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Business Tax  •  R&D Tax Credits

Tax planning: 4 investment options when R&D tax credits are restricted

By RJP LLP on 20 January 2023

During 2020 and 2021, UK companies claimed £6.6bn of tax relief support for R&D - it has been an invaluable source of funding for SME companies in particular. However, with effect from 1 April 2023, the R&D tax credits scheme for SMEs will be restricted, with the rebates available to these companies reduced.

The uplift applied to R&D expenditure for SMEs is being reduced from 130% to 86% for qualifying expenditure incurred, and the SME credit rate is being reduced from 14.5% to 10%. At the same time, the RDEC rate for larger companies is increasing from 13% to 20%.

This policy is apparently designed to limit fraud among SMEs, but larger companies are not affected. Sadly, this is a source of business support that smaller innovative organisations in the UK have come to rely on and we anticipate it will have a significant impact on innovative start up companies.

The directors of a number of SMEs have written to Rishi Sunak appealing for a reversal, but we are unfortunately unlikely to see this.  Those affected argue they are being punished unnecessarily and that the policy will hurt the UK’s standing as a destination for technological innovation.

Government sources say these restrictions to R&D reliefs will have a significant impact on tax revenues, saving £1.3bn a year by 2027-2028. Sadly, other estimates suggest that this figure only represents £300million in fraud and erroneous claims, meaning over £1bn of funding for genuine claims will effectively be cut.

Given these developments, what other options exist for UK companies now? How can they plug the investment gap? Here are 4 alternatives.

  1. Use the Patent Box scheme. This has never been as widely adopted as R&D tax credits and encourages operators to retain and commercialise intellectual property in the UK by applying a lower, ten per cent rate of corporation tax to profits earned from inventions. Patents have historically been regarded as hugely expensive and outside the feasibility of many SMEs, but costs have reduced in recent years.
  2. Switch to the RDEC scheme. Some SMEs may be eligible to claim for R&D tax credits through the soon to be increasing larger company scheme. It is worth considering the validity of claiming for R&D tax credits using the RDEC to help with the cost of innovation projects if possible.
  3. Apply for an enterprise grant. Grant funding is another good option for financial support, through organisations like Innovate UK and Digital Catapult.
  4. Benefit from new wider eligibility for R&D credits. The scope of R&D relief has been expanded to include the cost of obtaining datasets and cloud computing hosting costs, which can be very helpful for tech centric businesses even if the rates of relief are dropping.

To discuss R&D relief please contact us via partners@rjp.co.uk.

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