Welcome to our Research & Development week!

This week we will focus on the work of our Research & Development Tax team, highlighting the work they do for clients; sharing hints, tips and advice on how to utilise R&D Tax relief; and hearing directly from clients themselves on how they have found working with us.

One of the most generous corporation tax reliefs currently available, R&D Tax relief is designed to encourage innovation and increase spending on R&D activities. You can claim back money that you spend on research and development to offset against current or future tax bills.

The team are tax experts first and foremost, and combine inside-out knowledge of R&D with a deep understanding of the wider corporate tax position. Dealing with over a hundred claims a year, we understand HMRC’s language and can advise on the impact a relief claim will have on your tax position, compliance and strategy.

If you are thinking of making a claim for R&D Tax Relief, or not sure if you would qualify, contact David and our team of experts today.

R&D Tax credits and Grants – how to maximise relief

Grants are an essential tool for growing a business, but did you know that by receiving a grant, it could restrict your company’s ability to claim further Research & Development (R&D) tax reliefs and incentives? In this article, Dave Philp Chiene + Tait’s Head of Research & Development Tax outlines the implications of receiving a grant and its impact on eligibility to receive R&D Tax Relief. Background reading on R&D Tax Relief, and its associated schemes (the SME and RDEC schemes) can be found in a previous article by Dave here.

There is a myth that, if a company receives a grant, it cannot claim R&D Tax relief. Whilst this is untrue, receiving a grant can throw a spanner in the works.

In a bid to guarantee a level playing field for European businesses, the European Commission restricts one Notified State Aid per project. That means if the company has already received Notified State Aid for a project, that project will not qualify under the R&D SME scheme. Any projects that have been in receipt of Notified State Aid will instead fall into the less beneficial RDEC scheme, where companies can claim 10p to the pound, rather than 33p.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to repay the Notified State Aid. Once received, the project is automatically excluded from claiming R&D tax relief under the SME scheme for the entire length of the project.

There are, however, some things that you can do to avoid any potential pitfalls. By following the tips below, it is possible to maximise your claim by combining both grants and R&D tax relief:

Know what type of grant you are applying for – firstly, not all grants are classed as Notified State Aid. As such, not all grants will qualify you for the less advantageous RDEC scheme. De-Minimis Aid, which offers up to €200,000 worth of funding, is not classed as Notified State Aid and will therefore not force the project into the RDEC scheme. In this instance, it is possible to split relief over the two schemes: subsidised expenditure will fall under the RDEC scheme, whilst the remaining unfunded expenditure will remain qualifying under the SME scheme.

Determine what project the grant relates to – the rules apply on a project-by-project basis, not on the total R&D work undertaken in the year. If you have received Notified State Aid in relation to one project, this does not affect your ability to claim under the SME scheme for any remaining projects. Likewise, if you have received Notified State Aid in relation to non-R&D activities, this will not affect your SME claim.

Look at the long-term implications – remember, once you have received Notified State Aid in relation to a project, that’s it: there is no way back. Try to consider the long-term implication of receiving the grant and how it will affect future claims. Taking a small £10,000 grant at the early stages of a R&D project may help cashflow in the short-term, however this could also affect the ability to claim R&D tax relief in future years.

Speak to people who know R&D tax relief – R&D tax relief is an ever-changing, complex area of legislation and it really does pay to speak to an expert to ensure that you are maximising your claim, whilst also planning ahead to avoid any potential pitfalls.  A quick chat at the beginning of a project can provide you with a clear and proactive action plan, leaving you with more time to run your business!

If you have any queries about R&D tax relief, Notified State Aid or De-Minimis State Aid related to investment, contact Dave Philp today at entrepreneur@chiene.co.uk.

Business must prepare for R&D tax relief crackdown

In this blog, Dave Philp Head of R&D at Chiene + Tait outlines the implications of a potential clampdown on spurious research and development claims to HMRC.

R&D (Research and Development) Tax Relief, introduced in 2000 to encourage more company investment into innovation, is more popular than ever. In 2017-18, UK companies submitted over 48,000 claims for R&D tax credits. A total of £4.3bn in tax relief was secured, an increase of £1bn from the previous year. Here in Scotland, £175m in R&D tax relief was secured by businesses in 2017-18. While this rise in claims is positive, suggesting more UK businesses are focusing on innovation as a way to make themselves competitive, there are also concerns about illegitimate claims being submitted.

HMRC is now taking steps to combat fraudulent claims, reporting that it has already identified and prevented half a billion pounds of fraud linked to R&D tax credits. Last year the Government announced it would re-introduce the PAYE and NIC cap on SME payable credits, a move aimed at preventing fraud within structures set up to claim a tax credit despite there being no evidence of UK-based innovation activity or job creation.

Following the internal re-structuring of HMRC’s R&D tax teams last Autumn, it was also announced in the Queen’s speech that the Government would create a single, beefed-up, anti-tax evasion unit to cover all taxes and introduce new anti-avoidance measures. This potential forthcoming clampdown on R&D tax credit abuse in the UK follows a similar process carried out in Australia in 2018 which sent shockwaves through that country’s software sector. The Australian Government’s crackdown had significant impact with companies, including the tech firm Airtasker, being ordered to pay back millions of dollars they had received in R&D tax breaks.

While a number of businesses there were caught on the hop, the Australian Tax Office had made clear a year earlier of their intention to review R&D claims from software companies. This came amid concerns that advisory firms were encouraging companies to claim for work, which didn’t count as pure R&D. Despite the British Government getting set to impose greater scrutiny here, its support for R&D tax credits is unlikely to dissipate, especially with the UK having just completed its withdrawal of the EU.

Indeed, the new Boris Johnson-led administration has stated that it will review the definition of R&D, mainly to further incentivise cloud computing and data projects. It has also announced it will increase the R&D Expenditure Credit available for large companies and grant-funded projects. Potential abuse of R&D tax relief claims is, however, likely to be subject to much closer scrutiny going forward. To assist this process, one of the areas that the Government should be focused on is tougher regulation for those who advise companies on R&D tax relief.

Whilst there are a number of good, tax focused, R&D advisors operating within the UK, there are also a number of ‘experts’ who resort to cold-calling and wrongly advising that a company can easily qualify for relief. HMRC can take their time opening enquiries into a company’s tax affairs and any erroneous claim will be required to be repaid, along with potential penalties and interest. It will also likely be a red mark in any due diligence process, should it wish to be sold in future.

While other business advisory professionals, such as accountants and lawyers, must rightly conform to regulation and governance from their respective industry bodies, there is currently no such body to regulate R&D specialists. New regulation in this area would help to ensure companies are not put in risk at making an illegitimate claim.

Time will tell if the UK’s R&D tax credit crackdown will prove to be as harsh as what occurred in Australia.  There is, however, no doubt that companies need to consider whether they meet HMRC’s definitions as set out in the tax legislation and guidance with sufficient back up to support their claim. For those companies that are unsure of this process it is important they work with a credible and established adviser, ideally one that is currently governed by an industry code of conduct.