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Consider the following:

  • Bob is a US taxpayer, living in the US, working for a US firm.
  • Bob is enrolled into his firm's ESPP program. The ESPP purchase date (source) is June 28, 2024.
  • Bob receives some RSUs from his firm. The RSU grant date is July 12, 2024.

If Bob sells some RSUs at a loss between July 12, 2024 and July 28, 2024, is that considered a wash sale (source)?


Definitions:

  • The ESPP purchase date a.k.a. date acquired a.k.a. exercise date for an Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP) is the date when shares are deposited into an employee's stock plan account.
  • The grant date of restricted stock units (RSUs) is the date when shares are deposited into an employee's stock plan account.
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    Correction to your RSU definition - the grant date is when the RSU contract is awarded to you, not when the shares are delivered. Generally, the vesting dates (when you earn RSU shares) are when shares are deposited into the stock plan account. Sometimes, delivery of the shares can be deferred, but it's uncommon for most employees to be able to elect that.
    – Stan H
    Commented Jul 1 at 6:27
  • @StanH good point, thanks! Commented Jul 1 at 6:29

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Yes. Selling RSUs at a loss within 30 days of the ESPP share purchase would trigger a wash sale.

To be clear, the wash sale rule doesn't mean that purchases or sales aren't allowed within that window like one of your links suggests. It just means that the loss is disallowed and is added to the basis of the corresponding held shares.

For example, 100 shares were purchased through the ESPP on June 28th at $100/share. On July 12th, 200 RSUs vest at $120 and are delivered to Bob's account. On July 15th, Bob sells 100 of the RSU shares at $115/share. The RSU loss sale occurs less than 30 days after the ESPP purchase and the loss is disallowed. The $5 per-share loss ($115 - $120) is added to the basis of the ESPP shares: $100 + $5 disallowed loss, and the new basis of the 100 ESPP shares is $105/share.

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  • Thanks! Yes the image is incorrect indeed. Thanks for the correction and the great example. Commented Jul 1 at 6:28

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