Frequently Asked Questions


Does inclusion in the ESIC database guarantee my tax offsets and concessions?

No. The ESIC database and 'status' level do not guarantee tax outcomes and should only be used as a helpful indicator. You must consult your tax professional / accountant, your accountant and the ATO to determine the impact of the investment and your unique circumstances. You must assume that all content provided has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs.

Before acting on the information we provide you should consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. You should seek personal financial advice before making any financial or investment decisions. Where the electronic communication refers to a particular financial product, you should obtain a copy of the relevant product disclosure statement or offer document before making any decision in relation to the product. 

What is the ESIC database?

The ESIC database is a directory service for Start-ups, Investors and Advisors. You will be able to learn more about early stage companies, tax concessions, thresholds and resources. Search for information, ESIC, Accelerator, Grant, University and other listings. Complete a pre-assessment, ask for help, join our mailing list or find an advisor. Once your a listed, its a great place to be discovered! 

Will I get cash back on my investment?

No, the ESIC tax incentives are tax offsets and a capital gains exemption (CGT), i.e. tax that would otherwise be payable upon assessment will be offset or disregarded. If you Pay As You Go (PAYG) you may be entitled to a quarterly variation and or refund upon lodgement of your quarterly instalment or annual return. The CGT relief will simply allow you to keep all the proceeds of the gain, rather than remitting up to half the top marginal tax rate to the ATO.

What type of investment is eligible for ESIC tax offsets?

Purchases of new shares in a qualifying ESIC are the only investments that may be eligible for the ESIC tax offsets and the CGT tax exemption. Unfortunately employee share schemes (ESS) and preference shares do not qualify. Some argue that founders are eligible for the concession, however we respectfully disagree with that assumption, or strategies towards those ends (noting that anti avoidance provisions apply). 

Are non-resident investors eligible?

Yes, however the concessions may be less attractive to those who do not have future Australian income or capital gains tax liabilities. 

How much is my tax offset (rebate)?

Sophisticated investors can receive up to a $200,000 non-refundable, carry-forward tax offset for your investment. Non exempt / retail investors are limited to $10,000 (on a $50,000 investment). This cap applies to you, your entities and your affiliates and is net off against any carry forward (unclaimed) amounts on an annual basis.

What is a 'Sophisticated Investor'?

Typically your accountant will certify you as a sophisticated investor under S708 of the Corporations Act 2001. To do this, they will assess your prior 2 years gross income are in excess of $250,000 and or your net assets exceed $2.5 million. Further detail can be obtained at 

Who is responsible for keeping records of an ESIC claim?

The investor is responsible for keeping records applicable to the claim at the relevant test time, i.e. the time the shares where issued. 

What happens to my tax concessions if the company is no longer an ESIC eligible company?

Your entitlement to the tax concessions is determined at the test time, providing you maintain appropriate records. The change in company status will not affect your entitlement, providing it was correctly established.

Is my innovation a 'new or significantly improved innovation' within my addressable market?

An innovation is unlikely to be considered new or significantly improved if it is the result of customisation of existing products, minor extensions, changes in pricing strategy, seasonal or cyclical change or activities similar to the approach of competitors. Please refer to the Oslo Manual, published by the OECD. An innovation must be new or significantly improved within the addressable market, which is defined by the available revenue opportunity or market demand arising from the innovation. 

What valuation methods should be adopted at the end of 10 years ownership?

The ESIC concession only applies for a maximum of 10 years ownership, thereafter the taxpayer must value the investment. Fortunately the ATO have provided guidance and acceptable valuation shortcuts.

Can I lodge a Private Ruling with the ATO?

Yes, both companies and Investors can lodge a private ruling request with the ATO. Please note that the ruling will only apply to the facts provided in your private ruling request, as such the company/investor is likely to require reassessment of its eligibility as circumstances change.  ESIC's who qualify via the 100 may not be eligible for a ruling due to the reliance on R&D or similar claims. Feel free to contact us if this impacts you.

Which documents help demonstrate that I pass the principals based innovation test?

Company documentation such as business plans, commercialisation strategies and competition analysis will assist in supporting your claim, however the company must also be able to show tangible steps that have been taken, or are planned towards building its capability.

Does my business have high growth potential?

An ESIC must demonstrate it has high growth potential, as distinct from typical small to medium enterprises such as cafes, local retail stores, local service providers that service a single local market. To make your assessment, consider if your broad assessable market is large enough, and that your innovation, has potential to expand to capture a meaningful share.

Is my company scalable?

Your company is scalable if it has the potential to multiply existing revenues through a reduced or minimal increase in operating costs. In other words, as the company enters new markets it has, or will have structurally created operating leverage that assists it successfully grow.

Do I need to show how I can address the international market?

No. You must show the capacity to address a market that is broader than a local market, and, show that this can be adapted to a national/multinational/global scale in future.

How do I demonstrate I have the potential to have competitive advantages?

