Startup Relief for Entrepreneurs (SURE) - IT15

Introduction and Summary of Scheme

Startup Refunds for Entrepreneurs (SURE) is a tax relief incentive scheme.

If you are interested in starting your own company, you may be entitled to an income tax refund[1] of up to 41% of the capital that you invest under SURE. Depending on the size of your investment you may be entitled to a refund of income tax paid over the 6 years prior to year in which you invest.

The following is a basic example of how refunds under SURE are calculated.

John makes a SURE investment of €100,000 in 2015.

The €100,000 investment made by John can be used to reduce his taxable income in one or more of the previous six tax years.

John’s Earnings & Tax Paid for the last 6 years [2009 to 2014], per his Forms P60, and current year, per his Form P45, are as follows:
2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Earnings 80,000 80,000 100,000 75,000 60,000 30,000 30,000
Tax Paid 21,496 21,496 29,532 20,562 14,412 2,700 2,700

John opts to utilise his SURE investment of €100,000 in 2011. This reduces John’s taxable income and tax payable for 2011 to Nil and results in a SURE refund of €29,532 calculated as follows:

  • 2011 Earnings: €100,000
  • SURE Investment: €100,000
  • Taxable Income: €Nil

As John paid tax of €29,532 in the 2011 tax year, and has previously not received a full or partial refund of tax paid in the 2011 tax year, he will receive a SURE refund of the full amount of the tax he paid in the 2011 tax year of €29,532.

Further examples are available in pdfAppendix II (PDF, 750KB) in the PDF version of this leaflet.

An online calculator is available at SURE.GOV.ieExternal link

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General Conditions

The general conditions for SURE are that you must:

  • Establish a new company carrying on a qualifying trading activity (see below);
  • Have mainly PAYE income in the previous 4 years. This would include a person currently in PAYE type employment, an unemployed person, a person recently made redundant or a retired person;
  • Take up full-time employment in the new company either as a Director or an Employee;
  • Invest cash into the new company by way of purchase of new shares.

The following sections of the leaflet will explain the requirements of the scheme and the refund available.

What Conditions Apply?

Conditions apply to the Investor (you), the newly created company and its business activities and the timing and nature of your investment. These are set out below.

1 Your SURE Investment does not entitle you to a refund of PRSI and / or USC deducted

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The Investor (you)

  • You must make an investment by purchasing new eligible shares (please refer to the definition of new eligible shares on Limits on Investment Amounts)
  • You must hold the shares for a period of 3 years from the date of issue.
  • You must hold at least 15% of the issued share capital of the company for 12 months after the issue of shares, or if the company is not trading at that time, from the date it begins to trade.
  • Your income from previous years must have been mainly liable to PAYE. However income in the year immediately before the investment can be from any source.
  • For example if your SURE investment is made in 2015, your income for the 2011 to 2014 tax years are examined and the following applies:
    • 2014: Your income can be from any source
    • 2013, 2012, 2011: Your non-PAYE income should not exceed the lower of your PAYE income or €50,000.
      Please refer to worked examples in pdfAppendix II (PDF, 750KB).
  • You must enter a full-time employment for a 12 month period with the company as an employee or a director starting either within the year in which the investment is made or if later, within 6 months of the date on which the share issue is made.

    It should be noted that you cannot be employed elsewhere during this 12 month period (except where the aggregate amount of such other employment(s) is no more than 10 hours per week).
  • You must not receive any payments from the company other than reasonable remuneration and expenses in the 3 year period after the share issue.

    During the 12 months before your first investment in the company you must not have held (or have been entitled to acquire either directly or indirectly) more than 15% of the share capital, loan capital or voting rights of any other company.

    This condition may be set aside where you only held an interest in only one other company and either:
    • company is dormant i.e. no turnover in any of the previous 3 years; or
      1. The company had an annual turnover not exceeding €127,000 in each of the three accounting periods prior to the SURE investment; and
      2. The other company mainly carried on a qualifying trading activity (see below) The subscription for the shares must be for bona fide commercial purposes.
  • You must not avail of SURE for the purposes of avoiding tax only.
  • Neither you nor the company may enter into any agreement, arrangement or understanding which could reasonably be considered to eliminate the risk from your investment.

