R&D tax news – Improvements confirmed in the Draft Finance Bill 2012 published on 6 December 2011

John Moore, December 6th, 2011

As we previously reported in our article dated 22 September the Government had announced its intention to make changes to the way the R&D tax relief operates and to legislate for these in the Finance Bill 2012. The Government published the draft legislation for comment on 6 December 2011 and it contains the following proposed changes to the relief:

Changes to SME Scheme

The majority of the changes will affect companies claiming under the SME scheme. These changes are:

  • The rate of additional deduction will be increased from the current 100% to 125% for expenditure incurred on or after 1 April 2012. The total deduction for qualifying R&D expenditure will therefore be 225%.
  • The rate of payable tax credit claimable by those companies not paying corporation tax will be reduced to 11% of the surrenderable losses from the current 12.5%. Whilst this looks like a reduction in the relief it is necessary to keep within the EC state aid limits on the value of the relief due to the increase from 100% to 125% above. The effect of this is to reduce the amount of cash payable to the company from the current 25% of the enhanced losses to 24.75%.
  • The vaccine research relief (VRR) will be withdrawn for SMEs with effect for expenditure incurred on or after 1 April 2012. Currently those companies that are incurring qualifying expenditure under both the R&D tax relief scheme and the VRR scheme are able to claim both reliefs. From the effective date SMEs will no longer be able to claim under the VRR scheme. For affected companies, and very few claims are being made, any reduction in the support given will be to some extent offset by the increase in the amount given under the R&D tax relief scheme and the further relaxations below.
  • The rule limiting the amount of the payable R&D tax credit to the amount of the company’s PAYE/NIC liability paid in an accounting period will be removed. This will have effect for accounting periods ending on or after 1 April 2012. This means that SMEs with small salary and wage bills may now have access to increased cash refunds, an issue which has often prevented such companies from being able to obtain the cash funding that they had hoped the incentive would provide.
  • A company that is not a going concern may not make a claim under the SME scheme. The consultation process had invited comments on the potential to change the definition of going concern. What was proposed was a very much more subjective test and one that we were concerned would lead to less clarity for claimant companies. The existing definition is being kept, however the legislation proposed clarifies that where a company is in administration or liquidation it is not a going concern and is excluded from claiming the SME scheme relief.

Changes to both the SME scheme and the large company schemes

  • As announced at the budget the draft legislation removes the requirement for a company to spend at least £10,000 on qualifying R&D before it able to make a claim. We consider that this is good news for the incentivisation of those companies performing R&D at a small scale. Clearly this small scale work may lead to further R&D projects in the future.
  • For those companies that have to use “externally provided workers”, where the R&D work is not carried out by employees, but where the labour is supplied by a staff provider, then the existing rules have often prevented companies from claiming all of the costs of these workers. This was due to the need for there to be only three contractual parties in the arrangements. For expenditure incurred on or after 1 April 2012 this restriction is removed. This will enable companies to more easily obtain the relief in situations where they need flexibility over the way in which the labour is supplied to them.

Our view

Again the Government are demonstrating their commitment to listening to the view of business about how best to target the reliefs that are designed to incentivise the performance of R&D in the UK. The Government have estimated that these changes will cost approximately £60m per year. We welcome the on-going commitment to the improvement of the schemes, in this case particularly to the advantage of SMEs who often have an urgent need for effective cash funding of R&D.

 

Please do not hesitate to contact John Moore on 0207 292 8850 or at john.moore@kinglybrookesllp.co.uk if you would like to discuss the potential impact of this change to your R&D tax relief claims, or any other aspect of the R&D tax relief regime.