What will the 7 May election mean for UK tech companies?

As we run up to the 7 May 2015 election, thoughts turn to what the result might mean for UK startup and fast growth companies?

Techcrunch has noted the partisan approach that UK tech companies seem to be taking in writing a letter in support of the Conservative Party and points out that this stance should be taken with a pinch of salt (although I understand the article was penned by a declared Labour supporter ;) ).

I don’t want this to fall into a political rant but I sense there is a lack of transparency in the Labour party’s stance on how it might build on the successes that we have already seen in terms of tax policy for UK tech and fast growth companies.

For example, the Conservatives have made great strides in the following areas:

  • The introduction of Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) and its generous tax incentives to support investment into early stage companies to supplement the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) aimed at more established companies
  • The improvements made to the Enterprise Management Incentive (EMI) share option scheme to allow participants to benefit from Entrepreneur’s Relief despite potentially not holding the shares for 12 months nor even holding more than 5% of the share capital
  • Improvements to the R&D tax credit incentive scheme that now boasts a 33.3% return for claimant SME companies
  • Introduction of the Patent Box at its beneficial 10% corporation tax rate – despite challenges from across the EU
  • Enhancements to Entrepreneur’s Relief that now allows entrepreneurs to benefit from a 10% CGT rate on the first £10m of lifetime gains
  • Reduction in the main corporation tax rate down to 20%
  • Plus video games tax relief and other reliefs for creative and digital companies

Taken together these measures keep the UK on track to meet George Osborne’s pledge to make it the most attractive place to do business in the G20.

It is worth noting that many of the above tax incentives were first introduced during Labour’s last bout in office; albeit in a more watered down form in most cases – although who’s to say that Labour might not have followed a similar path had they stayed in the office…? Truth is, we don’t know.

And herein lies the problem…

Labour do not appear to have shared much detail on their thinking and policies around these areas and, in particular, these specific tax incentives. The danger is that an incoming party wants to “shake things up” and “make their mark” which may threaten the stability and progress made around these important areas for UK entrepreneurs.

We may just be about to find out more…

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