Apr 28, 2021
While the Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit has been around for some time, it remains one of the best opportunities for manufacturing and distribution companies to minimize their tax liability and leverage an immediate source of cash. The credit was designed to provide a tax incentive for U.S. companies to increase spending on research and development in the U.S.
How to qualify
What constitutes as R&D is much broader than manufacturers realize. Applying to not only the development of products, but also activities and operations, such as new manufacturing processes, environmental improvements, software development, and quality enhancements. The R&D credit is available to any business that incurs expenses while attempting to develop new or improved products or processes while on U.S. soil. A four-part test has been established to help manufacturers determine if they qualify:
- An activity that creates a new or improved business component of function, performance, reliability, or quality;
- Technological in nature and related to physical or biological science, engineering, or computer science;
- Intended to discover information to eliminate uncertainty in capability, method, or design;
- An activity that includes a process of experimentation, or evaluating one or more alternatives to achieve a result. This might include modeling, simulation, or systematic trial-and-error.
How to claim the credit
Since the credit may be claimed for both current and prior tax years, manufacturers should document their R&D activities to ensure they are positioned to claim the credit in both situations. You will be required to factually provide the number of qualified research expenses (QREs) paid with documentation such as payroll records, general ledge expense detail, project lists, and notes, etc. Qualified research expenses are defined as:
- Wages paid to people directly working on, supervising, or directly supporting the development process
- Supplies used or consumed during the development process
- Contract research expenses paid to a third party for performing qualified research activities on behalf of the company
- The cost of cloud service providers or leasing computers used in research activities
It is important to note that research doesn’t have to lead to a successful product or process for the expenses to count. Even if the project or research failed, you can still claim the credit.
Additional tax benefits
- Alternative Minimum Tax – Eligible small businesses with an average of $50 million or less in gross receipts over the past three years may claim the federal R&D tax credit against their alternative minimum tax liability beginning in 2016.
- Payroll Tax – Eligible startups can use the credit to offset payroll withholding taxes. Startups using the provision must have gross receipts of less than $5 million and no gross receipts prior to the five taxable years ending in the then-current tax year. The credit towards payroll withholding taxes is limited to $250,000 in one year, but companies can carry forward excess credits to apply to future payroll withholding taxes.
How we can help
For more information about R&D credits or reducing your company’s risk of facing penalties, contact our Manufacturing & Distribution Practice Leader below.
Connect With Us.
Robert Bradshaw, CPA
Manufacturing & Distribution Practice Leader
firstname.lastname@example.org | 419.891.1040