A method of evaluating a competitive advantage can be through the measures of the level of value for customers, rarity, imitability and substitutability of the advantage. It may be for example a cost or differential advantage which is sustainable for the business.

Who is an associate for the purposes of the ≥$50,000 third party investment rule?

Many early stage companies launch with advances from friends, fans and family, before seeking investment from third parties who could be eligible for ESIC incentives. Be that as it may, eligibility for the 50 points awarded for independent investment will not arise unless the funding (through share acquisition) was provided at arms length, i.e. not via an associate, as defined by s318 of the ITAA 1936. Further anti avoidance measures provide that the provision of the funding cannot be primarily to assist another investor to qualify for the concession (by passing the 100 point test).

What does TIFESI stand for?

Tax incentives for early stage investors (TIFESI). 

 How does an ESIC report the investments?

Apart from the required company secretarial matters, each ESIC has an additional ATO obligation to report, within 31 days of year end in an 'approved form'. The preferred format is online via the tax agents portal or business portal (where you lodge your BAS). Investors lodge early stage investor claims T9 (tax offsets) of the personal income tax return. 

What kind of records do I need for an ATO ESIC Audit?

Having an ATO audit or review is stressful, particularly if you are not aware of the type of records you need. Please consult our ESIC record keeping tool to help discover what type of records you should have, and or the quality of the documents you already hold.

Can I qualify for points if I don't directly own valid IP?

Yes, a company that holds a licence to the intellectual property of another party may also qualify for points, providing that IP (e.g. innovation patent) would in its own right qualify and an applicable licence agreement is in place.  

What is a widely held company?

A widely held company is defined by s995 1 of the Corporations Act as:
(a) a company, * shares in which (except shares that carry a right to a fixed rate of * dividend) are listed for quotation in the official list of an * approved stock exchange; or
(b) a company ≥ 50 members, other than a company where at least one of the following conditions is met during an income year:

(i) ≥ 20 persons held, or had the right to acquire or become the holders of, shares representing at least 75% of the value of the shares in the company (other than shares that only carry a right to a fixed rate of dividend);

(ii) at least 75% of the voting power in the company was capable of being exercised by no more than 20 persons;
(iii) at least 75% of the amount of any dividend paid by the company during the year was paid to no more than 20 persons;
(iv) if no dividend was paid by the company during the year the Commissioner is of the opinion that, if a dividend had been paid by the company during the year, at least 75% of the amount of the dividend would have been paid to no more than 20 persons.

How are points awarded for the 100 point innovation test?

The last thing an investor wants is more risk! So you may find as a self assessed ESIC your best option is to qualify via the objective test (rather than the principals test), though you will need to secure 100 points, which can be easier said than done. Please review the following table and be sure to complete our pre-assessment (even if you don't appear to qualify). We are more than happy to review your current status and offer referral, recommendation or reference to guide you towards qualification, or ruling out the incentive for this company at least.

Enough Innovation?

Having a great business may not be sufficient to establish your company as an ESIC worthy of generous taxation concessions. The following pages help to expand on the innovation pathways, milestones and alternatives for ESIC qualification. You may seek to qualify independently or seek recognition via government or eligible venture partnering.   We have broken this down into 3 parts, an introduction to the pathway, key requirements and options for assistance.  You can use the menu navigation to jump from or to any section of interest, and or reference any of the extended resources and networks available.

Fast Track ESIC Qualification

If the company is just starting to commercialise it may be difficult to prove eligibility, other
than by self assessed principals based means. Technically this doesn’t stop the company
claiming the concession, however savvy investors should think twice before taking this
into consideration (or making a claim).   As such, ESIC’s routinely seek points qualification

with the help of third parties.

The ESIC database is full and growing with organisations that assist ESIC’s and can

independently provide points to validate that status.

Points Provider Search

Innovation Criteria

Points Awarded

The company has received an Accelerating Commercialisation Grant under the Accelerating Commercialisation element of the Commonwealth’s Entrepreneur’s programme


At least 50 per cent of the company’s total expenses for the previous income year constitute expenses which are eligible for the tax offset for R&D activities provided under Division 355


The company is undertaking or has completed an eligible accelerator programme


At least 15 and less than 50 per cent of the company’s total expenses for the previous income year constitute expenses which are eligible for the tax offset for R&D activities provided under Division 355


The company has issued at least $50,000 of shares to a third party


Within the last five years, the company has one or more enforceable rights on an innovation through a standard patent or plant breeder’s right that has been granted in Australia or an equivalent intellectual property right granted in another country


Within the last five years, the company has one or more enforceable rights on an innovation through an innovation patent or design right or an equivalent intellectual property right granted in another country


The company has a written agreement to co-develop and commercialise an innovation with a research organization or a university


* Note that double dipping of points for R&D and Patents is prohibited. I.e. a company cannot be awarded points for both an innovation patent and a standard patent, nor can the company gain points for 50% R&D spend and also claim they exceeded 15% R&D at the same time. The greater point score will apply, replacing the lower (and easier hurdle).