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Does my business qualify as an ESIC

ESIC Eligibility FAQs: Is Your Business An Early-Stage Investment Company?

4 min read

Early Stage Innovation Company (ESIC) status offers a range of tax benefits to investors in eligible companies. The tax breaks are designed to make the company a more attractive investment option. For early-stage businesses seeking funding, ESIC status helps to attract and increase investment. But there are a bunch of important questions to ask yourself as a business owner when pursuing ESIC status, so check out our big list of ESIC eligibility FAQs!

Is Your Company Truly ‘Early Stage’?

To qualify for ESIC status, a company must meet the early stage test requirements outlined by the ATO . As part of these requirements, the business must have been incorporated or registered in Australia within the last three income years, or incorporated within the last six income years if expenses have not surpassed $1 million across the previous three. In the income year immediately prior to application, all applicants must have total expenses and assessable income – accounting for any wholly-owned subsidiaries – of $1 million and $200,000 or less, respectively. Additionally, equity interests cannot be listed for quotation in the official list of any stock exchange.

Does Your Company Meet the Innovation Test Criteria for ESIC?

In addition to being early stage, a company must qualify under either the 100-point or principles-based innovation test. These tests require the company to demonstrate that it is developing new or significantly improved products, processes, or services that have the potential to generate high growth.

Are the Shares New Equity Interests?

To be eligible for ESIC status, shares issued by the company must be new equity interests. This means they must not have been previously issued or held by anyone. However, the company is assessed for ESIC status as it meets the requirements when such shares are first issued – meaning the tax incentives may be available for prior investment rounds, even if the company no longer qualifies under this criteria.

Is the Company Widely Held?

Widely held companies (either a company that is listed on an approved stock exchange or a company with more than 50 shareholders) are not eligible for the ESIC incentive.

Will You Deal With Sophisticated Vs. Unsophisticated Investors?

ESIC investors can be either sophisticated or unsophisticated, determined by requirements outlined under the Corporations Act 2001. While the tax offset for sophisticated investors is capped at $200,000 per year, their investment in ESIC companies is not limited. However, unsophisticated investors are restricted by a cap of $50,000 across all ESIC investments, with a maximum income tax offset of $10,000.

Will You Consider Employee Share Schemes for the ESIC Tax Offset?

Shares issued under an employee incentive scheme are not eligible for the ESIC tax offset.

Can Investors Be Affiliates of an ESIC?

Investors who are affiliates of the company at the time of qualifying for ESIC status are not eligible to receive the tax offset. Additionally, affiliates or associates cannot purchase shares to assist the company in meeting the innovation test requirements.

Do I Need To Be An Australian Resident to Apply for ESIC Status?

To be eligible for ESIC status, the company must’ve been incorporated or registered in the Australian Business Register within the last three years. Investors don’t need to be Australian residents, but foreign residents may find the tax incentives redundant if they are not being taxed in Australia.

What are the Rules for Trusts and Superannuation Funds within the ESIC Program?

If the investor is a trust, partnership or superannuation fund, specific rules apply that dictate who or what entity is entitled to and/or receives the tax incentives. This is an area that requires special care to ensure the tax incentives are correctly dealt with.

What Documentation Do I Need to Make and Keep for ESIC?

Companies applying for ESIC status are required to complete a report withu the details of each investment in new shares within a financial year. In submitting the form, the company must meet the ESIC requirements for all reported investments, and it must keep documentation that supports its claim to ESIC status. This might include business plans, R&D documentation, growth forecasts, etc. To claim the ESIC tax offset, investors must keep appropriate documentation, including a copy of the investor certificate and proof of payment.

Can I Cash Out or Carry Forward the ESIC Tax Offset?

The tax offset is non-refundable, however it can be carried forward into future income years.

Talk to our Grants and Incentives Experts About Your ESIC Eligibility

Applying for ESIC status isn’t easy and there are many factors to consider. It's important to carefully consider the eligibility criteria and seek professional advice to ensure you’re making the most of the tax benefits on offer. Get in touch to discuss ESIC eligibility today.

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