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The Company

The company must:

  • Be a Qualifying New Venture.
    This means that as well as carrying on a qualifying trade (see below) it must be a new company i.e. less than two years old (from incorporation), and it must not have taken over an existing trade.
    The following are examples of companies that would NOT qualify as new ventures:
    1. A business closed down (e.g. a pub) and the SURE company re-opens the pub (possibly with a different name and layout) in the same location.
    2. A person who has traded as a Sole Trader and then decides to incorporate and carry on
      the same business as a company.
  • Be incorporated in the State or in another EEA[2] State.
  • Be an unquoted company.
  • Be tax resident in the State or in another EEA State and carry on business in the State through a branch or agency.
  • Carry on relevant trading activities from a fixed place of business in the State.
  • Be a micro, small or medium-sized enterprise.
  • Have its issued share capital fully paid up. (This must remain fully paid up throughout the three years following investment) i.e. all issued shares must be paid for in full.
  • Use the amounts invested:
    • for the creation and maintenance of employment and for the benefit of a qualifying new venture in the carrying out of relevant trading activities, and the creation and maintenance of employment. or
    • in the case of a company that has not commenced to carry on relevant trading activities, on research and development activities.

The company must not:

  • Have any special trading arrangements with your former employer company, or a company related to that former employer company. Normal business transactions are, however, acceptable, provided these are conducted on an arms length basis.
  • Carry on a trade which is similar to any other trade in respect of which you have or have had a controlling interest.
  • Be considered as a firm in difficulty for the purposes of the Community Guidelines on State aid for rescuing and restructuring firms in difficulty.
  • Control or be controlled by any other company, with the exception of controlling a qualifying subsidiary.

2 The European Economic Area (EEA) includes the 28 EU Member States and Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

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Qualifying Trading Activity

Most trading[3] activities are allowed subject to the exceptions below. Exceptions:

  • Once-off or speculative transactions (referred to in the legislation as "Adventures or concerns in the nature of trade")
  • Dealing in commodities or futures in shares, securities or other financial assets
  • Financing activities e.g. making loans
  • Professional service companies e.g. accountants, solicitors, business advisors, doctors and architects, however Internationally Traded Financial Services[4] may qualify subject to the exclusions above
  • Dealing in or developing land (including building development)
  • Forestry
  • Operations carried on in the coal industry or in the steel and shipbuilding sectors
  • The production of a film

3 The term "trading" is not defined in legislation as it is a concept that has been interpreted by the Courts over many years However, for practical purposes most regular recurring business activity that has a turnover is likely to qualify as trading.

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Extra requirements for certain types of trades

Green Energy Activities

Where the trading activities of a company includes green energy activities it must spend all the money subscribed on such activities prior to the final month of the 4 year holding period for the shares.

Internationally Traded Financial Services

A company carrying on Internationally Traded Financial Services[4] will require a certificate from Enterprise Ireland. Please contact Enterprise Ireland at +353 (1) 727 2289 or via e-mail at Eoghan.Hanrahan@enterprise-Ireland.com

4 The inclusion of Internationally Traded Financial Services is subject to a commencement order by the Minister for Finance.

Tourist Traffic Undertakings

A company carrying on Tourist Traffic Undertakings must have prior approval from Failte Ireland, BEFORE making any application to the Revenue Commissioners. Please contact the Investment and Product Development Division of Failte Ireland at 01 884 7257 or 01 884 7258, or via e-mail at taxschemes@failteireland.ie with any queries.

