Elon Musk has liquidated about 5% of his holdings in Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) so far. Experts say that the Tesla CEO has already sold more shares than he needs to pay his current tax obligations.
As of Wednesday, Musk has sold about 8.2 million TSLA shares since he agreed to sell 10% of his stock in the company. Musk has sold a total of over $8.8 billion worth of stocks thus far, and he isn’t done yet.
According to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Musk sold 2.8 million shares, worth about $3 billion, to pay taxes on three tranches of stock options he exercised this week. MarketWatch calculated that Musk has sold roughly $5 billion more shares than he needs at present based on the SEC filings information.
University of Michigan business and law professor Erik Gordon wondered why Musk would sell more shares to pay obligations due next year. Gordon believes accruing future tax liabilities only makes sense for Musk if he expects the stock price to drop.
“If you think the stock is going to go up, or if you think the stock is going to stay the same, you wouldn’t be selling extra shares,” he said.
An accounting professor at the University of Notre Dame, Brad Badertscher, said Musk’s federal tax obligations could be as high as 40% on proceeds from some of the sales, based on his already liquidated stocks. Badertscher explained that Musk could have cut his tax bill on options in half if he waited a year to sell the shares. Since he exercised his options and immediately sold his shares, the gain is taxed as ordinary income. If Musk waited a year to sell the shares, he would have much lower capital gain rates.
While some experts seem agape at Musk’s recent stock sale, those familiar with the Tesla CEO don’t seem too bothered by it. For instance, Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives stated that Musk actually prevented a huge selloff of TSLA stock when he released a Twitter poll, asking people whether he should sell or not.
“If he didn’t do the Twitter poll and just started selling stock, the stock is probably 15% lower than it is today,” Ives said.
Tesla bull Cathie Wood also doesn’t seem too worried about the recent fall in TSLA’s stock price, calling it a “blip.” She believes Musk selling his shares was a sensible move. It might have taken some pressure off him from being a shareholder, allowing him to focus on his main job at Tesla.
As for Musk, he has openly stated that his Tesla stock sales are designed for maximum taxation. The idea of selling TSLA stock first came to Elon Musk after multiple politicians and media outlets claimed that the Tesla CEO’s tax proceeds could end wold hunger if he paid.