Phantom Stock Options
A Phantom Stock Option Plan is a deferred cash bonus program that creates a similar result as a stock option plan. The sponsoring company determines a phantom stock price through an internal or external valuation of the company. Employees are awarded some number of phantom options that carry specific terms and conditions. Should the company phantom stock appreciate over time, employees will receive a cash payment equaling the difference between the original price and the appreciated price. For example, assume an employee receives 100 phantom stock options (PSOs) with a starting price of $10. At a pre-determined future date the company will calculate the value of the phantom stock price and pay the employee any positive difference. Assume, for this example, the share price grows to $18. The company will pay the employee $800. Phantom stock plans do not result in shareholder dilution because actual shares are not being transferred. Employees do not become owners. Instead, they are potential cash beneficiaries in the appreciation of the underlying company value. Phantom options result in ordinary income taxation to the employees when they turn into an actual cash payment. More information on phantom stock options can be found here.