Carrying out research and development (R&D) can be an expensive part of developing your product/service and growing your business. So, finding a way to claim back tax against your R&D costs is a sensible way to reduce your costs and free up more cash for growth investment.
Expenditure on your R&D can be claimed against tax at a rate of up to 230% of the actual costs for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). If your company is loss-making (and therefore has no tax liability) then a payable tax credit can be claimed.
Where you have qualifying expenditure that’s been incurred on R&D projects, allowable costs are increased by an additional 130% for tax purposes. So, for every £100 spent, £230 can be deducted from your profits when calculating tax – a helpful relief against your tax costs.
How does the relief work?
So, how does the R&D tax relief work in practice?
The project you’re working on must be more than just applying existing solutions to a routine problem. The BEIS guidelines say that, for tax purposes, an R&D project is one that seeks to achieve an advance in science or technology through the resolution of scientific or technological uncertainty. The knowledge being sought must not be already available in the public domain.
This definition of ‘advancing knowledge in science or technology’ is wide-ranging, and has encompassed a range of projects including developing ways of artificially ageing materials to produce bespoke ‘antique-looking’ furniture, developing packaging to improve the shelf-life of perishable goods or creation of software for either sale or internal use. It’s not just restricted to activities carried out by scientists in lab coats.
The guidelines include work on both products and services for sale and developing equipment and processes for internal use. It doesn’t cover the cost of projects where you are carrying out R&D work as a chargeable service to your clients, as that is seen as just normal cost of sales.
The costs to use in calculating the claim include salaries of staff working on, or supporting, the project (pro rata, if not wholly involved). It also includes the associated employer National Insurance and pension contributions for these employees, plus the costs of software, materials consumed and an appropriate share of the utility bills. Where you subcontract part, or all, of the work to a third-party, 65% of those charges go into the calculations.
To claim the allowance or payable tax credit you will need to provide a report explaining what scientific or technical uncertainty you were trying to overcome. You also need to explain how your project attempted to resolve it and why it couldn’t be easily worked out by a professional working in the specific field or sector. NOTE: the project doesn’t have to be successful to qualify for the relief.
Using the current 19% corporation tax rate, every £1,000 of qualifying expenditure will result in a tax saving of £437. If you’re making a loss, rather than carrying it forward, you can opt to surrender it for a payable tax credit of 14.5% of the loss – that’s a cash receipt of £333.50.
Talk to us about exploring the R&D allowances
It’s possible that your company has been carrying out qualifying R&D work without even realising it. If you are, that’s a substantial tax relief that could be lost
Come and chat to us about your recent development work. We’ll be able to let you know if your R&D work is eligible and can help you to prepare the complex claims documentation.