You’ve probably spent the last couple of months assessing how your company can best weather the challenges of this COVID-19 crisis. And then reassessing with every new development. It’s not easy.

Hopefully, your accountant has been able to support you with your short and long term decision making. Particularly with deciding which, if any, of the government support packages are the best fit for your business.

People are investigating all the avenues available to them to secure cash flow. R&D tax relief schemes are part of that. If you’re reading this, then you already know something about it and think that you might be eligible. But the myriad of misconceptions about the different schemes prevent many business owners from fully exploring this possibility. Using a real R&D tax relief expert is the way to correct those misunderstandings and assuage any concerns.

But I don’t want to get rid of my accountant

And you absolutely do not have to. It is not an either/or proposition. Your long term relationship with your trusted accountant is invaluable. We want to work with them, they’re the ones that know all the financial details we need for your claim. Any other reputable R&D tax relief expert will feel the same way.

R&D tax relief regulations are a very niche area of tax law. Many accountants prefer to hire in an expert, rather than unravel their complexities themselves. They see the value a specialist consultant brings to your business.

We are not in competition with them for the rest of your accountancy work. There will be no suggestions of us taking over your books or undercutting their fees. Our sole interest is in your R&D tax relief claim – it’s all we do. We don’t want to tie you in to long term contracts or add on ‘extras’ to our bill.

We love the field of R&D tax relief. It’s all about the excitement of innovation and how much investment we can secure for our clients’ next big development.

What problems could I have with an R&D tax advisor?

The reputation of our sector of the industry has some blemishes and you may get some push back from your accountant because they have concerns. As with every profession, a few taint the name of us all.

For the R&D tax relief sector, this falls into two categories: poor practice and downright criminal. We are only partially regulated, so there is no specific professional body charged with registering and overseeing R&D tax relief professionals. This may happen in the future.

Poor practice

People perpetuating poor practice will submit claims for their clients that are riddled with errors. Rules are misunderstood, leading to claims full of ineligible costs or lack of technical detail. Or they may simply be so disorganised that they miss the deadline for your claim entirely.

Not only will such claims be rejected, there can be further serious consequences. You can face hefty fines from HMRC, just for making an error. This can also lead to a full HMRC investigation of your business, if they suspect deliberate fraud. Depending on their findings, you may have to repay an R&D tax relief you received. And as the business owner, you are liable, with no consequences for the R&D tax advisor involved.

Criminal activity

At the other end of the scale are the actual criminal element who submit claims with the intention of defrauding the government. HMRC have a whole unit of people to investigate and prosecute these elements.

How do I choose an R&D tax relief expert?

Firstly, get your accountant on board at the start and ask them to help you find an R&D tax relief expert that’s a good fit with your company. This gives you the benefit of their judgement and brings them in at the start of our collaboration.

Secondly, trust your gut. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid grandiose claims and vague promises.

Good R&D tax relief experts will have:

  • The basics: clear, accurate website, professional indemnity insurance, GDPR policy, anti money laundering supervision
  • Individual experts are qualified in accountancy and maintain membership of their appropriate professional bodies
  • Working with existing accountant is stated as usual practice
  • Demonstrate that each R&D tax relief claim is treated as an individual entity. This is not a copy and paste exercise. So you don’t want to see one size fits all forms, question lists or templates.
  • Understanding of the relationship between R&D tax relief and other financial factors. For example, grant funding and other tax relief schemes (like VGTR). They may have an R&D tax focus, but they need to treat your business holistically to help you choose the correct path.
  • R&D tax relief nitty-gritty. Amongst other things, show their knowledge of: how to choose between the SME Tax Credit scheme and the RDEC, defining your R&D projects as ‘innovative’, identifying eligible costs, technical evidence required. You might find this in the pages, guides or FAQs of their website.

As with any business relationship, you’ll also want a transparent contract and payment process that is not overly binding or disguising any costs that may be applied later.

Benefits to your business

An R&D tax relief expert is another person invested in moving your business forward. Their main aim is to secure money that you can reinvest in your next innovation. You’re bringing in a specialist to work with you, your accountant and your technical staff for a precisely defined purpose. It’s their expertise that reassures you of a completely accurate, fully maximised R&D tax relief claim. No worries about errors, fines or investigations. Just a substantial cheque to look forward to. Our average SME claim is £49,000. That’s got to be worth looking into.

Jamie Smith