Cutting tax breaks makes business owners sell up, says expert

Andrew Diver, Beatons

Andrew Diver, Beatons - Credit: Archant

Plans to scrap a tax break are causing concern. Andrew Diver, head of taxation at Beatons, explains why it may cause entrepreneurs to sell up.

In the run-up to the election, the Conservatives pledged to "review and reform" Entrepreneurs' Relief which reduces the amount of capital gain tax payable from 20% to 10% when a business changes hands.

Since then founders and shareholders who were already planning to sell have been under the cosh to complete, others have been considering taking their ideas abroad and accountants like yours truly have been inundated with requests to find other tax-efficient ways to sell up.

In some cases, business owners have been so eager to ensure a sale and qualify for the relief, they have even reduced prices to facilitate it.

This may sound rash but actually, in a lot of cases the successful exit from a business is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a nest egg.

And many small business owners have ploughed cash into their companies over the years in the expectation that they would receive this tax break - and therefore a pension pot - when they came to retire.

Earlier this year Boris Johnson announced that the relief is a means for the "staggeringly rich" to make themselves even wealthier.

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But my clients - many of which have invested at the expense of taking dividends - would strongly disagree here.

They feel like the battle lines are being drawn and have joined a host of protestors who claim this innovative tax break should be protected as the global gold standard for encouraging enterprise.

It is possible any cuts would act as a disincentive for business owners to invest in growth in future which will have a knock on effect on employment.

My gut tells me the Conservatives are unlikely to take a sledgehammer to ER and abolish it entirely for this very reason. However, it's possible the government will find a saving of £2.4bn too enticing to resist.

But it's not my decision to make. The fate of ER currently rests in the hands of Chancellor Rishi Sunak and we will find out more come March 11.