Tax & admin · 21 September 2017

HMRC targets wealthy investors avoiding tax via EIS scheme

HMRC is reviewing the EIS scheme after accusations it facilitates tax avoidance?
The Treasury is thought to be considering plans to come down hard on high-earning individuals who abuse the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) tax relief system.

Proposals being weighed up include cutting the level of EIS tax relief, increasing the period an investment must be held under the EIS scheme to more than two years, and putting greater restrictions on firms that qualify for funds, The Sunday Times has reported.

The EIS scheme is designed to incentivise investment into promising high-risk UK startups, giving much-needed funding to entrepreneurs. However, accusations that the system enables tax avoidance amongst wealthy investors may be causing HMRC to change its rules.

Tax experts have been worried that the EIS scheme may be scrapped altogether as a result of findings from the government’s Passion Capital review of barriers for growing businesses when accessing long-term finance. But, HMRC have instead sought to tighten the rules surrounding the scheme, according to The Sunday Times? reports.

Qualifying startups can benefit from up to 5m a year in EIS scheme funding, but they must have been operating for less than ten years and have assets worth less than 15m.

In a statement, direct general of the EIS Association, Mark Brownridge, said that changing the EIS scheme ran the risk of magnifying, not mitigating? problems small companies currently have accessing finance, but admitted a review of the scheme’s rules could be helpful.

He said: There is no doubt some EIS money is used in ways that do not adhere to the spirit in which the scheme was created. Perhaps this has gone too far and a wake-up call is needed.

Brownridge added that the EIS Association was in constructive dialogue? with HMRC to find a way to ensure the EIS scheme remained fair and transparent.

He went on to say: EIS has been instrumental over its long history in helping small companies to start, grow and build their businesses.



Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.