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What Projects Count as R&D?

Gary Green
Gary Green
September 17, 2019

According to HMRC, work that advances overall knowledge or capability in a field of science or technology, and projects and activities that help resolve scientific or technological uncertainties, may qualify for R&D relief.

Whether a business qualifies for R&D relief is complex. Many businesses, especially smaller ones, believe that their project will not qualify. However, for many businesses, the surprising answer is that your project could qualify for relief and substantial tax benefits.

Do I Qualify?

To qualify the company must be carrying out research and development work in the field of science or technology. The relief is not just for ‘white coat’ scientific research but also for ‘brown coat’ development work in design and engineering that involves overcoming difficult technological problems.

In a nutshell, this means that any company working on a project to resolve some type of uncertainty that advances science or technology may qualify for R&D tax relief. This is an important rule to remember.

The company must be able to demonstrate that they worked to solve an issue and somehow advanced the overall knowledge in their field/industry. This can include creating

  • New processes,
  • Products or services,
  • Making appreciable improvements to existing ones and
  • Even using science and technology to duplicate existing processes, products and services in a new way.

Advanced Assurance

Despite all the HMRC guidance, the rules are complex. Whether or not a project qualifies is often open to interpretation. We have seen cases where projects have qualified in the past but then no longer qualify and vice-versa.

How an R&D claim is put together and explained to HMRC can also have an impact. Small companies can also apply for advance assurance from HMRC that a project will qualify before incurring any expenditure.

Interestingly even if a project ultimately fails, the mere fact it was doing R&D may be enough to qualify for tax relief. It is also important to ensure R&D relief is maximised by claiming for all allowable costs on qualifying projects.

Contact us to find out more.

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