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Understanding Employment Benefit Trusts (EBT)

Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs) have emerged as a powerful tool for companies looking to incentivise and reward their workforce.

But what exactly are EBTs, and how can they benefit your organisation? In this blog post, we will be understanding employment benefit trusts (EBTs), uncovering the secrets behind EBTs, their key components, and the practical advantages they can bring to your business.

Short Summary

  • Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs) are trusts created by companies to provide financial benefits to employees.
  • They must adhere to legal requirements, report taxes and be managed in a cost effective manner.
  • Companies should consult industry professionals for successful implementation of an EBT.

Defining Employee Benefit Trusts (EBT)

A trust called an Employee Benefit Trust (EBT) is created by a company. It provides financial benefits to its current and former employees.

The an employee ownership trust is typically governed by a trust deed, which sets out the rules and responsibilities of the key players involved employee ownership trust: the Settlor (the company), the Trustee the trustee, and the Beneficiaries (the employees).

EBTs can be used by private companies to provide a wide range of benefits, such as pensions, sick pay, or even shares in company itself, or cash, to their workforce.

Key Components of an EBT

The key components of an EBT are the trust property, which is held in trust by a trustee for the benefit of a designated group of beneficiaries, and the purpose of the trust, which is to incentivise and reward employees.

The trust property may include shares, share options, awards, cash payments, interest, other interests, other assets and phantom awards.

It’s worth noting that EBTs can provide various tax benefits to employees, but they also come with potential drawbacks, such as complexity in setting up and managing the employee benefit trust, as well as the risk of tax issues.

How EBTs Operate

To fund an EBT, companies have a few options, such as loans or contributions from the company, or through a bank loan guaranteed by the company.

The trustees of discretionary trusts then invest the funds in listed companies in accordance with the trust’s terms, and benefits are distributed to the trustees’ beneficiaries as per the trust deed.

It is suggested that loan funding be utilised instead of direct gifts in order to prevent funds from becoming immobile within the trust.

The Role of Trustees

Trustees of an EBT play a crucial role in administering the trust assets to provide benefits for the beneficiaries, who are typically the company’s or its group’s employees.

The trustee must act independently and in the best interests of the beneficiaries of discretionary trust, ensuring that the trust is administered in accordance with applicable laws and managed in a manner that benefits the best interests of its intended beneficiaries and recipients.

Trustees must also ensure that the trust assets are invested prudently and that the trust is managed in a cost-effective manner.

They must also ensure that the trust is compliant with all applicable laws and regulations, and that the trust is managed in a manner that is appropriate for the trust.

Establishing an EBT: Legal Requirements and Documentation

The primary legal document necessary for creating an EBT is a trust deed. The legal requirements for establishing an EBT may vary depending on the jurisdiction, with specific rules and regulations governing EBTs in different countries.

For example, in the UK, one of the primary motivations for companies to set up EBTs is to give employee incentives and obtain tax advantages, while in the US, EBTs are utilised for government assistance programs such as SNAP, with eligibility criteria differing by state.

Reporting to HMRC

Trustees of offshore trusts with an exempt EBT are obligated to register the trust with HMRC if it the trustee is liable for UK income tax, Capital Gains Tax (CGT), Inheritance Tax (IHT), Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), or the Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings (ATED).

Employers must also adhere to the reporting requirements set forth by HMRC, and it is recommended that they seek guidance to ensure their compliance with these requirements.

Common Uses of Employee Benefit Trusts

The primary objective of an EBT is to act as a vehicle for distributing complimentary shares to employees.

Employee Benefit Trusts can also be utilised to sell shares and deliver shares, provide employees with free shares and to hold shares and act as employee benefit trust or a repository for shares to complete share incentive awards.

This can prove particularly useful for listed companies, for example, as EBTs can simplify the process for company has of settling share incentive awards when they vest.

EBTs vs. Employee Ownership Trusts (EOTs)

While EBTs and Employee Ownership Trusts (EOTs) may seem similar, there are key differences between the two. EOTs are required to provide benefits to all employees on the same conditions, whereas an EBT offers more flexibility, including the possibility of allocating shares to specific employees.

EOTs are financed through the sale of shares to the trust or group, while EBTs are generally funded through assets held by the trustee, company of trustee or organisation.

Advantages and Disadvantages of EBTs

There are several advantages to using an EBT, such as succession planning, employee share liquidity, employee share plans, warehousing of employee shares, and preventing shareholder dilution.

Moreover, when contributions are paid out of an EBT, companies may be eligible for a corporation tax deduction, which can be a favorable tax treatment.

Avoiding Tax Pitfalls

However, EBTs also come with potential drawbacks, such as the complexity of setting up and managing the trust, as well as the risk of tax issues.

It is crucial to be aware of the tax pitfalls associated with the utilisation of EBTs for tax avoidance, as HMRC has taken action against such schemes.

Employers should ensure that their EBT arrangements are fully disclosed to HMRC and seek professional advice to avoid any tax implications.

Implementing an EBT: Best Practices

To successfully implement an EBT, it is advisable to consult with industry professionals and seek out resources tailored to the industry, as best practices may differ depending on the company’s objectives.

Additionally, an EBT can be utilised by private companies to guarantee adherence to shareholding regulations, administer share capital records, and preserve the secrecy of private companies’ and private company others’ equity.

Case Studies: Successful EBT Implementation

EBT case studies provide insight into successful EBT implementations, highlighting conditions of success as well as lessons learned.

These case studies illustrate the potential value of EBTs, showcase the factors that enabled success, and provide insight into lessons learned.

By studying these cases, companies can gain invaluable insights into the factors of success and the implementation process, which can then be utilised to inform future EBT implementations.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do employee benefit trusts work?

Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs) are financial tools that employers can use to provide financial rewards and benefits to employees in a tax-efficient manner.

EBTs work by holding property, typically shares in the employee incentives employer’s company or cash, on behalf of employees.

These assets can then be used to give employees bonuses, pay for training courses, or supplement their salaries – all with the aim of encouraging employee loyalty and satisfaction.

What is the difference between EBT and EOT?

The main distinction between an employee benefit trust EBT, and an EOT fund is that an employee benefit trust EBT is discretionary trust established by a company to benefit its employees, whereas an EOT involves the sale of a majority shareholding in the company to its employees.

In other words, an EOT turns new shares of a company into one of issuing shares owned by its employee shareholders or former employees.

What is an EBT scheme?

An EBT scheme is a type of illegal remuneration arrangement used by employers to avoid paying taxes and employee benefits. Employers can use EBT schemes in place of wages, retirement benefits or bonuses paid, thereby avoiding their financial obligations.

These schemes are highly discouraged as they can leave both the employer and the employees with serious legal repercussions.

Why set up an EBT?

Setting up an EBT can be a cost-effective and efficient way for business to reward and incentivise staff while providing them with the security of a tax-advantaged environment.

An EBT’s flexibility also makes it a great choice for businesses of all sizes looking to provide employees with share options or awards.

In short, an EBT is an ideal solution for companies seeking to create an attractive and rewarding workplace environment.


In conclusion, Employee Benefit Trusts offer a flexible and powerful tool for businesses to incentivise and reward their workforce.

As we have explored throughout this blog post, EBTs provide various benefits for employees and companies alike, while also requiring careful consideration of legal and tax implications.

By understanding the key components, best practices, and potential pitfalls of EBTs, companies can harness their full potential and create a thriving, motivated workforce, driving success for years to come.

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