Guidance

Use the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) to raise money for your company

Find out how to apply and if your company’s proposal to raise money meets the conditions of EIS.

The Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) is one of 4 venture capital schemes - check which is appropriate for you.

How the scheme works

EIS is designed so that your company can raise money to help grow your business. It does this by offering tax reliefs to individual investors who buy new shares in your company.

Under EIS, you can raise up to £5 million each year, and a maximum of £12 million in your company’s lifetime. This also includes amounts received from other venture capital schemes. Your company must receive investment under a venture capital scheme within 7 years of the first commercial sale.

You must follow the scheme rules so that your investors can claim and keep EIS tax reliefs relating to their shares. Tax reliefs will be withheld or withdrawn from your investors if you do not follow the rules for at least 3 years after the investment is made.

There are different rules for knowledge-intensive companies that carry out a significant amount of research, development or innovation, and either:

  • want to raise more than £12 million in the company’s lifetime
  • did not receive investment under a venture capital scheme within 7 years of the first commercial sale

What money raised can be used for

The money raised by the new share issue must be used for a qualifying business activity, which is eiher:

  • a qualifying trade
  • preparing to carry out a qualifying trade (which must start within 2 years of the investment)
  • research and development that’s expected to lead to a qualifying trade

The money raised by the new share issue must:

  • be spent within 2 years of the investment, or if later, the date you started trading
  • be used to grow or develop your business
  • not be used to buy all or part of another business

Companies that can use the scheme

Your company can use the scheme if it:

  • has a permanent establishment in the UK
  • is not trading on a recognised stock exchange at the time of the share issue and does not plan to do so
  • does not control another company other than qualifying subsidiaries
  • is not controlled by another company, or does not have more than 50% of its shares owned by another company
  • does not expect to close after completing a project or series of projects

Your company and any qualifying subsidiaries must:

  • not have gross assets worth more than £15 million before any shares are issued, and not more than £16 million immediately afterwards
  • have less than 250 full-time equivalent employees at the time the shares are issued

Your company must carry out a qualifying trade. If you’re part of a group, the majority of the group’s activities must be qualifying trades.

Limits on money raised

Your company can’t raise more than £5 million in total in any 12-month period from:

Your company cannot raise more than £12 million from these sources in your company’s lifetime. This includes any money received by any subsidiaries, former subsidiaries or businesses you’ve acquired.

Limits on the age of the company

You can receive investment under EIS as long as it’s within 7 years of your company’s first commercial sale. If you have any subsidiaries (including former subsidiaries) or businesses you’ve acquired, the date of the first commercial sale is the earliest of the group.

If you received investment in this period (under EIS, SEIS, SITR, VCT or state aid approved under the risk finance guidelines), you can use EIS to raise money for the same activity as long as you showed you were planning to do so in your original business plan.

If you did not receive investment within the first 7 years, or now want to raise money for a different activity from a previous investment, you’ll have to show that the money:

  • is required to enter a completely new product market or a new geographic market
  • you’re seeking is at least 50% of the company’s average annual turnover for the last 5 years

Qualifying subsidiary companies

If your company owns or controls any other companies they need to be ‘qualifying subsidiaries’. This means:

  • your company must own more than 50% of the subsidiary’s shares
  • no one other than your company or one of its other qualifying subsidiaries can control this subsidiary
  • there cannot be any arrangements which would put someone else in control of this subsidiary

The subsidiary must be at least 90% owned by your company where either the:

  • business activity you’re going to spend the EIS investment on is to be carried out by the qualifying subsidiary
  • subsidiary’s business is mainly property or land management

Risk to capital condition

The investment in your company must meet the risk to capital condition, which means:

  • your company must use the money for growth and development
  • the investment should be a risk to the investors capital

Growth and development means you’ll use the investment to grow things like your revenue, customer base and number of employees.

The growth and development of your company should be permanent and not rely on the investor’s continued support.

The investment should carry a risk that the investor will lose more capital than they are likely to gain as a net return.

HMRC will not consider the maximum return an investor could get if the company is successful, because this cannot be guaranteed.

The net return includes:

  • income from dividends, interest payments and other fees
  • capital growth
  • upfront tax relief

When deciding if you meet the risk to capital condition, HMRC will look at things like your company’s:

  • sources of income
  • assets
  • structure
  • use of subcontractors
  • marketing of the investment opportunity
  • relationship with other companies

You will not meet the risk to capital condition if there are risk reducing arrangements in place, resulting in your investors:

  • getting priority over other investors
  • protecting their money so:
    • it can be withdrawn as soon as possible
    • that other investors money is used first

When you issue shares

The shares you issue must be paid up in full, in cash, when they’re issued. Your company should have a way to accept payment before shares are issued.

Your shares for EIS investments must be full risk ordinary shares which:

  • are not redeemable
  • carry no special rights to your assets

The shares you issue can have limited preferential rights to dividends. However, the rights to receive dividends cannot be allowed to accumulate or allow the dividend to be varied.

When you issue the shares there cannot be an arrangement:

  • to guarantee the investment or protect the investor from risk
  • to sell the shares at end of, or during the investment period
  • to structure your activities to let an investor benefit in a way that’s not intended by the scheme
  • for a reciprocal agreement where you invest back in an investor’s company to also gain tax relief
  • to raise money for the purpose of tax avoidance - the investment must be for a genuine commercial reason

Before raising your money

Your investors will only be able to claim tax relief if you meet the conditions for EIS.

You can ask HMRC if your share issue is likely to qualify before you go ahead, this is called advance assurance.

How to apply

When you’ve issued your shares, whether or not you asked for advance assurance, you must complete a compliance statement (EIS1) and provide your:

  • business plan
  • memorandum and articles of association
  • last annual accounts and cash flow forecast (if you have not submitted accounts yet just provide your cash flow forecast)
  • shareholder agreements or drafts (if you have them)
  • prospectuses and other documents for attracting investment (if you have them)

You can only submit your compliance statement when you’ve carried out your qualifying business activity for 4 months. You must submit it within 2 years of this date, or within 2 years of the end of the tax year in which the shares were issued (whichever is later).

You must complete a separate application for each share issue.

What happens next

If your application is successful, HMRC will confirm the decision and send you compliance certificates (form EIS3) to give to your investors. Your investors cannot claim the tax relief until they receive their compliance certificate from you.

You must follow the scheme rules for at least 3 years after the investment is made - otherwise tax relief will be withdrawn from your investors. You must tell HMRC if you no longer meet the conditions within 60 days.

Email: enterprise.centre@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk

Post:

Small Company Enterprise Centre (Admin team)
Insight, Understanding and Risk SO970
Wealthy and Mid-sized Business Compliance
Newcastle
NE98 1ZZ

Where HMRC decides the investments do not meet EIS requirements, we’ll write to you explaining why. If you disagree, you can ask HMRC to review the decision, or appeal against it.

Published 1 January 2016
Last updated 5 September 2018 + show all updates
  1. Companies applying for EIS must now meet the risk to capital condition to qualify for the scheme.
  2. First published.