The Employee Ownership Tax Credit is available to current Colorado-headquartered businesses and their employees to provide an incentive to establish employee stock ownership plans, worker-owned cooperatives, and employee ownership trusts. The tax credit covers up to 50% of a qualified business’ conversion costs for use on their state income taxes. To participate in the program, the applying business must be existing in Colorado for at least one year prior to starting their employee-ownership conversion and applying for the tax credit.
In June 2021, Governor Polis signed into law HB 21-1311, (PDF). The bill provides $10 million annually in tax credits to fund professional service costs of conversion to employee ownership.The program makes employee ownership conversions more accessible for businesses throughout Colorado. The program and funding are available for the next 5 years, closing on January 1, 2027.
To access our service provider directory or find resources to support your business’ conversion for this program, or any of our employee ownership programs, please contact us.
This program is now open for applications. Please view the "eligibility" and "how to apply" sections below to get started.
Type: Tax credit
For: Colorado businesses converting to employee ownership
Amount: Up to $25,000 or up to $100,000
Application period: Open and accepted on a rolling basis
OEDIT division: Colorado Employee Ownership Office
Current Colorado-headquartered businesses converting to employee ownership between January 1, 2022 and January 1, 2027 may be eligible to apply. Eligible structures include employee stock ownership plans, worker-owned cooperatives, and employee ownership trusts. Businesses must apply for this tax credit prior to completing their employee ownership conversion. Typically, the conversion to an employee-owned structure takes between 6-12 months to complete.
To be eligible for this program, qualified businesses must:
- be converting to an entity type offering at least 20% equity in the business to employees (excluding founders)
- have at least 3 full-time employees (or 3 members, if a cooperative)
- be headquartered in Colorado for at least 1 year
- be in operation for at least 1 year
- be in good standing with the Secretary of State
- not currently have, in whole or in part, an employee stock ownership plan, employee ownership trust, or worker-owned cooperative at the time of application
- once a tax credit has been reserved, the business has 18 months to demonstrate that at least 20% of the total costs have been incurred
Eligibility for a staged conversion
A staged conversion means that the initial application will include a minimum of 20% equity in the business being offered to employees. If you do not use the entire tax credit with your initial application and decide to add a minimum of an additional 20% of equity in the future (while the program remains open and funds are available), you may be eligible to access any remaining tax credits.
Businesses considering a staged conversation in the future must indicate it in their application. If a staged conversation is approved, you must share at least an additional 20% equity with employees with each additional stage to access any remaining reserved tax credits.
HB 21-1311, which established the tax credit, defines each structure the following way for the purposes of this program:
- employee stock ownership plan: as defined in section 4975 (e)(7) of the internal revenue code, as amended
- worker-owned cooperative: as defined in section 1042 (c)(2) of the internal revenue code, as amended
- employee ownership trust: an indirect form of employee ownership in which a trust holds a controlling stake in a qualified business and benefits all employees on an equal basis
Eligible expenses include:
- accounting services
- business valuation services
- legal services
- succession planning services
- technical assistance
Eligible expenses must be approved by a Certified Public Accountant that is not affiliated with the owner of the qualified business.
The tax incentive amount will be calculated based on expenses of professional services required to transition the business to one of the recognized employee ownership structures. See the above section for included expenses.
Businesses may be issued tax credits of up to 50% of their conversion costs, not to exceed $25,000 for Worker-Owned Cooperatives and Employee Ownership Trusts, and not to exceed $100,000 for Employee Stock Ownership Plans.
If your certified expenses are more than the amount of tax credits reserved, we will issue an overage for the difference. This is subject to annual limits up to the maximum allowable tax credit by structure type. If your certified expenses are fewer than the tax credits you reserved during pre-application, we will calculate your tax credit based on your actual expenses.
The tax credit certificates expire after 1 year and must be used in full for the year that the conversion was completed. Any remaining funds will be refunded in full.
This program is now open for applications and will be reviewed in order of receipt.
You must complete the pre-application and application for reservation prior to completing your employee ownership conversion to qualify for the tax credit, otherwise your application will become ineligible. We encourage you to apply before starting the conversion or during the early stages of the conversion. Please note that converting to an employee-owned structure typically takes between 6-12 months to complete.
View application graphic Watch the 5 minute tutorial
Step 1: Complete and pass the pre-application
Log in or create a new account in the OEDIT application portal. To protect your personal information, we manually add users to the portal, so please allot up to several days for us to activate your account.
If your answers to the pre-application qualify your business, you will receive an email confirmation of approval. Follow the steps outlined in the email to access the next step.
To meet initial eligibility requirements as a qualified business, you must disclose which structure type you are converting to (employee stock ownership plan, employee ownership trust, or worker-owned cooperative).
Step 2: Apply for reservation of tax credit
Follow the directions outlined in the email you receive to complete your application for reservation. To access your application:
- Go to the application portal
- Log in to your account
- Click on the Employee Ownership tile
- Find the draft application
- Click on the blue pencil  icon
- Save your work frequently to avoid losing progress
For this step in the application process, you will need to provide:
- certificate of Good Standing from the Secretary of State showing your existing business structure (or proposed newly forming worker-owned cooperative)
- C corporation
- S corporation
- Limited Liability Company
- Limited Liability Partnership
- Sole Proprietorship
- Or other pass-through entity
- information on whether you will be applying for a staged conversion in addition to initial conversion
- Federal Employer Identification Number, Colorado Account Number, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
Step 3: Apply for tax credit issuance
You will need to provide the following 3 documents for issuance of the tax credit:
1. A letter (as a PDF) signed by a 3rd party CPA that attests:
- The expenses listed on the Expenditures Worksheet: (included in the letter) were in conjunction with the employee ownership conversion.
- The dates of the expenses are accurate and occurred in your conversion time period.
- You will need to supply the canceled checks to the CPA that match the list of expenses in the Expenditures Worksheet.
- The total amount spent on the conversion is accurate.
- The costs were incurred by the applying business
- Citation to CRS 39-22-542 that the company's expenses are qualified and eligible.
- Here is a sample letter for your reference: Sample CPA Letter
2. Initiating-owner(s) tax identification and contact information document (as a PDF or Word document):
- All original owners/partners will need to supply:
- Original ownership percentages
- Personal mailing address and email address for each owner/partner in this document
- Tax identification numbers - These should be supplied over the phone, a program manager will reach out to capture this information for your file.
3. Proof of employee ownership conversion documents (as PDFs):
- These may include:
- Notarized Corporate Resolution: establishing the new employee ownership structure type
- Notarized Stock Purchase Agreements
- Articles of Incorporation
- For ESOP - Initial Census Report of participants of the trust (showing employee names of those participating in the ESOP)
- For ESOP - Capitalization Table from before and after the employee ownership transaction
- For ESOP - Summary Plan Description
Step 4: Claim your tax credit
The final step is to claim your tax credit on Colorado state income tax. You will be provided a certificate to be submitted with your Colorado tax return.
A tax credit must be used for the tax year that the conversion to a qualified, employee-owned structure (i.e., ESOP, Co-op, or EOT) was officially completed. This date will be verified by the legal documents provided by the applicant as well as the third-party CPA attestation. A signed letter from an attorney may be required. The tax credit is not extendable and is only valid for use during the tax year that the qualified conversion is completed. If the tax credit exceeds the tax liability, the remainder will be refunded to the owners. Any credit that is unused during the tax year that the qualified conversion is completed will expire.
We will provide informational sessions for service providers, such as certified public accountants, to be aware of this tax credit and learn how they can support businesses in applying. As we finalize informational session dates and details, we will offer registration here.