Enterprise Investment Schemes (EIS)

What is an Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and How Does it Work?

The Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) is a programme set up by the UK government to encourage people to invest in smaller companies that are not listed on a stock exchange. By investing in these companies, you're buying their shares, becoming a shareholder, and in return, you get various tax benefits. The scheme supports the growth and development of these businesses by providing them with essential capital, while offering investors significant EIS tax relief benefits.

Key Features of Enterprise Investment Schemes

Types of Companies

The Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) specifically targets smaller enterprises within the UK, focusing on those not listed on any recognised stock exchange. These businesses represent a critical segment of the economy, driving innovation and growth yet often lacking access to conventional funding sources.

To qualify for EIS, these companies must maintain a workforce of fewer than 250 employees, ensuring the scheme supports genuine small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) at a pivotal stage of development. Additionally, their assets should not exceed £15 million before investment, a criterion set to identify businesses that genuinely need external funding to escalate their growth, innovation, or market expansion.

The strategic exclusion of listed companies from EIS eligibility channels investor funds towards ventures that might otherwise find it challenging to secure the capital necessary for scaling. This approach not only offers investors the opportunity for significant returns through portfolio diversification but also plays a vital role in fostering sectoral innovation, job creation, and technological advancement.

Given the intricacies of EIS, it is advised to consult with independent financial advisers such as Continuum Wealth's financial advisers. This ensures that investments are not only compliant with the scheme's stringent criteria but also aligned with the your broader financial goals, maximising the benefits of EIS's substantial tax incentives.

Investment Limits

  • Individual Limit: Individual investors can invest up to £1 million a year into emerging companies that qualify under the scheme. This substantial limit is designed to stimulate significant private investment into the backbone of the UK's economy - its smaller, innovative companies.
    • For investors with a keen eye on sectors that are pushing the boundaries of technology and innovation, the scheme generously extends this limit. If at least £1 million is directed towards companies that meet the criteria for being knowledge-intensive — those dedicating a considerable portion of their resources to research and development — the investment cap doubles to £2 million. This elevated threshold reflects the government's commitment to advancing the UK's position as a leader in innovation and technology.
  • Company Limit: On the other hand, eligible companies seeking to grow and innovate through EIS funding are subject to a fundraising ceiling. These businesses can raise up to £5 million each year through EIS and other similar venture capital schemes. This limit ensures that the benefits of EIS investments are distributed across a wide range of enterprises, supporting a diverse array of sectors within the UK's vibrant SME landscape. The £5 million cap is strategically set to attract a sufficient level of funding to enable significant growth and development projects without saturating the market or concentrating too much financial aid into a single entity. This balance aims to foster a healthy, competitive environment where innovation thrives across the board.

Share Types

Ordinary Shares Requirement: Investing in the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) necessitates the purchase of "ordinary" shares within the eligible companies. This specification ensures that investors engage on a level playing field, holding shares that do not confer any preferential treatment in terms of dividends or claims on company assets.

Ordinary shares represent the most straightforward form of equity ownership in a company. They embody the investor's faith in the long-term growth and profitability of the enterprise, rather than seeking immediate returns through special dividends or rights. This approach aligns investor interests with the foundational growth objectives of the EIS, fostering a partnership geared towards sustainable development.

By mandating investment in ordinary shares, the EIS underscores its commitment to supporting businesses in their growth phase without complicating the financial structure with preferential share classes. This stipulation simplifies the investment process for both companies and investors, ensuring that funding is directed towards the core activities of innovation, expansion, and market penetration. It encourages investors to focus on the long-term potential of their investments, contributing to a culture of sustained support for the UK's innovative small and medium-sized enterprise sector. This requirement reflects the scheme's strategic aim: to bolster the UK economy by facilitating investments that are willing to share in both the risks and rewards of entrepreneurial ventures.

Income Tax Relief

One of the key advantages of the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) is the generous income tax relief it provides. Investors are entitled to reclaim 30% of their investment cost against their income tax for the tax year in which the investment is made. This substantial benefit not only serves to offset risks associated with investing in smaller, unlisted companies but also aims to stimulate the flow of capital towards these critical engines of economic innovation and growth. By effectively reducing the net cost of the investment, EIS presents a compelling opportunity for individuals seeking to expand their portfolios while enjoying a notable decrease in their tax liabilities.

