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£1m benefit of being a tax aware entrepreneur

EuphoriaMark knew that his new business would be at the cutting-edge of technology and potentially even a world-player – exactly the sort of business that the UK Government is keen to promote and support in the form of tax incentives.

Fully aware of the opportunities that the UK tax code provided for releasing cash into his new venture, Mark kicked off by raising an initial £150,000 under the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS). A 50% income tax break for the investors made it easier to nudge up the cash they were willing to part with; plus the opportunity to sell their shares after three years – capital gains tax ‘free’ – made the investment even sweeter. Mark had pondered utilising this tax break on his own £10,000 investment into the company but decided that, on this occasion he wanted to retain more than 30% of the share capital (which precluded him from SEIS) – maybe next time…

This SEIS cash would be used to fund the R&D phase in employing a small team of developers. Given that the company was pre-revenue, Mark was able to claim a welcome tax refund from HM Revenue & Customs under the SME R&D tax credit scheme. This released in excess of £30,000 into the business which was promptly used to fund a further developer outside the SEIS funds to accelerate the project.

Having made significant inroads on the R&D work (whilst burning through in excess of 70% of the SEIS cash!), Mark approached investors for a further round of funding – this time under the Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS’s ‘big brother’!). A 30% income tax break this time for investors (plus potential for a capital gains free exit) provided sufficient enticement for investors to inject a further £2m into the company.

Meanwhile, whilst the R&D work was ongoing, Mark had made investigations regarding the potential for filing one or more patents on aspects of the underlying invention generated by the R&D work. With the arrival of the new Patent Box tax incentive from 1 April 2013, Mark knew that a 10% corporation tax rate by 2017 on worldwide income derived from qualifying patents could add additional value to his company as it approached an exit as well as releasing further much needed cash into the business from now until then.

Eyeing an exit in 3-5 years time, Mark ensured he retained at least 5% of the share capital post dilution at each funding round in order to secure a capital gains tax rate of just 10% on his first £10m of gains. His SEIS and EIS investors should be extra happy with a 0% capital gains tax rate after three years!

All in all, Mark had pulled the relevant statutory tax incentive levers to maximise the release of cash into his business at each stage of its life-cycle. What was this worth? It depends – the SEIS, R&D and EIS savings total approximately £700,000 but assuming a profitable few years under the the Patent Box and taking into account the above savings it is not difficult to reach overall pre-exit cash tax savings of £1m+.

Getting advice from the start can get you on the road to being a tax aware entrepreneur…

image credit:Creative Commons License Hartwig HKD via Compfight

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