Research and Development Activities

Companies that have not commenced to trade may still qualify for SURE relief if they carry out relevant R&D activity. Certain additional conditions arise:

  • They must commence to trade within 2 years of the investment and expend all of the money subscribed from shares before the end of the 3 year holding period, or
  • The company must spend all the money subscribed on research and development activities and must dispose of a specified intangible asset within the meaning of Section 291A TCA 1997 (i.e. intellectual property or know-how) prior to a date which is one month before the end of the 4 year holding period for the shares.

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The Investment

The investment must be for new eligible shares (shares with no preferential rights).

The investment is normally a direct cash investment for shares. However, if the investor has paid company expenses from his own resources this may also qualify.

If the investor has met company expenses from his/her own resources and this is considered a directors loan, the investor may, within 12 months, convert this loan to share capital. In order to obtain SURE on the converted loan, they must supply a registered auditor’s statement containing the following:

  • dates the loan(s) was made.
  • The date the loan(s) was converted.
  • Confirmation the funds were used for the benefit of a qualifying new venture in the carrying out of relevant trading activities, or in the case of a company that has not commenced to carry on relevant trading activities, on research and development activities and the creation and maintenance of employment.

Please note, salary forgone is not considered to be the making of a loan under SURE.

There can be two "relevant investments" under the scheme, the second of which must take place within two years of the end of the first year i.e. first relevant investment in 2015, then the second investment must take place in either 2016 or 2017.

A relevant investment is the total amount subscribed for shares in a calendar year e.g. a person can make investments in March, April and May, and this would be a single relevant investment.

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Limits on Investment Amounts

The minimum investment under the scheme is €250 and the maximum investment is €100,000 per year. Therefore the limit on the SURE investment is effectively €700,000, as €100,000 may be relieved in each of the previous 6 tax years and the current year e.g. you can invest €700,000 in 2015 and claim SURE of €100,000 in the years 2009 to 2015 inclusive.

A company that raises both SURE and EII[5] may raise a maximum of €2,500,000 in any one twelve-month period, up to a lifetime maximum of €10,000,000.

5 The Employment Incentive Investment Scheme (see leaflet IT55)

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New Eligible Shares

The shares issued in respect of your investment must be eligible shares. This means that throughout the holding period of 3 years they cannot carry any present or future preferential rights to dividends or to a company’s assets on it’s winding up. In addition they must not carry any present or future preferential right to be redeemed.

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The Refund

If all of the conditions are met you may be entitled to a SURE refund on the investment.

SURE is granted as follows:

  • You select, from the previous 6 tax years, which year you want the SURE investment to be utilised.
  • Your SURE investment is used to either:
    • to fully utilise your SURE investment, up to a maximum of €100,000, or
    • reduce your taxable income in the year selected to Nil.

If your SURE Investment has not been fully utilised in the year selected you can pick other years(s) in order to fully utilise your SURE investment.

It should be noted that your:

  • SURE investment, up to a maximum of €100,000, must be fully utilised in the 1st year selected by you before you pick another year and so on until your SURE investment has been fully utilised.
  • SURE investment cannot be split between years in order to reduce your income in a certain year to the standard rate cut off point and move to another year in order to maximise the refund at the top rate of tax.
  • SURE investment cannot be transferred to or split with your spouse / civil partner. Only the person making the SURE investment is entitled to tax relief on the SURE investment made.

If you have already received EII (or its predecessor BES) relief for any of the six years selected, the amount of income on which SURE is available to you in that year is the difference between the amount of the original EII/BES investment and the maximum annual amount of €100,000.

Please refer to Appendix II for worked examples and a template to work out an estimate of the SURE refund you may be entitled to.

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Further Investments

If you wish to expand the company in the future the company may qualify for the Employment and Investment Incentive (EII) relief in respect of any further investment made by third party investors in the company. You must however, notwithstanding any outside investment, ensure that the continuing conditions of SURE are not contravened.

Please see separate information leaflet on EII - IT55.

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How to make a Claim?

Before the claim is made the investor must have made his/her investment and received his/her shares in the company.

Claims can be made once the company commences to trade i.e. they must make their first sale.

