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Is an Employee Ownership Trust a strong succession plan for your business?

  • 21st February 2023

Any business owner who is currently considering succession planning or exiting a business will be looking at different options and trying to decide the right approach. Selling a business is hard on everyone involved. Is this why we have seen an increasing interest from business owners and stakeholders in Employee Ownership Trusts (EOTs)?

What is an Employee Ownership Trust?

An Employee Ownership Trust is where a business transfer a majority shareholding to a trust which holds permanent or long-terms shares in the company for the benefit of the employees without triggering a tax liability. To do this a business will set up a new trust company that buys shares from the shareholders and holds them in trust on behalf of the beneficiaries of that trust. The beneficiaries are the employees of the business however employees do not normally own shares under an EOT.

What are the pros and cons to EOTs?

• One of the key benefits is the tax advantages they offer to both employees and the company. Back in 2014, the government introduced Capital Gains Tax (CGT) relief for business owners who sell their companies to employees.

• An EOT also provides a smooth handover of a business for any owner wanting to plan to exit the business. The EOT provides continuity in service. It provides security for the employees of the business as they become the owners through the EOT and also provides the assurance to clients that it is ‘business as usual’.

• There are also benefits for employees which can include shares in a business, share options and profit sharing schemes all of which help with staff retention and motivation as the employees can feel a sense of ownership in the business which can increase motivation and productivity.

• It is not all plain sailing with EOT's however and this route might not be the best option for you. Funding an EOT can be challenging and you are also handing over the decision making to the trust so making sure you get the right trustees in place is vitally important.

• When a qualifying EOT controls a company, tax-free ‘Qualifying Bonus payments’ can be paid, capped at £3,600 per eligible employee each UK tax year. National Insurance Contributions (NIC) (and in due course Health and Social Care Levy) still apply.

How we can help

If you decide that the EOT route is something you would like to explore, getting the right professional help is invaluable. If this is a route you would like to consider in more detail, then please do contact us.

Not only have we gone through this process ourselves but we have also guided a number of other businesses to successfully establish the EOT model.

Any news or resources within this section should not be relied upon with regards to figures or data referred to as legislative and policy changes may have occurred.