This article is based on the ESPP Symposium webinar "Real Life Stories of ESPP Global Expansion and Growth"*

Watch the full webinar (33 minutes)

If your company operates in multiple jurisdictions, you know the challenges of managing different regulatory, tax and compliance requirements. These can add a great deal of complexity when expanding your employee stock purchase plan (ESPP) globally.

But as most companies with numerous locations know, all employees want to receive the same treatment no matter where they are in the world. Once employees hear that others have access to an ESPP, they want to participate as well.

Here are key considerations for expanding your ESPP globally.

Global Compliance

Obtain and maintain global compliance

The first step is to look at whether a plan is allowed in a particular country. Check how many employees are in that location and if there are any negative tax consequences for participants. Consider what’s involved in setting up the plan – the initial costs, required documentation and ongoing maintenance fees.

As an example, a company that only offered their ESPP in Canada wanted to expand the ESPP to other regions. They looked at the countries with the largest employee base and checked with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to find out if they could offer the program in those countries. Based on this information, they decided to offer the plan in three other regions, engaging with external counsel, tax advisors and local experts.

In terms of compliance, ESPPs have the most scrutiny compared to other programs because employees are giving up part of their pay to invest in the company. Global compliance considerations include security law requirements, exchange controls and employee share plan exemptions in some countries.

Manage all aspects of your plan

Manage all aspects of your plan

When it comes to plan management, there are many moving parts – enrollments, contributions, withdrawals, restrictions, holding periods, vesting schedules, terminations and more. For companies with an annual plan and set enrollment period, the administration may be simpler. Plans with a bi-weekly or weekly payroll deduction and open enrollment can be more complicated as there are more opportunities for participants to make changes throughout the year.

Whichever type of plan your company implements, it helps to choose a provider that offers a web-based portal and mobile app, like EquatePlus and EquateMobile. This automates backend management tasks for your plans team, making it easier for tracking, reporting and responding to queries. It is also more user-friendly for participants by automating enrollment and allowing them to access and manage their portfolios through their preferred channel.

Deliver clear communications

Deliver clear communications

Designing a great ESPP for your employees is an important part of your company’s overall compensation package. But if no one understands the plan, they will be hesitant to join, and you won’t reach your targeted participation goals. To create excitement and make your program a success, your communications need to describe the ESPP in clear, simple language that even the least financially savvy employees can comprehend.

It is also important to have people in each region who fully understand the plan and are prepared to answer queries from participants in their own language. A “train the trainer” program that educates the plan managers responsible for describing the plan to others is effective in helping them become experts in all areas related to the ESPP.

Handle foreign exchange

Handle foreign exchange

One area of challenge for global plans is how to manage foreign exchange rates for shares purchased in different currencies. If there is an exchange rate for converting contributions to home country currency, employees will want to know what it is. Computershare’s Investor Center system provides real-time foreign exchange and allows employees making transactions to choose their preferred currency.

Business Compliance

Comply with local tax authorities

With different tax authorities in each region, all with their own rules, ensuring your ESPP remains compliant in every jurisdiction is a major task for your company. While companies manage tax in different ways, it is common to have a staff attorney involved in matters concerning the ESPP, with local external counsel who engage with experts in various jurisdictions. Together, they can stay on top of local legislative changes, track reporting dates, taxation deadlines and other tasks to ensure they fulfill compliance obligations.


Simplify tax calculations for mobile employees

Companies are required to track the tax obligations of their mobile employees participating in employee share plans. TaxConnect, available through EquatePlus, seamlessly connects your plan participants to leading global tax advisors, ensuring tax liabilities are calculated accurately and in compliance with local tax regulations.


When establishing an ESPP, it is worth the upfront effort to ensure the plan is set up properly and is compliant in every region from the start. If certain requirements aren’t met, it is much more time-consuming to have to go back and fix it later. An experienced employee share plan provider can help you set up your program for success.

For assistance with taking your employee share plan global or to discuss solutions for better managing your program, contact us today.

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*This article is based on a webinar session during the Canadian ESPP Educational Symposium hosted by Computershare, June 7-8, 2023.