"We worked with Gannons to create a performance based EMI scheme and were impressed with the depth of their knowledge and commerciality of the advice"

EMI Scheme

The EMI scheme is incredibly popular with SME private companies. If you are thinking of providing shares to employees the starting point is always an EMI scheme. EMI options are versatile, tax efficient and hence popular. We work with employers and also with individuals who ask us to look over the paperwork for them.

We are always happy to discuss your requirements and provide an estimate of fees.

Please do call us to discuss.

Reasons for picking us

  • We have dealt with a large number of EMI schemes. This is a core business area for Gannons and we have the experience you need.
  • We can help you with all aspects from the commercial drivers behind the EMI scheme through to implementation and tax.
  • We are set up to focus on private companies and understand the relationships between company and shareholders. We also understand the need to be cost proportionate.

Our EMI scheme services 

To help you decide if an EMI scheme is an idea for you we have explained a brief guide:

Benefits of providing shares to employees under an EMI scheme

Studies show that companies offering an EMI scheme outperform those that do not. EMI schemes are very popular with private companies.  Here are some of the reasons why:

EMI scheme is discretionary

The EMI scheme is discretionary. This means that employers are not required to offer EMI options on equal terms to every employee or director.  This makes EMI schemes very flexible.

EMI scheme is tax efficient

Providing shares to employees under EMI options are tax efficient. Employers can claim corporation tax relief. Subject to limited exceptions, the effective capital gains tax rate for employees is 10% if they hold EMI options for at least one year.

Companies planning to exit

EMI schemes can be designed to fit most exit objectives.  Many of the EMI schemes we implement are exit only – that means it is only when the company is about to be sold do the employees exercise their EMI options and become shareholders.  The employees then go onto immediately sell their shares along with other shareholders on sale. There are established ways to ensure that no employee can hold up the sale.

EMI options can supplement salary

There is a skills shortage, yet the pressure to limit expenses remains intense.  An EMI scheme enables employers to supplement pay by providing shares to employees which will hopefully realise a capital gain.  Employers who do not offer options alongside pay and bonuses often discover their staff joining competitors.

EMI options can be free for employees

EMI options can be awarded at “nil cost”. Nil-cost means employees pay nothing to exercise and acquire shares.

EMI schemes are investor-friendly

Professional investors understand EMI options as they are well established. Often investors expect senior management and directors teams to be motivated with EMI options. Usually, investors agree to dilute their investments to free up shares for employees.

Employees lose nothing with EMI scheme

There is no income tax to pay when the options are granted or when they’re exercised to buy the shares. When an employee sells the shares, they will pay only 10% capital gains tax on any profit if they have held the options for at least one year. Without EMI the employee faces paying the applicable top rate of income tax instead.

EMI options and the SEIS or EIS scheme

An EMI scheme can run in tandem with the SEIS/EIS schemes.  Apart from the fact that EMI is designed to reward employers and SEIS/EIS designed to reward investors the qualifying trading conditions are fairly similar.

Government approval

The government continues to support shares for employees under the EMI scheme, recently adding additional tax savings.

Requirements to set up an EMI scheme

In order for your employees to benefit from EMI tax relief under the EMI scheme both the company granting the options and the employee receiving an option must qualify.

It is possible to provide shares for employees under an EMI scheme over parent shares for the benefit of employees of all or any subsidiary.

The rules are detailed but we set out a simplified snap shot for you.  There are always grey areas but we tackle these for you.

If the business or individuals do not qualify we can look at alternatives.

Overall limit on awards under an EMI scheme

Any “qualifying” company can provide shares to employees under the EMI scheme for shares valued up to £3 million.  The calculation is performed at the date of grant of an EMI option and is not re-calculated during the life of the EMI option.

Corporate structure requirement for EMI schemes

  • The company must not be under the control of another company. Any subsidiaries must be 51% controlled.
  • Only companies employing fewer than 250 full time or full time equivalent can offer EMI options. Part-time employees count proportionately.
  • The company must trade wholly or mainly in the UK.
  • Gross assets must be less than £30 million.


HMRC do not place any limit on dilution providing that the limit on value is not exceeded.  However, dilution is an important area to review from a shareholder protection aspect.

Trading status

The company can be quoted or unquoted.

Qualifying trades for EMI schemes

Some trades do not qualify for EMI tax relief, including:

  • Banking
  • Farming
  • Insurance
  • Land dealing
  • Leasing
  • Property companies

Mixed trades 

A combination of qualifying trades and non-qualifying trading activities may not preclude eligibility.  It is a matter of fact and degree which we can deal with for you based on past experience.

Who can receive EMI options?

Any employee, be they full time or part time or a director (subject to the minimum of 25 hours a week or 75% of time) can be provided with shares under the EMI scheme. Consultants, many non-executive directors and employees with several jobs may not qualify.

Taxation of shares for employees under the EMI scheme

EMI share options under an EMI option scheme are tax efficient for employees and employers.

For employers

Corporation tax savings can be substantial if the shares for employees under EMI option gain value. Companies providing employees with EMI options can also deduct the set-up and administration costs from their taxable profits.

For employees

EMI options granted under EMI schemes are very tax attractive for employees. The benefits far out-strip the tax position for unapproved options. This is one of reasons why EMI options are so popular.

Entrepreneurs’ relief under EMI schemes 

Entrepreneurs’ relief applies when the employee holds shares acquired under an EMI scheme, if they held the qualifying EMI options for over one year. The size of the shareholding under the EMI option does not matter, nor does the fact that the employee did not hold actual shares for a year.

Taxation of EMI options vs unapproved share options

When exercising unapproved options, employees usually miss out on the advantageous capital gains tax and entrepreneurs’ relief compared to EMI options under an EMI share scheme.

Valuing shares for tax purposes under the EMI scheme

Putting shares under an EMI option scheme requires a share valuation of the shares under the EMI option. The valuation affects the tax position so it is an integral part of an EMI option under the EMI option scheme.

If you need solicitors for advice on setting up an EMI Scheme or on tax aspects or any other legal issue associated, we are experts in this area and are a boutique, flexible firm which means our legal fees are competitive compared to other specialists. Please do get in contact to discuss.

Let us take it from here.

Call us on the number below or complete the form and one of our team will be in touch.
020 7438 1060