How Does R&D Relief Scheme Work?
The HMRC R&D Relief scheme was launched in the year 2000 by the UK government as an incentive to encourage innovation. It is a very generous scheme that significantly rewards companies investing in research and development projects to ring scientific or technological advancement. This scheme is equally beneficial for everyone, irrespective of the size and domain of your company.
R&D Relief is a very lucrative scheme, allowing you to claim any expenditure made for the R&D project. The cost of materials utilised, software used, utility expenditure, staff costs, externally provided workers and subcontracted R&D, all are eligible for the claim. In the few years, the R&D Relief has witnessed a few changes in the scheme and HMRC’s approach towards the R&D Relief claims such as:
- Upsurge in the HMRC Enquire of the R&D claims to manage the rise in fraudulent claims.
- Introduction of PAYE Cap to limit the payable R&D credits.
- Expansion in the eligible expenditure with the addition of data and cloud expenditure in the qualifying costs for the R&D Relief claim.
Changes Expected for R&D Relief Claim in 2023
The UK government published the draft legislation on the 20th July, 2022, declaring changes to the R&D Relief scheme following the autumn 2021 adjustments. The changes include:
- Further expansion in the scope of R&D relief
- Restriction on the subcontracted R&D, from April 2023, you will be able to claim for subcontracted R&D that occurred only within the UK.
- Restrictions on the claimable Externally Provided Worker’s costs. Companies will only be able to claim R&D relief on expenditures paid to EPW through a UK payroll.
- Addition of more prerequisites such as all claims to be made digitally, providing details of an agent, endorsing the claim with the name of the company’s senior officer and informing HMRC at least six months before the claim.
These changes in the scheme will come into effect from April 2023 and will be applicable to both SME and RDEC R&D Relief schemes.
Why is the UK government proposing these changes to the R&D Relief scheme?
The reasons behind these amendments are:
- To tackle increasing fraudulent R&D Relief claims
- To extend the scope of R&D schemes
- To refocus innovation in the UK
What is Changing for the Subcontracted and Overseas R&D?
When any company outsources part of its qualifying R&D project to a third party under a contract, it is known as ‘subcontracted R&D’. It is usually done due to the lack of resources or expertise required to carry out the project. We all are aware of the HMRC’s guidelines regarding R&D Relief claims, which allow companies to claim up to 65% of their subcontracted R&D projects. Currently, subcontractors do not necessarily have to be UK-based and overseas subcontracted R&D qualifies for the claim. But to reorient innovation to the UK, as per the change in the policy announced in the draft legislation. The UK government has added a new limitation to overseas R&D: From April 2023, companies won’t be able to claim for overseas R&D.
What does this mean, and how is it going to impact companies? According to the latest amendments proposed by the UK government, companies, whether SMEs or large companies, will be able to claim for subcontracted R&D, which took place within the UK. Any R&D project subcontracted to the overseas company will no longer qualify for the R&D Relief claims. These policy changes aim to refocus R&D Relief on the activities in the UK to encourage advancement in science and technology and boost innovation within the UK. Many companies all over the UK take advantage of overseas services to carry out their R&D projects to access expertise and lower labour costs. Companies that invest in subcontracting R&D activities overseas must reconsider their strategies to get maximum advantages from R&D Relief claims.
Note: These changes will only be applicable to a company’s accounting period, which begins after April 2023.
What is Exempted from This Change?
Even after these amendments are enacted, there will still be a few exemptions where overseas R&D can qualify for the R&D claim. According to our understanding, HMRC will judge the qualification of overseas subcontracted R&D projects on the criteria of ‘necessity’. Following are examples of cases where overseas R&D might qualify for the claim.
- Circumstances where environmental or social factors do not allow to carry out research and development projects within the UK, such as deep ocean research
- Cases where regulatory requirements require R&D activities to take place outside the UK, such as clinical trials.
In addition, companies will still be able to include costs such as consumables, software, data and cloud sourced from overseas in the R&D claim.
Moreover, the HMRC will give further explanations and guidelines by April 2023, hopefully bringing clarity to the proposed changes in the claim legislation.
In the present times of so many changes happening in the R&D Relief claiming process and qualifying criteria, it is always better to stay in touch with an expert. R&D Tax relief specialists at Square Finance can help you stay ahead by preparing for these changes. Contact our R&D tax specialists, and they’ll guide you about the future direction of the R&D scheme.