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Investing in Small Businesses



Small businesses are an essential component of the UK economy and accounted for 99.3% of all private sector businesses in 2018. The Government wants to encourage investment in this vital part of the economy and offers tax relief on certain kinds of investment. While they are higher-risk investments, small companies also have potential benefits:


What schemes and tax treatments are available to small company investors?


Enterprise Investment Scheme 

The Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) is designed to help higher-risk companies attract investment. It works by offering tax reliefs to investors who buy new shares from qualifying companies. However, there are conditions attached to the tax relief.


To qualify for the EIS, a Company must be unquoted at the time the shares are issued. This means it is not listed on any recognised stock exchange.


The company must also:

The company can have subsidiaries but they must all be qualifying subsidiaries. For example, it should own more than half of the ordinary share capital and not be controlled by another company by other means.


The Investor

The shares purchased must be full-risk ordinary shares and purchased in full. Those acquired with a loan will not qualify for relief. To access the available tax relief, the investor must not be connected to the company in question.


Tax Relief

There are 4 tax reliefs available for qualifying shares from qualifying companies:


1. Income tax Income

tax relief at 30% of the cost of the shares is available for the tax year the investment occurred. This relief can be claimed up to a maximum of £1,000,000 in investment, which would give a maximum reduction of £300,000. The shares must be held for at least 3 years or the relief will be withdrawn.


2. Capital Gains Tax

For shares that have received income tax relief, there will be no Capital Gains Tax (CGT) due if those shares are disposed of after 3 years.


3. Loss relief

If the Investor goes on to dispose of their shares at a loss, they can set the loss against their general income for that year instead of their gains.


4. Capital Gains Tax Deferral Relief

Individuals and trustees of certain kinds of trusts can defer a gain made on any asset into the purchase of EIS shares within a qualifying period. The gain is deferred until the date that the EIS shares are disposed of.


Any relief is claimed through self-assessment and can only be done once the company in question has sent the investor form EIS. Relief is withdrawn if, during the 3 years following the purchase of the shares, the investor becomes connected or the company no longer qualifies. 


Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme

The seed enterprise investment scheme (SEIS) is similar in nature to the EIS but it focuses on small, early stage companies. Young companies often struggle to raise finance as they are seen as a risky proposition so SEIS looks to reward investors with a higher rate of relief. It applies to shares issued on or after 6 April 2012.


Income tax

The relief available through SEIS is 50% of the cost of the shares and there is a maximum annual investment of £100,000. A claim can be made up to 5 years after the investment was made. Like the EIS, the purchased shares must be held for a minimum of 3 years or the relief will be withdrawn.


Capital Gains Tax Reinvestment

This relief was originally available only to gains made in the 2012/13 tax year, but was then extended to 2013/14. Assets sold and reinvested (all or in part) in shares that qualify for SEIS in these years are exempt from CGT at the rate of 100% in 2012/13 and 50% in 2013/14. For claims relating to 2012/13, the annual investment limit of £100,000 applies. The final date for claiming for 2013/14 is 31 January 2020.


Disposal Relief 

If the investor has received income tax relief on the purchase cost of their shares and sells them after the minimum 3-year period, there will be no CGT liability on disposal profits. This relief is only available on the basis that income tax relief has been claimed.


Contact our Business Service team for more information on EIS and SEIS.