Australian Government’s Innovation Statement promises to make employee share schemes easier

The Australian Government released is Innovation Statement on the afternoon of 7 December 2015.

The new reforms:

  • Limit the requirement for disclosure documents given to employees under an ESS to be made available to the public. This will allow otherwise non-disclosing companies to offer shares to their employees without having to reveal commercially sensitive information to competitors.
  • Make ESS more user-friendly for innovative companies, allowing them to attract motivated staff without a substantial initial outlay.

Unfortunately further detail will have to wait until legislation is released for public consultation in early 2016.

The Innovation Statement included 28 initiatives. Apart from the employee share scheme changes, others of note include:

  • introducing a ‘safe harbour’ for directors from personal liability for insolvent trading if they appoint a restructuring adviser to develop a turnaround plan for the company;
  • making ‘ipso facto’ clauses, which have the purpose of allowing contracts to be terminated solely due to an insolvency event, unenforceable if a company is undertaking a restructure
  • reducing the current default bankruptcy period from three years to one year.
  • tax concessions for ‘angel’ investors;
  • additional investment in cyber security through the creation of a Cyber Security Growth Centre;
  • increased funding for education and skills particularly in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM);
  • new laws that make it easier for companies to access crowd-sourced equity funding; and
  • changes to the tax treatment of Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnerships (ESVCLPs) to attract more investment into start-ups.

Full details of the Government’s Innovation Statement can be viewed HERE.

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