Investing in EIS towards the end of the tax year has become quite normal for advisers looking to reap the benefits of the tax reliefs for their clients. But the reality is that the timelines involved with EIS investing, mean that, if you’re looking for income tax relief against the full investment amount in the current year, you need to be investing as soon as possible.
It’s common for full deployment to take between 12 to 18 months and the EIS reliefs, not to mention the EIS qualification clock, aren’t triggered until the funds are used to acquire shares in each investee company. So, to be clear, the transfer of the investment amount to the EIS fund manager is not the important date. It’s the date of share purchase that is.
There are great deals to be done in EIS, but finding the real winners is no easy task. There are literally thousands of potential investees and identifying those with the best chance of success requires specialised and sometimes time-consuming filtering and due diligence.
Oxford Capital Deal Flow Funnel
The typical timeframe from introduction of the opportunity to completing the deal is three to six months because protecting a client’s interests does take time. Both legal work and advance assurance – HMRC’s stamp of approval that the company meets the criteria to qualify for EIS at the outset, can substantially extend the time taken to finalise a deal but both are essential elements of the due diligence process.
While HMRC now targets a 15-day turnaround to provide a yes or no to an advance assurance application and earlier this year we did indeed have an advance assurance application approved in 15 days. However, where there are complicated or unusual features within a company structure (generally not close to the boundaries of EIS qualification in terms of the growth and risk factors), our experience is that it can still take two months or more.
So, there is a balance to be struck. On one side, it’s important to deploy investors funds as quickly as possible to start the EIS clock, make the reliefs available and to offset cash drag. On the other, proper research to uncover the companies with the best potential for rapid growth is crucial, as is diversification so that great successes can compensate for expected failures.
This balance is affected by the amount of funds available to invest and, at Oxford Capital, by the risk profile of the deal, although our fundraising is kept under review with the goal of balancing funds raised with our capacity to deploy them. To ensure effective diversification, our policy is to invest each subscription into between 12 and 15 companies. Where the deal is early stage, we may decide to allocate just 5% of an investor’s subscription into the company, with the maximum generally at around 10% – 15%.
After deployment, the process for applying for and receiving EIS certificates from HMRC takes time. This can account for about two months on average. Since it is the EIS3 certificate that allows an investor to actually claim the EIS tax reliefs, this should also be taken into account.
The opportunities in EIS are potentially hugely rewarding. The tax reliefs remain generous too, but understanding the deal-flow and deployment timelines is key to making the best use of them.
For more information about the exciting opportunities available through the Oxford Capital Growth EIS, click here.