Handing down the family businesses

By James Boustead, Rickard Luckin

Multi-generational businesses are common in the UK and Essex is no exception. In fact, according to a report prepared by Oxford Economics less than five years ago, 85% of family firms in the UK plan to remain family-owned ‘for the foreseeable future’.
Published in Essex Director magazine, Summer|Autumn 2022

Accountancy: Rickard Luckin

However, simply intending to remain family-owned does not always lead to easy decision-making regarding how best to pass down the business. That issue rests on a number of factors, including the tax implications, but importantly whether:

  • the older generation is ready to pass control of the business, both day-to-day and strategically, down to the next generation
  • the older generation wants to receive full or partial payment for the value of their equity in the business
  • the older generation has sufficient capital and/or income sources available to them for their retirement 
  • all of the older generation’s children are working in the business, or if there are children outside the business that they are keen to ensure also share in a fair proportion of their estate 
  • there is no natural heir to owning the business but where it has historically passed down the family and culturally being bought by a larger business may not be suitable.

Depending on the answers to those key questions, and the particular weighting that a business owner gives to them at that point in time, a transaction with the purpose of succession can potentially take place. 

There are several options that could be considered. Although less common than simply gifting the business, Management Buy-Out or share buyback, growth and freezer shares are becoming more popular in family business scenarios.

The broad premise is that the older generation protect their existing equity in the form of freezer shares entitled to a preferred amount of value on an exit event, and in some cases a preferred dividend coupon on that value and possibly voting control being retained as well. The future growth then belongs to the next generation. 

Growth share planning

Growth share planning might be appropriate when there is a desire not to pass down too much equity too early, but perhaps the older generation do not need or want any equity from the business as yet. 

Alternatively, they may want to retain voting control and stay actively involved in the business. Or perhaps the business cannot easily raise a large capital payment for their equity, and instead the solution is to give the older generation a right to an income on those shares. For those considering inheritance tax implications, it is worth noting that the freezer shares can potentially qualify for 100% relief from IHT, whereas cash or an IOU would not. 

Employee Ownership Trusts

Employee Ownership Trusts (EOTs) may also be a less common but suitable option for family business owners to consider. EOTs have become more popular in recent years and where a natural family successor doesn’t exist and the cultural change of a sale to a larger third party may not be suitable, EOTs may present a tax-efficient, viable option.

To discuss your circumstances in more detail and evaluate the most suitable option for you, please get in touch.

Handing down the family businesses 1

James Boustead is a Director at Rickard Luckin

E: james.boustead@rickardlucking.co.uk
Or visit rickardluckin.co.uk

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