Tax incentives for angel investors in Malaysia

Today there were some incentives for angel investors announced in Malaysia as part of Budget 2013.

Who qualifies as an angel investor? Your annual income must exceed RM180,000 per annum and you must be a tax resident to qualify for the deduction.

What do you get? Total investment as an angel will be allowed as a deduction against all income.

When is this valid? From Jan 1 2013 to Dec 31 2017, and you need to apply via the Ministry of Finance.

Some details: as an angel, you must hold at least 30% of the shares in the company you’re investing in for 2 years, and you must pay up for the shares in cash. The company needs to have at least 51% Malaysian ownership.

What do I think?

Quite simply, the qualification income is something I see some people complain about, but this is similar to what America calls an accredited investor. I have no issue with the RM180,000/annum income. Feel free to hit up all those people you know with Visa Infinite, World MasterCard, Premier banking, etc. ;-)

Application via the Ministry of Finance (MoF) seems a little dodgy. The potential of red tape here is high. This is definitely a turn-off.

Does this benefit startups? Angel investors shouldn’t be making a 30% investment in a company. It is ridiculous. Consider giving away 20% of the company in an angel round, sure, but with just one angel walking away with 30% of the shares for 2 years?!?

Angels in Malaysia typically make RM20-50k investments (for up to 20% on the high side from what I’ve gathered). Very rarely do they hit the RM100k mark. Most accelerators are taking up an average of 6-8% for about RM15-18k investment already for 3 founders.

Startup founders are also not going to want to give away 30% of the company for a small sum of money. Many believe they are worth more. I guess you have to thank the media hype cycle for this.

Alas, it is a good start for Malaysia to be looking out for such things. Possibility to help boost the startup ecosystem.

Update: I thought about this a little more and realised that I applied a very myopic view to this piece. Reason is simple: I focus on tech startups & the angels that go with them. In this day and age, software (be it mobile or web-based) doesn’t take much in terms of cash to prove yourself. In other industries like manufacturing, biotechnology, film making, etc. you might look at much higher investments for 30% or more, but it isn’t something I know much about.