New research shows that the government needs to do more to save small businesses in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. The research, compiled by Vala Capital and the Enterprise Investment Scheme Association (EISA) based on feedback from more than 250 SMEs, shows that:
- 71% of small firms won’t survive six months without funding
- equity funding for small businesses in the UK has collapsed by 70% or more since the outbreak of Covid-19 – this is across all equity funding platforms
- nine out of 10 growth businesses needing investment now may disappear within 12 months if government fails to act, with the loss of millions of jobs and tax income
The research forms the basis of a campaign, backed by more than 6,000 SMEs and led by investment manager Vala Capital, calling for the government to provide a £600m lifeline to small businesses through increased investor tax reliefs. The campaign is supported by influential industry leaders including EISA, Wealth Club Crowdcube, Sapphire Capital, Kuber and Seedrs.
Many of the most innovative early-stage companies – those working on technologies, systems and processes that can have a profound impact on society – are at risk of closing because they are not eligible for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), while take up is slow. SmallBusiness.co.uk surveyed 1,823 small businesses, of which 53% said their loan application had been rejected since the scheme was overhauled on 3 April. The survey chimes with business secretary Alok Sharma’s admission that only 4,200 loans worth £800m have been awarded, despite more than 300,000 enquiries – a conversion rate of just 1.4%.
The campaign’s call for an immediate increase in the tax allowances available to investors from 30% to 60%, would complement other proposals – such as a Runway Fund – to support UK small businesses. According to the research, 59% of SME’s said relaxing the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) rules would lead to a rise in equity funding available to them.
Many growth businesses rely on equity-based investments in their initial development years. Yet the impact of the crisis has seen most private investors withdraw from making investments threatening the survival of some of the UKs most innovative companies. Having access to equity capital is essential, the campaigners say.
Jasper Smith, founder of Vala Capital, says: “We cannot afford to lose the potential value of the country’s most innovative businesses. Once these companies are lost, recovery for most is irreversible. A short-term relaxation in the terms of the EIS scheme, matched by parallel funding, is critical if we are to see these businesses prosper. Entrepreneurs are key to economic recovery during and post coronavirus. We need their vision and determination, their stubbornness – and the learning both their failures and successes have created. With the right government support, entrepreneurs can act as the cornerstone of rebuilding our nation.”
Smith adds that the significant benefit to the proposal is that it achieves scale, quickly and at minimal cost – the government gets back more than it gives. Cost analysis shows that for every £75,000 offered in tax relief the government could generate £142,000 of additional tax and National Insurance over three years.
Mark Brownridge, Director General of the EISA, says: “Our survey shows very clearly that investors have taken fright at the current coronavirus disruption, which is resulting in many of our fast growth businesses fearing for their future. Of the 250 businesses in the survey over half represent the health, fintech, other tech and software solutions sectors, and these the very businesses that the UK will need as we exit the current crisis. The evidence we have in the survey showing that nearly two-thirds believe that relaxing the EIS rules would lead to an increase in equity funding, emphasises that the Government needs to act now, and we strongly encourage them to consider the request we have put to them to provide short-term additional reliefs to investors without delay.”
The EIS is an existing framework used by government for almost 40 years and is proven to work for Treasury and the economy. According to EISA, for each £1 invested under EIS, the Treasury gets £4 back in tax revenue and for every £1m invested, nine jobs are created.
The campaign proposes using the national network of regional EIS fund managers and the thousands of investment professionals, advisers and accountants working with them to deploy capital quickly. Coupled with a re-energised and motivated private investor base this decentralised approach delivers capital fast to local businesses throughout the UK and could unlock a minimum of £600m of private investment funds. These funds can start to be deployed within weeks and be repaid to government from tax income (from job retentions) within two years, the campaigners say.