Employee Ownership Trust – is this the right exit strategy for you?

Are you thinking of stepping back or selling your business without disrupting the success you’ve worked so hard to build? An Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) might be the solution you’re looking for. An EOT supports a smooth transition and creates a supportive workplace culture.

In this article, we’ll discuss exactly what an EOT is and, more importantly, whether it´s the right choice for you.

What is an Employee Ownership Trust?

Simply put, an EOT is a form of employee benefit trust that enables business owners to sell their company to a trust established on behalf of the employees. This strategy allows employees to own a majority stake indirectly, ensuring the company’s legacy while allowing the owner to step back. As long as there are no changes to the UK tax regime, an EOT is a great way of tax efficiently exiting your business.

Navigating the transition to an EOT

Transitioning to an EOT involves several steps but can be a rewarding strategy. Here’s how it typically goes:

  • Assessing the value: Knowing your business’s worth is paramount, so we´d recommend using tools like a Business Valuation Calculator to get an estimate of this. When you know your company’s value, this then helps you to set a fair price for the sale and ensures that the terms of the EOT are beneficial and justifiable for all parties involved.
  • Planning the sale: Selling your business to an EOT involves transferring at least a majority stake to the trust. This process must be structured carefully to maximise tax advantages and ensure financial viability.
  • Understanding tax benefits: One of the most compelling reasons to consider an EOT is the favourable tax position. Sales to an EOT can often be structured to be tax-free, which is a significant advantage over other exit strategies that might incur capital gains tax.
Is an EOT right for you?

Choosing an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) as your exit strategy can transform your business by fostering a positive company culture and ensuring your legacy. However, it requires careful planning and a clear understanding of its impact.

To help you decide if this is the right exit strategy for you, here are the benefits and challenges that you should consider:

Benefits of choosing an EOT
  • Employee motivation and retention: Employees who feel they have a stake in their company’s success are more likely to be motivated and committed. This can lead to improved performance and lower turnover rates.
  • Tax efficiency: As previously mentioned, transitioning to an EOT can offer substantial tax relief, making it an economically wise choice for many business owners.
  • Legacy preservation: For many owners, ensuring the continuation of the values and culture they’ve built in their business is crucial. An EOT allows for this continuity in a way that selling to a third party might not.
  • Continuity: Selling a business to a third party is fraught with risks, and could trigger customers and staff to leave. This could then reduce the value of your business. An EOT avoids these problems.
Considerations and challenges
  • Organisational change: Transitioning to an EOT is also a cultural decision. It requires changes in how the business is managed and involves empowering employees to think and act like owners.
  • Valuation discrepancies: Accurate valuation is critical. An overvaluation can attract scrutiny and potential penalties from tax authorities, whereas an undervaluation could mean not receiving fair value for your life’s work.
  • Long-term commitment: An EOT is not a quick exit. It requires ongoing involvement to ensure the transition is smooth and the new ownership structure is successful.
  • Loss of control: By selling the business into a trust that the employees own, you, as the business owner, will join the ranks of the employees. This means you will likely lose a certain amount of control of your business.
Need help?

If you’re considering an EOT, you don’t have to make this decision alone. We’re here to help analyse your options, manage the financial details, and guide you through every step. Call us on 020 3915 8585 or email us today to ensure your exit strategy is as successful as your business journey.