3 Key Misconceptions About the R&D Tax Credit

Unfortunately, only one out of twenty small and medium sized companies who are eligible for the United States R&D tax credit take advantage of it.  However, smaller companies should not be dissuaded from filing it – particularly as the tax credit could be worth up to $10 billion annually to firms. Don’t hold back your claim this year, here are three of the most common misunderstandings exposed:

#1: The R&D tax credit is only for white-coated scientists or companies conceiving a new invention

The R&D tax credit is intended to boost innovation and improve business processes. It is not confined to creating the latest tech products or getting a patent. The R&D tax credit also encompasses companies who are improving or modifying products or manufacturing processes, for example, making a product cleaner, quicker, greener, or cheaper. By no means does the development or improvement effort have to equate to rocket science.

Furthermore, companies involved in basic research are understandably primary candidates for the R&D tax credit; however, the credit is also serious about enhancing applied science – resolving a customer’s issue or a production problem using acknowledged scientific principles. Problem-solving on the site, in the field, on the shop floor, or even behind a computer – all may eligible for the R&D tax credit.

#2 The R&D tax credit won’t help state taxes

In most cases, if your company is qualified for the federal credit, it should also benefit from the state credit. Thirty-eight states have a state R&D tax credit – and several states are looking this year to increasing their R&D tax credit or producing one. Several companies have been able to use state R&D tax credits to eradicate or considerably reduce state income taxes.

#3 The R&D  tax credit is reserved for large companies

Historically, many startup companies and small businesses were unable to benefit from the research credit due to operating losses or alternative minimum tax limitations.  However, in addition to making the research credit permanent, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act added two new provisions that are effective January 1, 2016. These two provisions are designed to increase the number of startups and small to mid-sized businesses that can benefit from the credit. In our last post, we went into details of both of these two modifications to the credit.

It is imperative, nonetheless, that businesses recognize what kinds of costs are eligible in order to maximize the credit so that appropriate records can be sustained throughout the year. Swanson Reed’s R&D tax professionals are available to discuss the R&D tax credit and the changes in the new PATH Act – contact us today if you would like to know if your company now qualifies.

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