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No SMEs have taken up shares deal: IPSA

A share option scheme for Irish SMEs launched as part of Budget 2018 has had no uptake and needs to be modified, according to an industry group that lobbied for it last year.

The Key Employee Engagement Programme (Keep) is supposed to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) hold on to talent by granting workers share options in the business without being hit with punitive taxes.

But there’s no evidence the Keep scheme has had any uptake, according to Gill Brennan, head of the Irish Proshare Association (IPSA).

The IPSA executive council includes “the majority of the service providers who would implement and put in place share schemes for public and private sector companies”, Ms Brennan said.

Council members come from KPMG, PwC, Deloitte, and McCann Fitzgerald among others.

“There have been maybe around 20 or 30 enquiries [to council members] about the Keep scheme, but no SME has actually implemented the Keep scheme to date,” Ms Brennan told the Irish Independent.

Revenue said it can not provide figures about the take-up of Keep until after next March, when the first tax returns for the scheme are due.

Ms Brennan said the current scheme is too restrictive and should be amended. She said the limits on the value of share options that can be issued, as well as the exclusion of share options issued to part-time staff, have the effect of “unfairly excluding many legitimate and interested micro, small and medium-sized Irish businesses from participation.

Representatives from IPSA and SMEs have met with Government about this and the message is clear: you need to change Keep now or no one is going to touch it,” Ms Brennan added.

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