Submitting an R&D Claim in the Current Climate

Written by Gina Gardner Corporate Tax Manager

In today’s ever-changing business landscape, innovation and technological advancements have become critical drivers of growth and competitive advantage. Research and Development (R&D) activities play a crucial role in fostering innovation, and governments worldwide recognise this by offering tax incentives to companies engaging in R&D initiatives. However, as a Corporate Tax Manager specialising in this field, I have witnessed firsthand the challenges that companies now face when submitting R&D claims in the current climate. This article delves into some of the major obstacles and offers insights on how to overcome them.

Evolving Regulatory Landscape

Governments are continually updating their R&D tax incentive programs to align with the changing economic and technological environment. These changes often lead to complexities in understanding eligibility criteria, documentation requirements, and compliance procedures. Indeed, 2023 has seen a significant evolution of the relief and HMRC’s ever-changing demands for the level of quality and changes to the value of the relief. Keeping abreast of these evolving regulations is paramount to ensuring that R&D claims remain valid and fully compliant.

Stringent Eligibility Criteria

Claiming R&D tax incentives can be a daunting task, primarily due to the stringent eligibility criteria set by HMRC, which whilst the guidelines have not changed for many years, the interpretation of them appears to have changed dramatically. It is essential for companies to thoroughly assess their projects’ eligibility and ensure that their activities meet the specific criteria in light of the stricter interpretations, and if it sounds too good to be true for your industry or company activities, then it probably is. There remains a significant responsibility on the director of the company, ultimately the one signing off the claim as valid and genuine.

R&D Documentation Challenges

Accurate documentation is the backbone of any successful R&D claim. Companies must maintain comprehensive records that demonstrate the nature of their R&D projects, the problems they aim to solve, the methodologies used, and the technological advancements achieved. As R&D initiatives often involve cross-functional teams, gathering and consolidating relevant documentation can be a time-consuming and challenging process, but it’s paramount to ensure a robust claim is filed. It’s not enough to simply outline that you have achieved an advance – the how is critically important and helps to demonstrate the existence of the technological uncertainties, resulting in a scientific or technological advancement far beyond the baseline science or technology.

Financial Complexity

The financial aspects of an R&D claim can be particularly intricate. Calculating eligible expenses, such as staff costs, subcontractor fees, consumables, and overheads, requires a precise understanding of the tax regulations, particularly with the evolution of the merged scheme which is on the horizon and will no doubt bring additional complexities during the transition stages. Additionally, companies must segregate and allocate expenses between qualifying and non-qualifying activities, which can be a complex and subjective process, and requires evidence to support all qualifying and claimed amounts.

Risk of Audit Scrutiny

The potential for R&D claims to be subjected to rigorous checks and enquiries by HMRC has increased in recent years. As governments aim to curb abuse and ensure that tax incentives genuinely support innovative projects, they have heightened their focus on scrutinizing R&D claims. This can lead to lengthy and expensive checks, which might disrupt the company’s regular operations and increase compliance costs. It’s a far better use of resources to ensure a robust claim in the first place, in order to minimise the chances of such a check – although it is still never guaranteed to sail through.

Overcoming the Challenges

To navigate the challenges of submitting an R&D claim in the current climate, companies should take a proactive approach:

  1. Stay Informed: Regularly monitor updates in R&D tax regulations and seek professional advice to ensure compliance.
  2. Robust Documentation: Implement systems to maintain accurate and comprehensive records of R&D activities from inception to completion. As a firm, we offer a personalised service to help you build a robust process including providing your team with direct contact to continually provide supporting evidence throughout the year, making the annual collation that much easier. Upon request, we can also implement quarterly reminders to ensure you and your team sit down to discuss the work carried out, breaking it down into manageable time slots.
  3. Engage Tax Experts: Collaborate with experienced tax professionals who understand the intricacies of R&D tax incentives. As a firm, we have many years of experience in this field, and actively support a number of other accounting firms with their R&D offering. If you’re seeking advice but your accountant does not have this speciality in-house, we will happily work alongside them with competitive referral arrangements, or indeed, if you are an advisor seeking to develop a professional relationship, please do reach out.
  4. Internal Alignment: Foster clear communication and coordination between R&D, finance, and tax departments to ensure a cohesive approach.
  5. Constant Evaluation: Regularly assess R&D projects’ eligibility and the effectiveness of the company’s claim strategies – it’s unlikely that the claim approach will be the same as in your earlier years and you must adapt to these changes if you want to continue leveraging this relief.

Next Steps

Submitting an R&D claim in the current climate may present various challenges, but with a strategic approach, diligent documentation, and professional expertise, companies can navigate these obstacles and harness the full potential of R&D tax incentives to drive innovation and growth.

Should you wish to discuss your R&D requirements, or understand the changes to the relief, please do reach out to Gina Gardner, Corporate Tax Manager –

Disclaimer. This article has been prepared for information purposes only. Formal professional advice is strongly recommended before making decisions on the topics discussed in this release. No responsibility for any loss to any person acting, or not acting, as a result of this release can be accepted by us, or any person affiliated with us.

For more information about our services and how we can help your business please get in touch.
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