I change my contribution to the ESPP?

Yes, most companies allow you to change your contribution during the open enrollment period, although rules may vary with different employers.

What happens to my ESPP if I leave the company?

ESPP shares are typically yours to keep, but some companies may impose restrictions. It’s essential to check your company’s specific policy in case you decide to leave the company.

Can I lose money with an ESPP?

As with any stock investment, there is always a risk of the share price going down. Even though ESPP shares are typically purchased at a discount, the share price could fall below the discounted price, potentially resulting in a loss if you decide to sell.

What is an offering period in the context of an ESPP?

This is a specified duration in which employees must accumulate funds for the purchase of company stock. At the end of this period, the accumulated funds are used to purchase the stock at a discount.

Related Finance Terms

  • Compensation Package
  • Pre-tax Deduction
  • Stock Options
  • Vesting Period
  • Shareholder

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