Tax-break shares plan backed by listed firms

Two-thirds of FTSE 350 companies are considering adopting a Government plan
to encourage employee share ownership.

A survey by consultancy New Bridge Street shows that 66 per cent of the 100
companies that responded may take on the All-employee Share Ownership Plan
(Aesop), which could give staff significant tax breaks.

The plan allows employers to allocate free shares to employees, offer them
partnership shares out of pre-tax pay and match the employee’s investment by
the allocation of up to two extra matching shares for each partnership share
purchased.

The study reveals that 44 per cent of employers thinking of operating the
Aesop intend to offer staff the chance to buy partnership shares and 32 per
cent intend to offer free shares.

The tax break applies only if the shares are held for five years.

Tim Craddock, head of employment law and recruitment at Air Miles, whose
staff can join British Airways’ save-as-you-earn share scheme, said, "They
give staff a stake in the company. They can feel they own a bit of the company
and are making a contribution to their own welfare beyond receiving a
salary."

John Lee, a partner with New Bridge Street, who called for the Government to
reduce the length of time before shares can be taken from five to three years,
said, "Its introduction alongside existing share schemes is a step forward
in the evolution of employee share ownership."

By Ben Willmott

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