If you are considering lending money to, or subscribing for shares in, an unquoted trading company then, like many investments, there is always a risk that you may lose your money.

However, there is potentially tax relief for the lender if the loan meets certain conditions, in particular the money lent is used by the borrower wholly for the purposes of its trade, and the trade does not consist of or include the lending of money.

The tax relief is by way of a capital loss that can be set against gains in the same or future tax years. In order to make a claim for capital loss relief, any outstanding amount of the principal of the loan must have become irrecoverable, the claimant must not have assigned their right to recover that amount, and the claimant and the borrower were not each other’s spouses or civil partners, or companies in the same group, when the loan was made or at any subsequent time.

Capital Loss on Shares in an Unquoted Trading Company 

Where an individual subscribes for a new issue of shares in an unquoted trading company, there is an even more generous form of loss relief where those shares are disposed of at a loss, including the situation where the shares have become worthless. In that situation, it is possible to make a negligible value claim which creates a deemed disposal and reacquisition of the shares at that low value, thereby creating a capital loss. A further claim can then be made to set that capital loss against the subscriber’s income in the year of the loss and/or the previous year. The attraction here is the income tax relief could save tax at 40% for higher rate taxpayers and 45% for additional rate taxpayers, as opposed to a capital gains tax saving at a maximum 24% (on residential property gains).

Converting Loans Into Shares 

As mentioned above, where a loss is made on a loan to an unquoted trading company, relief for that loss may claimed against capital gains, whereas the loss on subscriber shares can be set against income, saving tax at higher rates. It is possible for the lender to be issued with shares in the company in satisfaction of the loan, which potentially would allow the investor to claim relief for any subsequent loss against their income. Note that where the company is already insolvent at the time that the shares are issued, no capital loss will arise and HMRC are likely to challenge the loss claim, as they have done successfully in two recent tax cases.

Tax Relief Under the Enterprise Investment Scheme 

Where the company qualifies under the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) or Seed EIS, the subscribers potentially qualify for even more generous tax reliefs. Where the investor is not connected with the company, they are entitled to tax relief based on 30% of the amount invested (EIS) or 50% in the case of Seed EIS. This relief is deducted from the investor’s income tax liability for the year, or the previous year in the case of EIS investment. The shares need to be held for at least 3 years to retain the income tax relief and the shares would also be exempt from CGT when disposed of.

Should the EIS or Seed EIS shares be disposed of at a loss, then the capital loss arising (net of income tax relief given) can be set against the investor’s income as set out above.