Social investment tax relief (SITR) is the government’s tax relief for social investment which encourages individuals to support social enterprises, and helps social enterprises access new sources of finance.

Individuals making an eligible investment can deduct 30% of the cost of their investment from their income tax liability, either for the tax year in which the investment is made or the previous tax year (if 2014/15 or later). The investment must be held for a minimum period of 3 years for the relief to be retained.

If individuals have chargeable gains in that tax year, they can also defer their capital gains tax (CGT) liability if they invest their gain in a qualifying social investment. Tax will instead be payable when the social investment is sold or redeemed. They also pay no CGT on any gain on the investment itself, but they must pay income tax in the normal way on any dividends or interest on the investment.

The income tax and capital gain tax reliefs provide a substantial incentive for investors. To make sure new investment is directed to the enterprises which need it most and to meet EU regulations, the investment and the organisation receiving it must meet certain criteria.

Organisations must have a defined and regulated social purpose. Charities, community interest companies or community benefit societies carrying out a qualifying trade, with fewer than 500 employees and gross assets of no more than £15 million may be eligible.

Other conditions and criteria apply to the enterprise, investor and the investment made.

In Budget 2015, the government announced details of the design of a new Social Venture Capital Trust (Social VCT) scheme. The scheme will encourage investment in companies that invest in social organisations. It will be similar to the Venture Capital Trust Scheme for indirect investment in commercial companies.

Investors in a Social VCT will be eligible for income tax relief at 30% of the value of their investment, subject to EU state aid clearance of the policy.

Being an equity investment, investors should be aware that returns are not guaranteed, and the original amounts invested could be lost in part or in their entirety. Given that small companies can take time to grow, and an exit may not be immediately apparent for shareholders, SITR investments should be considered long-term investments, being at least three years, if not longer. Furthermore, the availability of tax benefits should not distract investors from the need to properly consider the risks versus potential returns of any given opportunity. As with any alternative investment, tax should not be the driving reason behind an individual’s reason decision to invest.

For further details of the investment risks please see the Key Risks section of this website and for further details of the tax advantages please see the Tax Treatment section of this website. Tax treatment is dependent on the circumstances of each individual and may be subject to change in the future.