August 23, 2013
News has emerged this week that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) could be planning to crack down on crowdfunding websites that raise money for start-ups and small businesses.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, a spokesperson for the FCA said: "We believe most crowdfunding should be targeted at investors who know how to value a start-up business, and who appreciate the risks involved and that they could lose all of their money. We want it to be clear that investors in the majority of crowdfunds have little or no protection if the business or project fails."
According to the Sunday Times, the FCA is planning to meet with crowdfunding businesses in October and it hopes to announce plans for regulating the sector by February 2014.
Crowdfunding is a concept that began in the United States. There, investors are typically offered a 'reward' in return for their donation. However, in the UK, a number of equity-based crowdfunding sites have emerged that allow businesses to offer shares in return for funds.
According to the Sunday Times report, some crowdfunding sites have already paid to secure approval from the FCA, including CrowdCube and Seedrs. This should give investors the right to compensation should the businesses they back go bust. Many others, however, operate without offering a chance of redress.
Luke Lang, co-founder of Crowdcube, reportedly spent a year acquiring the FCA's stamp of approval. Responding to the news of a potential crackdown, he said: "We are determined to keep the 'crowd' in crowdfunding. We want to ensure that any proposed changes to regulation are considered and proportionate, and do not over-regulate a nascent industry out of existence."
Tax breaks have continued to attract investors. The Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme launched in 2012, offering 50% tax relief on investments up to £150,000 in businesses with up to 25 staff. With a one-off capital gains tax holiday if cash is reinvested this year, the total relief for investors could be 78%.
John Williams, managing partner at Kuber Ventures, said: "The Government introduced Enterprise Investment Schemes (EIS) to encourage people to invest in small business start-ups and benefit from tax efficient investments within a controlled environment. But by investing in small business through crowdfunding websites, investors leave themselves exposed."