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SEIS EIS Published:  Aug 31, 2022 4 min read

EIS and SEIS loss relief: what is it and can your investors claim it?

Startup not working out? Haven’t been able to raise investment? Here’s how to make sure your SEIS/EIS investors get the best outcome for supporting you on your journey.

Startup life can be tough and you’ll always have difficult choices to make. If your company isn’t profitable and can’t raise money, you have broadly three choices:

  1. Sell the company
  2. Go into zombie mode
  3. Shut down

In this post, we look at how each of these three strategies affects loss relief for your SEIS/EIS investors, and how to give them the best outcome for supporting you on your journey.

Prefer to watch instead? Hop straight to the video 👇

Are you missing out on some of the lesser-known benefits of the Enterprise Investment Schemes? Here are 8 things you didn't know about SEIS/EIS tax relief.

Sell the company: how EIS/SEIS loss relief works

Selling your company is much easier said than done. It can be tricky to find a buyer but there are a growing number of platforms such as Foundy and MicroAcquire which could help.

When you sell the company, you (the founders) and your investors sell shares to the new owner. Under the SEIS/EIS rules, if your SEIS/EIS investors had their shares for more than three years, they pay no Capital Gains Tax (CGT) when they sell their shares.

But that’s only relevant if they sell the shares for more than they paid for them. If the investors sell the shares for less than they paid for them, they might be eligible for SEIS/EIS loss relief, regardless of how long they’ve held the shares.

The amount of tax relief your SEIS/EIS investors can claim will depend on what Income Tax relief they received when they bought the shares and whether HMRC has withdrawn any of their Income Tax relief.

Example

You raised investment two years ago at a £2 million valuation.
You’ve had an offer to buy the company and you sell for £500,000

The SEIS investors who invested in your company at the round two years ago get back less than their investment but they can tax deduct the loss.

Have a look at the example on the gov.uk website to see how the SEIS/EIS loss relief works with Income Tax relief.

With SEIS/EIS investments, you can maximise the return for your investors. If it’s a negative return, you can minimise their loss.

Go into zombie mode: no EIS/SEIS loss relief

If you reduce burn to zero, your company won’t be productive or have any revenue. The company isn’t alive or dead but it’s still going. As we might insultingly call it, it’s a zombie.

This situation isn’t good for investors because they’ve put money in but their shares aren’t sold and they can’t claim loss relief.

But there’s always the possibility that you could revive the company in future. Maybe you’ll find more money from your own finances to fund it, or you’ll find another investor.

Put the company into voluntary liquidation: how EIS/SEIS loss relief works

Let’s assume your company doesn’t have creditors you can’t pay – if you do, you might need to do an involuntary insolvency.

If you can wind up your company voluntarily, your SEIS/EIS investors might be eligible for loss relief.

If your investors have held their shares for less than three years, HMRC would usually withdraw the Income Tax relief those investors received on their investment. But if you’re winding up the company for genuine commercial reasons – which HMRC defines as the company “is insolvent or is likely to become insolvent” – then HMRC are unlikely to withdraw the Income Tax relief.

To maximise the return for your investors – or minimise their loss – work with your accountant and Companies House to wind up the company, allowing your SEIS/EIS investors to claim loss relief.

Read more about SEIS/EIS loss relief for investors at the gov.uk website.

How investors can claim SEIS/EIS loss relief

When you’re in the midst of the excitement of accepting an SEIS/EIS investment, it’s easy to focus on the immediate benefit for the investors: the Income Tax relief they get on the amount they invest. But another reason the Enterprise Investment Schemes are so popular is because investors can claim relief on losses, if they qualify.

If investors sell their SEIS/EIS shares at a loss, they can choose to offset the loss amount, minus any Income Tax relief they’ve already had from HMRC, against their income.

If the investor is claiming the loss for the current tax year, they can contact HMRC to request a change to their PAYE tax code or to make an adjustment to their Self Assessment tax payments.

If the investor is claiming the loss for the previous tax year, they’ll make the claim on their Self Assessment tax return. There are full details for your investors on how to claim SEIS/EIS loss relief at the gov.uk website.

Here’s a summary of how SEIS/EIS loss relief works for the three strategies we described above:

🤝 Sell the company

Is SEIS/EIS loss relief available? Yes

Conditions:

  • SEIS/EIS investors qualify for SEIS/EIS loss relief if they sell their shares at a lower price than they paid.
  • The loss relief depends on what Income Tax relief investors received when they bought the shares and whether HMRC has withdrawn any of their Income Tax relief.
  • There’s no minimum or maximum time that the investors must have held their shares.

🧟 Go into zombie mode

Is SEIS/EIS loss relief available? No

Conditions: n/a

🔚 Shut down (voluntary liquidation)

Is SEIS/EIS loss relief available? Yes

Conditions:

  • SEIS/EIS investors might be eligible for loss relief if the company is voluntarily wound up for genuine commercial reasons.
  • The loss relief depends on what Income Tax relief investors received when they bought the shares and whether HMRC has withdrawn any of their Income Tax relief.
  • There’s no minimum or maximum time that the investors must have held their shares.

 

Read more about Capital Gains Tax and loss relief for SEIS/EIS investors in this post in our Help Centre.

Watch video

Our CEO Anthony Rose explains how to maximise the return for your investors if your startup isn’t successful:

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  • Sources

    1. Tax relief for investors using venture capital schemes | HMRC

    2. Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme – Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax reliefs (2020) | Can you claim a loss? | HMRC

    3. SEIS: income tax relief: issuing company: ceasing to meet trading requirement | Effect of liquidation | HMRC

    4. How does SEIS affect Capital Gains Tax and when can I claim Loss Relief? | SeedLegals Help Centre

Suzanne Worthington

Suzanne Worthington

Sooze is our Senior Writer. She's obsessed with making complicated things easy to understand.
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