Capital Gains Tax Exemption

One of the most compelling benefits of the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) lies in its generous tax incentives, particularly the exemption from Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on profits earned from the sale of shares. For investors who commit to holding their EIS shares for a minimum duration of three years, this exemption represents a significant advantage. Upon the sale of these shares after the specified holding period, any profit realised is not subject to CGT, offering a clear pathway to maximise investment returns without the burden of capital gains taxation.

Loss Relief

The Enterprise Investment Scheme incorporates a safety net for investors through its loss relief provision, mitigating the inherent risks of investing in smaller, potentially more volatile companies. If an investment under EIS fails, investors have the opportunity to claim loss relief, allowing them to offset the financial loss against their income tax or capital gains tax for that tax year. This crucial aspect of EIS provides a cushion against the financial impact of an unsuccessful investment, offering investors a measure of protection. By enabling the deduction of the investment loss from taxable income or gains, EIS ensures that investors are partially insulated from the financial downside, thereby encouraging the continued support of innovative and growth-oriented businesses within the UK's dynamic economic landscape.

Inheritance Tax Relief

EIS investments offer a notable advantage in estate planning through their exemption from Inheritance Tax (IHT), provided the shares have been held for a minimum of two years. This benefit significantly enhances the appeal of EIS as a strategic component of long-term financial planning, ensuring that the wealth invested in these growth-focused companies can be passed on to heirs with minimal tax implications. The two-year holding period requirement encourages commitment to investments over a meaningful period, aligning with EIS's goal of fostering sustained growth in innovative UK businesses. 

Age and Investment Limits

  • Age Limits: You must be at least 18 years old to invest in an EIS.
  • Investment Limits: The maximum you can invest is £1 million per tax year, which can be extended to £2 million if you're investing in knowledge-intensive companies.

Tax Rules in the United Kingdom

  • Income Tax: You can claim 30% income tax relief on the cost of the shares.
  • Capital Gains Tax: Any gains are tax-free if you've held the shares for at least three years.
  • Inheritance Tax: EIS investments are generally exempt from Inheritance Tax after two years.

Additional Considerations

  • Risk: EIS investments are high-risk and not easy to sell quickly.
  • Holding Period: To qualify for the tax benefits, you must hold the shares for at least three years.
  • Complexity: The rules around EIS are complex and can change, so it's essential to stay updated and seek professional advice.

Maximising Your Investment Potential with EIS through Continuum Wealth

The Enterprise Investment Scheme offers a unique blend of investment opportunities and significant tax benefits. However, it's not without its complexities and risks. Given the high stakes involved, it's highly recommended to consult one of Continuum Wealth's Independent Financial Advisers (IFA) for personalised advice tailored to your specific needs and circumstances.

For more information or to discuss your individual circumstances, feel free to contact us.

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Enterprise Investment Schemes (EIS) FAQs

To maintain eligibility for EIS tax reliefs, you must not sell your shares within three years of acquisition. After this period, you can sell your shares at any time.

Yes, investors have the option to carry back their EIS investment to the previous tax year, subject to the £1 million annual investment limit, allowing them to claim tax relief in that year.

EIS tax reliefs can be claimed through your Self-Assessment tax return. You'll need to receive an EIS3 form from the company in which you've invested and fill in the relevant sections when completing your tax return.

Investors need to hold their EIS shares for a minimum of three years from the date of issue to qualify for the associated tax reliefs.

You can invest up to £1 million in EIS-eligible companies in a single tax year, which increases to £2 million if at least £1 million is invested in knowledge-intensive businesses.

Companies must be unlisted, have fewer than 250 employees, and not exceed £15 million in gross assets. They should also carry out a qualifying trade in the UK.

If the EIS-eligible company fails, you can claim loss relief against either your Capital Gains Tax or Income Tax, which effectively reduces your investment risk.

EIS is a UK government initiative designed to help smaller, higher-risk companies raise finance by offering tax reliefs to individual investors who purchase new shares in those companies.

Investors can benefit from up to 30% income tax relief on investments, Capital Gains Tax exemption on profits from the sale of shares, loss relief against income or capital gains, and Inheritance Tax relief.

Individuals over 18 years, subject to UK tax, can invest in EIS. Investors must not be connected with the company, meaning they cannot own more than 30% of the company's shares, voting rights, or rights to assets on winding up.


Note: This page is for information purposes only and should not be considered as financial advice. Always consult an Independent Financial Adviser for personalised financial advice tailored to your individual circumstances.