employee equity compensation in tech startups
The alternative minimum tax (AMT) credit is a dollar for dollar reduction for any additional taxes you have paid in previous years due to the alternative minimum tax.
If you exercised incentive stock options (ISOs) and paid AMT in prior years, you may be able to reduce your tax bill this year due to the credit.
The AMT is similar to a rebate system where you pay up front and then get a portion of that back in the future. Think of the AMT credit as a refund of taxes you paid in prior years.
You or your advisors need to make sure to keep track of the AMT credit every year going forward to ensure that you get your money back.
Unfortunately, the AMT credit is not as simple as paying the tax in year one and claiming a refund of the entire amount in year two.
Instead, the amount of AMT credit you can take in a given year is limited to the amount that your regular tax liability exceeds your AMT calculation in that given year.
Given the limitation, it may take you years to recover the AMT credit depending on how big the initial bill was. But don’t worry too much – if your company has a successful exit, you should be able to recover the rest of the AMT credit in the year you sell your shares.
It’s worth noting that this limitation also means that you cannot claim any AMT credit in a year that you generate the AMT, so you must plan your stock option exercises accordingly to ensure that you maximize your benefit.