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Research & Development Tax Relief: Can you claim?

The Government has earmarked around £1.5bn of tax relief per year for research and development (R&D) activities. What does this mean for you? If your company has undertaken some R&D work, or even if you’ve worked for another company on their R&D project, you might be able to get a slice of the action.

What classes as R&D?

Before we explain how and what you can claim, it’s best to nail down exactly what the Government classes as Research and Development.

Sadly, simply spending money developing a product that you believe to be commercially innovative isn’t enough – the Government will want to see you’re investing in something that’s aiming to advance science or technology.

The key requirements are that the project must:

  • be seeking an advance in the field of technology or science

  • be considered commercially innovative

  • incorporate science or technology that is not readily available in your industry

  • relate to your company’s trade – you must be intending to use the findings for your business

Additionally, your company must not currently be receiving state aid or subsidised expenditure.

There are also restrictions on the type of expenditure you can claim R&D tax relief on. Any expenditure you want to claim must be for revenue costs (i.e. those related to daily running costs). Capital assets – such as those for equipment and buildings – don’t qualify.

The expenses must also fall into one of a set list of categories, including employee costs, materials, software, and consumables.

Some examples

To give you an idea of who can claim, here are a few real-world examples of Crunch clients who, with our help, managed to successfully apply for R&D tax relief.

Content marketing company

The company’s vision was to create a solution for content marketers and technical companies focused on key areas, including social media management, content marketing, and speech writing. The company engaged in R&D activities to develop a bespoke web platform, providing relevant, personalised, and curated technological contents as well as an analysis of marketing score for their clients’ industry and market. The project’s field of science and technology was content research and data management software.

Creative development studio

Our second example is a company that helps brands and corporations understand and implement innovative virtual and augmented reality technologies. The company was acting as a subcontractor to deliver a particular technical solution to a large corporation, who retained the intellectual property arising.

Both companies were eligible for Research and Development tax relief.


businessman is analyzing business and financial data

When do I need to claim for Research and Development tax relief?

The normal time limit for making your claim is two years after the end of the relevant Corporation Tax accounting period. You can make your claim for R&D tax relief in your Corporation Tax return or amended return.


Types of relief claim

There are two schemes available to small businesses: the SME scheme and the Research and Development Expenditure Credit (RDEC) scheme.

Before we go into the details of each, here’s a quick overview of what can be claimed under each scheme:

SchemeTax yearEnhanced deductionPayable credit (loss making)Relief
SME scheme2014/15225%14.50%n/a
SME scheme2015/16230%14.50%n/a
RDEC scheme2014/15n/an/a7.9%
RDEC scheme2015/16n/an/a8.8%

Enhanced deduction is the total amount of the actual expenditure, plus 125% or 130% relief

The SME Scheme

As its name suggests, the SME scheme is aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises. However, the definition of an SME varies. For R&D purposes, an SME is defined as one with under 500 employees and either an annual turnover of €100 million or a balance sheet under €86 million.

Certain other restrictions apply, for example if your company is part of a larger company that falls outside of this definition, or is in liquidation or administration, you won’t be able to to get your hands on a tax credit.

Example 1 (profit-making SME)

Taxable profits (before R&D claim)£200,000
Corporation Tax liability on profit at 20% rate£40,000
R&D expenditure (included in the profits above)£100,000
Tax credit value of R&D expenditure (130%)£130,000
Adjusted taxable profit before corporation tax (£200,000 – £130,000)£70,000
Adjusted Corporation Tax liability at 20% rate £14,000
Corporation Tax saving (£40,000 – £14,000)£26,000


Example 2 (profit-making SME)

Taxable profit (before R&D claim)£400,000
Corporation Tax liability on profit at 20% rate£80,000
R&D expenditure (included in the profits above)£320,000
Tax credit value of R&D expenditure (130%)£416,000
Adjusted taxable profit before Corporation Tax

(£400,000 – £416,000; the £16,000 loss can be carried back or forward)
Adjusted Corporation Tax liability at 20% rate nil
Corporation Tax saving£80,000


Example 3 (loss-making SME)

Total Loss (before R&D claim)£100,000
Corporation Tax (not applicable as making a loss)nil
R&D enhanced expenditure (£50,000 x 130%)£65,000
Adjusted loss ( £100,000 + £65,000) £165,000
Refund for R&D activity (14.5% of £165,000 ) £23,925

If an SME successfully applies for R&D tax relief and, as a result, makes a loss for Corporation Tax purposes, the loss can be:

  • carried back to the previous accounting period

  • carried forward and offset it against future profits

  • surrendered to HMRC in return for a tax credit


The RDEC scheme

If you are a subcontractor working via your limited company, you may be able to claim under the RDEC scheme. If your company is engaged in a contract with a large corporation to carry out R&D activity, where the large corporation will have the rights to the intellectual property, you could be able to claim the R&D tax relief.

From 1 April 2015, the RDEC percentage was increased to 11%. So, combined with the reduction in the corporation tax rate to 20%, also from 1 April 2015, the net cash benefit to a large company is now 8.8% of its qualifying R&D expenditure.

Example (subcontractor working for a large company):

R&D Expenditure£100,000
Credit Rate 11%£11,000
Gross credit amount (to be included in taxable profits)£11,000
Corporation tax at 20%£2,200
Total tax credit (11,000-2,200)£8,800

If your company is micro, small or medium-sized, you may be able to claim R&D tax relief under the SME Scheme for one project and the RDEC scheme for another.


What next?

Think you might be due a bit of Research and Development tax relief? If you’re a Crunch client, we can help. Your Client Manager will be able to look into your case and advise on the best next steps.

If you’re not a Crunch client, what are you waiting for? Arrange a free consultation with one of our advisors today.

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