Where the claim relates to a company which has not commenced to trade, but has carried out research and development activities, a claim can be made once the company has expended 30% of the funds raised on the research and development activities, only where those activities are undertaken with a view to carrying on relevant trading activities.

Claims should be sent to:

Office of Revenue Commissioners,
Incentives and Financial Services Branch,
New Stamping Building,
Dublin Castle,
Dublin 2.

Or by e-mail to SUREadmin@revenue.ie

And must include:

  • A Form pdfRINE-C (PDF, 306KB) completed by the company Secretary.
  • A separate Form pdfRINE-I (PDF, 259KB) completed by each individual investor.
  • Copy of company bank statement showing when the investment was lodged.
  • Form B5 showing allotment of shares.

Once Incentives and Financial Services Branch (IFSB) is satisfied that the investment qualifies for the relief the individual investor’s application will be forwarded to the applicant’s tax office. IFSB does not calculate or process any refund due. Refunds are dealt with by the applicant’s tax office, who will notify the individual applicants directly of refunds due. Note that if you have any outstanding tax liabilities, these will have to be addressed prior to the issue of a SURE refund.

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Contact Details

Queries in relation to the operation of this scheme should be e-mailed to SUREadmin@revenue.ie or by telephone (01) 702 4107 or call in to your Local Enterprise OfficeExternal link.

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Appendix I – Cumulation of State Aid

With effect from 1st January 2007, a company that raises capital under the SURE scheme (and/ or under the EII) will be subject to a reduction in other State aids, which they apply for subsequent to raising funds under the SURE/EII (with the exception of schemes approved under the R&D and Innovation State-aid framework).

The attention of owners of small businesses, or of people intending to start or expand a business by raising SURE/EII investments, is drawn in particular to the fact that under EU Cumulation of State-aid rules, full details of a company that has been the beneficiary of a State aid in the form of EII/SCS:

  • Must be notified to the European Commission;
  • Will be published on the Revenue website and on the European Commission’s website; and may be made available to other State agencies with responsibility for the administration of other State-aided schemes.

N.B. Any queries regarding EU cumulation of State aid rules should be addressed to the State agency responsible for administration of the State aid in question.

Appendix - Useful Contacts in relevant State agencies
State Body Contact name Contact address Telephone E-mail
Enterprise Ireland Eoghan Hanrahan Senior Investment Advisor Investment Services Division Enterprise Ireland The Plaza Eastpoint Business Park, Dublin 3 +353 (1) 7272289 Eoghan.Hanrahan@enterprise-Ireland.Com
IDA Clem
McLoughlin
Athlone Business & Technology Park Garrycastle Dublin Road Athlone Co. Westmeath 090 - 6471517 Clem.mcloughlin@ida.ie
Udaras na Gaeltachta Miriam Ní Néill Udaras na Gaeltachta, Na Forbacha, Gaillimh 091-503294 m.nineill@udaras.ie
Failte Ireland   88-95 Amiens Street Dublin 1 (01) 884 7259 taxschemes@failteireland.ie

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pdfPDF Version of IT15 - SURE: Startup Relief for Entrepreneurs (PDF, 750KB)

pdfRINE-C (PDF, 306KB)

pdfRINE-I (PDF, 259KB)

Online calculator available at https://sure.enterprise-ireland.com/External link

May 2015


Status of this Document

This document is not a legal interpretation of any of the legislation on which this scheme is based. Nor is it intended as a comprehensive guide to the scheme. It is a general information guide to the Startup Refunds for Entrepreneurs (SURE).

This leaflet is intended to be in plain language. However, throughout this leaflet several terms are used which are defined in legislation. Revenue has produced a separate leaflet (pdfIT15A - Guidelines on Definitions used in the Employment and Investment Incentive (E11) and Seed Capital Scheme) (PDF, 259KB) containing the statutory definition of many of these terms or phrases. You are advised to read this leaflet in conjunction with the definitions provided and where necessary consult Part 16 of Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (as amended) for further definitions.


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