Share options limit too low, says report

Company directors should be allowed approved share options of up to £100,000 more than three times the current maximum according to Michael Jacobs, a tax partner at Nicholson Graham & Jones.

Jacobs' recommendation comes in a report on “rewarding leadership” in smaller quoted companies issued last week by the lobbying group Cisco.

Jacobs was the principal author of the report and chairs the share schemes committee which produced it.

In the report, Jacobs says his committee believes the current £30,000 limit for Inland Revenue approved share options is “far too low” to stop key executives in smaller listed companies from moving to larger ones.

Executives pay no income tax when they exercise share options that are approved by the Inland Revenue.

His report also calls for changes in the tax structure of unapproved options.

He says the current structure of approved options encourages executives to dispose of their shares almost immediately after they exercise their options so that their interests are then not aligned with their shareholders.

His report goes on to argue that companies should link share option schemes to “achievable but challenging” targets and he calls for greater transparency for those targets.

Jacobs denied that implementation of the proposals would line the pockets of “fat cats”. He said that share option schemes should be designed to reward good performance, not average or below-average achievement.

He stressed that the Government claimed to support business in its election manifesto. “If the Government is keen on supporting business it should be very interested in what we are saying,” he said.