Income tax relief is available to individuals investing in certain unlisted companies and social enterprises. The following schemes can help you reduce your income tax are:
- Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS)
- Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS)
- Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR)
- Venture Capital Trusts (VCT)
EIS and SEIS
A business that meets the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) criteria could attract more investors. Investment into businesses that qualify, attract capital gains tax and income tax relief for the investor.
When the business is less established for the purposes of EIS, it may be eligible for the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS). It is possible that a company qualifying for SEIS will become one that qualifies for EIS.
There are different qualifying criteria for each scheme and they offer different levels of income tax relief. For example, SEIS investors will receive income tax relief of 50% of the cost of the shares, whilst EIS investors receive income tax relief of 30%.
The following table compares EIS and SEIS for an individual investor:
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The following table compares some of the company differences for EIS and SEIS:
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A knowledge intensive company is one that at the date of the share issue meets an operating cost condition plus an innovation condition and/or a skilled employee condition.
Operating Cost Conditions:
- In any one or more of the three previous years, at least 15% of the relevant operating costs were spent on research, development or innovation OR
- In each of the previous three years at least 10% of the relevant operating costs was spent on research, development or innovation.
- The company (or subsidiary within the group) is engaged in intellectual property creation at the date of issue AND
- It is reasonable to assume that in 10 years the exploitation of the intellectual property will form the greater part of the company’s business.
Skilled Employee Condition: At least 20% of the full time equivalent employees are skilled employees, which are those with a masters degree or above who are engaged directly in research, development or innovation activities.
Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) is designed to help raise money to support the trading activity of a community interest company, community benefit society or charity. The company exists to benefit the community rather than purely shareholders so those seeking returns on investment may be less inclined to invest. It offers investors tax relief on shares they buy or money they lend the enterprise, when the scheme rules are met for at least 3 years.
The maximum annual investment relief that may be claimed is £1m at 30%. Capital gains tax deferral may be obtained at 100% of investment. If shares are sold, gains are exempt from CGT and there is relief available for capital losses against income.
Venture Capital Trusts
Venture Capital Trusts (VCT) invest in small firms to help them grow. The investment is regarded as high risk and should be for the long term. The government offers generous tax reliefs to those investing in VCTs. Tax relief is available to reduce income tax as well as defer CGT.
The maximum annual investment relief that may be claimed on is £200,000 and relief is capped at 30%. Dividends from a VCT are tax free.
CGT deferral may be achieved where an investor, having made a previous gain, invests into a VCT. Furthermore, gains realised on VCTs are exempt from CGT, although shares need to be kept for five years to qualify. Any deferred gain will become chargeable when the VCT investment is sold unless further planning is undertaken.
Additional rate taxpayers earning over £150,000 have their annual pension allowances reduced by £1 for every £2 extra income earned. For those with earnings over £210,000 the annual pension allowance is capped at £10,000. Additional rate taxpayers could use a VCT to complement their pension provision.
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One strategy could be for regular investments to be made in VCTs thereby reducing a current year income tax liability. If this were undertaken annually, any growth in the first VCT could be realised tax free. With regular annual investments and assuming capital growth, after five years an investor could be in a position to realise tax free investment on a rolling basis.