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SMEs missing out on R&D tax relief

15 August 2017

 Three quarters (77%) of small and medium-sized UK engineering firms have not heard of Research & Development (R&D) tax relief, according to the results of a new Censuswide survey of 500 senior managers and business owners published by specialist tax relief experts, Catax.

Even when senior managers and owners at smaller UK engineering firms have heard of R&D tax relief, more than a third (36%) believe it is restricted to specialist hi-tech science or drug companies.

But with 55% of survey respondents saying they have spent time and money ‘developing a new product or process over the past three years’ — the basic requirement for an R&D tax claim — Catax says the likelihood is that more than half of British engineering firms could be due a sizeable tax windfall.

Meanwhile, 35% of the engineering firms polled mistakenly believed that any eligible R&D activity must be successful for a claim to be made. This is not true: the outcome of the R&D is irrelevant. What matters is the time and money spent developing the new technology, processes or techniques.

Examples of successful engineering R&D claims at Catax in 2017 include:

•  Design and development of a hard-wearing butterfly valve able to withstand the corrosion and degradation caused by different materials and liquids 

•  Design and development of terror alert bollards that can be deployed more quickly through an improved hydraulic system

•  Design and development of a proprietary steel support framework for railway tunnels

The ongoing lack of awareness around R&D and the eligibility criteria that apply to it is costing the UK’s engineering firms millions in tax relief each year. To date, the average R&D tax benefit for engineering clients of Catax is just over £39,000.

Mark Tighe, CEO, Catax, commented: “British engineering firms are recognised around the world for the sheer depth of their innovation. But in far too many cases the tax relief available to the companies driving this innovation is being overlooked, often at great cost. This is especially the case with smaller engineering firms, which may not have access to the tax resource and expertise of their blue chip counterparts. It’s crucial engineering firms seek advice about the tax relief they are due for the valuable R&D they are carrying out, which will often amount to tens of thousands of pounds.”

R&D tax credits can help to reduce a limited company’s corporation tax bill or be claimed as a cash sum as a reimbursement from HMRC. R&D tax relief only applies to those businesses that are liable for corporation tax, including businesses making a loss.

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