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Business Succession Planning

Aug 19, 2021

Business Succession Planning 

As many Irish businesses reopen following the lifting of Covid restrictions, the discussion around the succession of the business may be back on the table for many business owners and their families. Obviously tax plays a major role in these discussions and we have touched on some of the key areas of tax to consider in this regard below. However, a commercial decision also needs to be made around what the future plans for family members are and their desire to be involved in the business. Not all situations result in the next generation being actively involved in the business and sometimes an external sale may be considered as a more appropriate solution for everyone involved.    

We will look at business sales to external purchasers in a later article but for now we will focus on the situation where a business will be passed onto the next generation.  The first thing which needs to be considered when passing over a business is the market value that would be attributed to the business or the shares in the company running the business if it has been incorporated. This value will then be used for capital gains tax, capital acquisition tax and stamp duty considerations as outlined below.  

Capital Gains Tax 

Capital gains tax is deemed to arise at market value to the vendor when passing on assets but retirement relief may be available to mitigate the liability in many instances. The thresholds for retirement relief change from the age of 66 therefore, owners are generally encouraged to consider their plans in advance of reaching this milestone. However, the threshold for passing on business assets or shares to your children after 66 is €3m so can still be useful for businesses not valued above this level. In advance of reaching 66 there is no upper cap on value hence for larger businesses the age of 66 is an important timeline in relation to planning.  Should the conditions of retirement relief not be met, entrepreneur relief may still be available to limit the capital gains tax to 10% on the first €1m of consideration.  

Capital Acquisitions Tax 

A child has a tax free lifetime gift limit from their parents of €335,000 currently. However, for many children involved in a business, a relief may be available which reduces the value being received to 10% of the market value. This is referred to as business asset relief and has a number of conditions around ownership and involvement in the business to qualify. Given this reduction and the current lifetime gift limit, this could result in a business valued as high as €3.35m being passed onto a qualifying child free from capital acquisitions tax. For the successor of the business another major advantage of the relief is that they will have a base cost for a future sale of the market value transferred before any relief is applied. This can help significantly reduce their capital gains tax charge on a future sale. 

Interaction of CGT and CAT

There is a requirement in both retirement relief and business asset relief for the assets to be held by the successor for 6 years, otherwise these reliefs may be subject to a clawback. It is also important to note that where both CGT and CAT apply on a transfer, a tax credit may be available for the CGT suffered against the CAT due. This is referred to as same event credit and is only available where the assets are held for two years by the successor from the date of gift.   

Stamp Duty 

A recipient of a gift may suffer stamp duty at market value of the assets. Stamp duty on business assets is generally applied at 7.5% whereas shares in a trading company would be subject to stamp duty at 1%.  

Conclusion 

Where there is a plan to allow a new generation take over a business it is important to consider the tax implications in advance. Retirement relief and business asset relief may result in value passing without a significant tax leakage.  Now may be an opportune time to consider such a transfer. Many businesses which have had limited trade in the past 18 months may have a lower market valuation and it is always a fear that there may be changes to capital taxes in future budgets as the government try to ensure a strong exchequer take given the cost of covid reliefs. 

We have experienced teams in both tax advisory and corporate finance advisory to help you with such business decisions.

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