national insurance holiday

7 tax incentives for UK digital & technology startups

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Having taken the risk and side-stepped the typical job route to become a tech entrepreneur and wealth-creator, its a good job that there are still some tempting UK tax incentives out there to support you.

Here are just 7 tax ideas or tips that you should be thinking about for your digital technology start-up:

  1. Entrepreneur’s Relief – if you hold 5% or more of the shares in your startup for 12 months and work as an officer /  director or employee, then when you come to sell the shares your effective tax rate will be just 10% on the gain. This is limited to the first £10m of gain over your lifetime . Sure beats an income tax top rate of 45%! Make sure you take this into account when setting up your company to ensure founders (and key employees) maximise this essential tax relief. You’d be gutted if you unwittingly held just 4% of the shares!
  2. R&D tax credits – get rewarded by the tax man for innovating in your sector by claiming this lucrative tax relief. Many entrepreneurs mistakenly believe that this tax incentive relates solely to industries with scientists wearing white lab coats but this couldn’t be further from the truth. This relief applies across industries – I have enjoyed particular success in the tech sector, for example, I have secured a £250k tax refund for a tech startup that had been (wrongly) advised by its accountants that it wouldn’t qualify for this relief! Most repayments are processed by HMRC within 30 days of a claim and you only have 2 years to make a claim before you’re time-barred. Don’t leave this cash on the table.
  3. Enterprise Investment Scheme – angel investors and private individuals are incentivised to invest in (perceived) higher risk investments like early stage start-up companies with tax breaks like the Enterprise Investment Scheme (or EIS as its more commonly called). Now is not the time for the exact detail suffice to say that many tech or digital startups would fall within the qualifying criteria thereby allowing smart investors to reclaim 30% income tax relief subject to certain limits. Just be aware for now that this is out there to tempt investors. [Update: Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) introduced since this post]
  4. Temporary National Insurance Holiday – for new businesses there is a recently announced temporary NI holiday for the first 10 employees limited to £5,000 per employee or £50,000 overall. The scheme officially kicks off in September 2010 however there should be relief for businesses started post 22 June 2010. This relief is location specific with most of the South East barred so you need to check qualifying locations. Startups across the North will qualify so now is a good time to start building your team.[Update: Now gone – there is an Employer’s NIC £3,000 annual allowance at the time of writing Jan 2017]
  5. Get paid at mouthwatering tax rates compared to most employees – once you get past the pre-revenue stage and start making profits, shareholders of small companies have the flexibility to structure their remuneration package to optimise take-home pay. Why pay up over 20%, 40% or even 45% income tax and incur huge National Insurance costs on employee salaries when you can pay yourself a combination of a small salary, dividends (and pension contributions) which, if carefully managed, can result in £nil income tax or NI for c£40k of remuneration. [Update: Dividend tax rule changes since 6 April 2016 reduce benefits]
  6. Get 100% tax relief on your new equipment – so you need to invest in new Macbooks, laptops, servers and other gadgets for your business. You can claim 100% tax writing down allowances (‘Annual Investment Allowance‘) against profits on your ‘first’ £200,000 (!) of capital expenditure each year [note: this relief has bounced around in recent years since; be wary of timing – it is £200,000 at the time of this update (Jan 2017)]
  7. Patent innovation box – coming soon (allegedly) will be a ‘patent box’ which will allow income or profits on registered patents to attract lower company tax rates of c10% (as opposed to a current lowest corporation tax rate of 20%.

If you’d like to discuss how any of these tax incentives could be applied in your business, please drop me a line via the contact page or you can find professional specialist advice and help at ip tax solutions. Happy to discuss.

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