Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Saturday asked his Twitter following of 62.5 million to decide the future of a portion of his Tesla holdings.
Twitter polls are informal, however, and Musk previously said he was likely to sell “a huge block” of his options in the fourth quarter.
Earlier in September, during an appearance at the Code Conference, Musk said that when his stock options expire at Tesla, his marginal tax rate will surpass 50% and that he had plans of selling it soon.
Musk said, “I have a bunch of options that are expiring early next year, so … a huge block of options will sell in Q4 — because I have to or they’ll expire”.
Other existing and former board members at Tesla, including Kimbal Musk, Robyn Denholm, Antonio Gracias, and Ira Ehrenpreis have also sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of their Tesla shares since Oct. 28 when the company stocks rallied.
Shares jumped following a record third quarter for Tesla, in addition to the rental car company Hertz’s announcement of placing an order of 100,000 Tesla vehicles for its fleet. Musk clarified that his company had not yet signed the contract with Hertz, after waiting for a week following Hertz’s announcement.
He taunted investors who were short shares of Tesla through a Tweet before making the statement, writing “Tesla Hertz shorts.”
Following Hertz’s announcement, Tesla shares soared by nearly 34%, raising Elon Musk’s net worth.
Director of Research at InsiderScore Ben Silverman said that Tesla had more than 1 billion shares outstanding as of late October. If Musk exercised his options today, The number of shares outstanding would rise by a bit more than 2%, provided Musk exercises his options today. Silverman forecasts that there will be a minimal effect on shareholders also the sales won’t come as a surprise.
He added, “Musk will likely continue to be vocal about what he’s doing — exercising the options because they’re close to expiration, selling stock because of the enormous tax bill and because of the liquidity of Tesla shares”.
Musk asked his followers on Saturday to determine whether or not he should hold or sell 10% of his stock, indicating that he was responding to criticism that he’s avoided paying his fair share of taxes, instead of simply managing his options holdings. He tweeted, “Much is made lately of unrealized gains being a means of tax avoidance, so I propose selling 10% of my Tesla stock. Do you support this?” He added a poll function, that would allow users to vote for a “Yes” or “No.”
The richest man in the world, Musk added, “I will abide by the results of this poll, whichever way it goes”.
Billionaires can take advantage of tax-avoidance strategies which is not the case for people whose earnings are from conventional wage income. Extreme wealth mostly comes from the soaring value of stock and real estate that is not taxed unless those assets are sold.
Earlier this year, an investigative news site, ProPublica reported on Musk’s tax bill as part of a massive analysis of billionaires’ finances. The site found that Musk’s income tax bill amounted to zero in 2018. Musk later defended himself, saying the reporting was “tricky” and “misleading.” He added that the number was so low because he does not receive a salary, leading to his cash compensation being close to zero.
He added on Saturday, “Note, I do not take a cash salary or bonus from anywhere. I only have stock, thus the only way for me to pay taxes personally is to sell stock”.
Of his significant holdings, Musk has options for 22,862,050 shares at $6.24 which will expire on Aug. 13, 2022. He had these options awarded to him in 2012.