CRA indicates that stock options may not generate business income until they vest

A Canadian-controlled private corporation (“CCPC”) is granted an option to acquire shares of an arm’s length CCPC. The option will only vest upon completion of a medical research project in which it is engaged in the course of its business. Such vesting occurs at the end of the third year, and the corporation exercises its option to purchase the shares at the beginning of the fourth year.

Regarding the timing of the recognition of any business income, CRA stated:

[Here] the vesting of the option is linked to the completion of the long-term research project. As such, it may be difficult to conclude that the income is earned before the vesting date under the particular arrangement. … [G]enerally, it is at the time where the services have been rendered and the contingency has been fulfilled, that the FMV of the underlying share over the aggregate of the exercise price of the option should be included in income under subsection 9(1).

Neal Armstrong. Summary of 7 June 2022 External T.I. 2019-0796641E5 under s. 9 – timing.