What is R&D?

Research & Development Tax Credit

The Research & Development (R&D) tax credit rewards companies that dedicate resources to creating or improving products, processes, or software. It’s also known as the Research Credit or the Research & Experimentation credit, and if your company develops new products, processes or software at any level, you may be eligible.

Unlike R&D deductions, R&D credits offer a dollar-for-dollar offset to corporate and individual federal and state income taxes. New opportunities for R&D credits are always evolving as federal and state taxing authorities expand their programs to encourage private investment in a wide range of fields. You may even be able to claim credits for your company’s past research & development.

Recent legislation expanding the scope of the credit now allpws eligible taxpayers to use the R&D credit to offset:

  • → Regular tax
  • → Payroll tax (employers portion) up to $250,000 for qualified small business for tax years beginning after December
  • → Alternative minimum tax for eligible small businesses for tax years beginning after December 31, 2015

Common Misconceptions

You may be surprised to learn how far-reaching the R&D tax credit is. Many eligible organizations don’t participate in the program because of these common misconceptions:

“Our company doesn’t conduct R&D activities”

  • → I.R.C. § 41 rules are more inclusive than you may realize.
  • → R&D tax credits are intended for research in the commercial environment (not the lab environment).
  • → The credit includes costs for activities related to new or improved product, process, and software development if          those activities satisfy the tax definition of R&D.
  • → Credits are not limited to work done by your core R&D group. Engineering, product development, product
         management, and other R&D support groups may also qualify.
“Our research is not new to the industry, let alone the world”

  • → Any advancement has the potential to earn credits.
  • → The R&D test is activity based. The level of technological advancement achieved is irrelevant if the
         activities satisfy the tax definition of R&D. The work need not be new to the industry, just to your
  • → Substantial improvements of existing products, processes, or software is not necessarily required. Incremental            and everyday product improvement activities may qualify.
“We don’t have documentation to support the R&D tax credit"

  • → There’s no requirement to document every project claimed for the credit. Reasonable sampling methods are                permitted.
  • → Recent court cases regarding the level of substantiation required have been favorable to taxpayers.
  • → Tax service provider methodology is critical in determining the level of substantiation required.
“Claiming credits will disrupt business operations”

  • → It is unnecessary to speak with every employee for whom R&D wage expenses are claimed.
  • → 95% of employees will spend 45 or less minutes preparing for an R&D credit.
  • → The methodology employed by the service provider must appropriately balance the need to substantiate the
         credits claimed with any potential impact to business operations without sacrificing quality.
“Our research won’t qualify because it is funded”

  • → Funding is just one aspect of determining eligibility.
  • → Government contracts or research reimbursed by customers may qualify, depending on the contractual allocation      of rights and risks.
  • → Contract terms should be carefully vetted by qualified attorneys with specific experience in tax and contract law.

Qualifying for the R&D Credit

To qualify for an R&D credit, research has to fulfill four important requirements:

1. Permitted Purpose

  • → Was your research related to a new or improved product, process, technique, invention, formula, or software?
  • → Was the goal of your project to create or improve new functionality, reliability, quality or performance?

2. Technological in Nature

  • → Does your research rely on principles of the physical sciences, biology, engineering or computer science?

3. Technical Uncertainty

  • → Were there technical issues that the project team did not know how to resolve at the outset of the project?
  • → Was the uncertainty or technical issue related to your capability to develop the product or process, the
         methodology employed to achieve the desired result, or the appropriate design of the new product or process?

4. Process of Experimentation

  • → Did you engage in activities that constitute elements of a process of experimentation or an evaluation of
         alternatives to resolve the technical uncertainty?

PATH Act Enhancements to Research Credit:

  • → Research credit made permanent
           -The PATH Act of 2015 modifies and makes permanent the research credit
  • → Payroll tax credit for research expenses
           -For tax years beginning after December 2015, "qualified small businesses" may elect to apply a portion of its
           research credit (capped at $250,000 against 6.2% payroll tax imposed on the employer's wage payments to
  • → Research Credit may reduce Alternative Minimum Tax Liability (AMT)
           -For tax years beginning after December 2015, "eligible small businesses" may use their R&D credits to offset AMT

Complementary R&D Credits for Pharmaceuticals

For companies in the pharmaceutical industry, there is another federal tax credit designed to incentivize the development of drugs and biologics for rare diseases and disorders. Known as the "Orphan Drug Tax Credit," it provides a benefit of 50% of qualifying clinical testing expenses (QCTE).

The criteria for determining QCTE is the same 4-part test used for R&D tax credit purposes, with the additional requirement that these expenses must relate to the development of a drug or biologic product that has been granted orphan designation by the FDA. To qualify, both the drug and the disease or condition must be intended for the safe and effective treatment, diagnosis, or prevention of rare diseases and disorders that affect fewer than 200,000 people in the United States.

Generally, the same expenses may qualify under both the Orphan Drug and R&D tax credit programs, but a company cannot claim both credits for the same expense. Depending on the circumstances, taking one of the credits for an expense is more valuable than taking the other. Understanding how to maximize the benefit from both of them is critical to optimizing your reduction in taxes. Unlike R&D deductions, these credits offer a dollar-for-dollar offset to corporate federal and state income taxes.

Think you may qualify? Contact us to maximize your benefit from the R&D and Orphan Drug credits.