09/09/2011

By By Modwenna Rees-Mogg, Founder and CEO of AngelNews

Gabriel gets down to BASIS

My phone has been red hot in the last few days with calls from my mates and various advisers in my inner circle all wanting to know what I think about the Government’s consultation on venture capital tax break schemes. I can tell you its more usual for you to see my nose stuck deep into an intriguing plan to build human cities under the Atlantic than to be reading a government white paper, but when I heard rumours that something was going down that would give me 50% (yes 50%!) tax breaks on my investments it seemed worth pouring out another whisky and soda and popping out on deck to glance through it. So last night I did just that as Mrs G has popped ashore with the grandkids to take them to Harry Potter at the local flea pit.

You too can read the report if you feel inclined to — I downloaded it from a useful link I found on the
web.

These official documents are quite neat aren’t they? I reckon as much loving care has gone into this by the bureaucrats as any entrepreneur would put into a business plan he sends me. I especially liked the fact that almost the first thing I saw was a how to get in touch and when by note. (ventureschemeconsultation@hmtreasury.gsi.gov.uk 28th September since you ask!) Good move.

But the word on the street is that we should tell the Enterprise Investment Scheme Association what we think. That nice lady Susan Philips who is always so charming when she sees me, has asked everyone to send in their comments and then she and her team will collate them all and present them to the boys in grey in Whitehall on our behalf.

Sounds like a good idea. Now I don’t have to write something poncy and formal myself — I can just send her a quick email with my brainwaves and she will do the rest.

You could have knocked me down with a feather when I read that people like you and me have invested £11.5bn in VCTs and EIS in the last couple of decades — how cool is that?! Of course it would be indiscrete of me to tell you my personal contribution to that number but knock a few noughts off and leave the other numbers in place and you wouldn’t be far off the mark. Not that I am bragging of course.

The paper had to acknowledge that George had “done a Gordon” and promised changes to the rules which will not come into force for a while yet, but as they were so darned sensible I reckon we can forgive him for paying a bit of lip service to those quangocrats in Brussels.

Entrepreneurs take note! I just love the layout of the paper; all those cute arguments and then nice clear open questions to answer — heaven for an old bloke like me who likes to be led along a nice easy path if you want something out of me, but who needs to have a free rein on what he can say . I am going to have a field day in that email to Susan (though she has strictly told me that I should only respond if I am prepared to answer each question in order and not just send her a random rant!).

Some of the questions were a bit tricky and even a second whisky didn’t clear my brain enough, but there were some old favourites in amongst them that I could answer pretty quickly. Here are some of them!

Question 2: Can any additional support be provided through reforms to existing tax reliefs or would it be better provided through non tax measures?

A: Keep it to tax reliefs and kill the quangos

Question 4: Any proposal would potentially add to the complexity of the tax system and run counter to wider Government aims to streamline support for start-ups. Would additional complexity itself be a barrier to investors who might otherwise be incentivised by a higher rate of relief?

A: Not if you have a tax adviser like mine!

Question 10: Unlike EIS, individual investors would have to ensure that their investments satisfied this new equity condition. Would this present any problems in practice, and how might these best be addressed?

A: See question 4

Question 14: How best might Business Angels be defined, to ensure that the additional relief was only available to those providing both finance and the benefit of their business acumen?

A: Ask them if they read my articles — if not they are not proper angels!

Question 20: From experience, schemes can be open to manipulation (particularly where tax relief is generous). What monitoring and conditions could usefully be included to ensure the scheme remains properly targeted?

A: Set a thief to catch a thief, I say — why not hire me and my tax adviser to act as an approvals committee — then we can apply common sense and the spirit of the law, not just the rules.

Question 28: Is there a case for reviewing the current excluded activities list?

A: Yes — why is tech entrepreneur more deserving of help than say an aspiring Rocco Forte?

The most exciting bit is of course BASIS. Whoever thought up that acronym for the new angel seed investment scheme is pretty clever and deserves a pat on the back, though personally I wish it was BASICs — imagine the headlines — Gabriel gets down to basics; Basically Gabriel is a cool investor….

And if it was called BASIC it could stand for Business Angels Stay In Control!

Anyway as my thoughts develop I will start to tweet about it so do start following me on @mrgabrielangel sometime so you can hear what I have to say.


Join us on
Follow @freshbusiness