VCTs and EIS: How Can They Improve a Financial Plan?

By April 6, 2020Investments
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Looking ahead in 2020-21, how do you see your pension contributions and Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) panning out? Some clients regret not considering these earlier in the 2019-20 financial year, to get a better deal out of their tax position. Provided your circumstances allow, you may wish to act sooner this tax year, to take advantage of the full range of tax planning tools available to you, including VCTs (Venture Capital Trusts) and EIS’ (Enterprise Investment Schemes).

These two options can be attractive to investors who want the opportunity of possibly generating stronger returns. However, they can also be great for some people who are likely to maximise their pension and ISA contributions during a tax year.

In this short 2020 guide, we outline some ideas how you can do this.


Overview of EIS & VCTs

In the 10 years preceding 2019, both EIS & VCTs markets have doubled in size. Since its inception in 1994, for instance, the EIS market has attracted more than £18bn of investment to over 27,905 companies. VCTs, moreover, have raised about £7bn since first launched in 1995.

Both EIS & VCTs are Government-run schemes intended to incentivise investment into innovative companies, which can spur economic growth and create jobs (thus creating more tax revenue). One reason they have proven popular with some investors is down to the tax reliefs on offer. In particular, both EIS & VCT investments allow you to claim back 30% of your investment against your Income Tax bill.

However, both EIS & VCTs have also come to the attention of pension savers, who have faced an increasing “squeeze” in recent years. Over ten years ago, for instance, you could put up to £255,000 per year into your pension. Today in 2020-21, you can only commit £40,000 per year (or up to 100% of your salary; whichever is lower). As a result, some clients now consider EIS & VCT investments as another way of supplementing existing retirement savings but of course they are more complex and need to be fully understood.


Case Scenario: EIS & VCTs “in play”

Suppose you earn £100,000 per year and want to continue saving and investing into your pension, despite nearly having used up your £1,073,100 Lifetime Allowance. What options do you have?

One idea to consider (which we recommend discussing with us first!) is to reduce your pension contributions (to keep within your Lifetime Allowance before you retire), and redirect some of this into VCT investments. This involves “buying” shares in one or more VCT companies on the London Stock Exchange (LSE), and you can commit up to £200,000 per year into these investments. From there, you could then claim back 30% of your VCT investment against your Income Tax, the following April. If you put £40,000 into VCT investments, for instance, then you could claim back £12,000.

Another option, however, would be to consider investing in some EIS-qualifying companies or EIS funds. With an EIS, you can invest up to £1m per tax year (i.e. 5 times more than VCTs), which can make it an attractive option if you have just sold a business or received a large bonus, and are wondering what to do with it. Again, you can claim back 30% of your EIS investment against your Income Tax bill.


Which is better?

The suitability of VCTs over EIS’ (and vice versa) depends on your individual financial objectives, needs and circumstances. One notable benefit of VCTs, for instance, is that they provide dividends which are paid completely free from tax. This can lead us to recommend VCTs as a useful tool for retirement planning, since they provide a regular tax-free yield. On the other hand, EIS investors can defer a Capital Gains Tax (CGT) liability, which can give you much more tax planning flexibility if you have suddenly received a large unexpected sum of money, such as an Inheritance.

It’s important to note, both EIS and VCT investments involve a higher level of investment risk when compared to the likes of other Equities, Bonds and Cash. The potential returns, of course, can be higher and thus worth the trade-off. Yet you should always discuss this with one of our experienced Financial Planners first, to ensure that any EIS or VCT investments sit appropriately within your investment risk profile.

Two notable benefits of EIS, nonetheless, are worth mentioning. First of all, you can claim loss relief on any EIS investment which fails, equivalent to your highest rate of Income Tax. In the case scenario above, for instance, a £100,000 earner would be in the 40% Higher Rate bracket in 2020-21. So, if he/she invested £10,000 into an EIS opportunity which failed, they’d “only” make a £4,200 loss. This is because 30% of the original investment would be claimed back against the Income Tax bill, meaning that the “at-risk” capital was £7,000. 40% “loss relief” on this amount is £2,800, resulting in a £4,200 loss. Secondly, any EIS shares held for at least two years are exempt from Inheritance Tax.

If you are interested in exploring this area of financial planning in more detail, please do give us a call or broach the subject with your Adviser when next reviewing your circumstances.

This content is for information purposes only. It does not constitute investment advice or financial advice. To receive bespoke, regulated advice regarding your own financial affairs, please contact us.