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Date of publication: July 2017

There are a number of key differences between the UK and the Australian schemes although both, and indeed all the schemes, are based on a scheme originally out of Canada.

Registration Requirements

There is no need to register in order to claim R&D relief in the UK. The claim is made as part of the company’s usual corporation tax return.

To claim R&D relief in Australia you must register for every year you wish to claim and you must be registered before claiming the R&D offset on the company’s tax return.

Differences in Definition

Australia and the UK use subtly different definitions of what qualifies as Research and Development.

The UK defines R&D activity as those actions which resolve a scientific or technological uncertainty. In order to qualify as a scientific or technological uncertainty the possibility/feasibility of solution is in doubt and it must not be readily available or deducible to a competent professional in the field.
Australia says R&D exists where “Activities whose outcome cannot be known or determined in advance on the basis of current knowledge, information or experience, but can only be determined by applying a systematic progression of work that is based on the principles of established science and proceeds from hypothesis to experiment, observation and evaluation, and leads to logical conclusions.”

The key difference is that Australia has a far more rigidly defined process for R&D and requires very specific hypotheses.

Spending Location

The UK permits claims on R&D expenditure incurred anywhere in the world and does not require any R&D to be carried out in the UK. All that is required is the research be supervised by UK company employees.

In contrast Australia will usually only permit claims on R&D activity conducted in Australia. Under special circumstances overseas claims may be permitted but the requirements are strict and greatly restrict the amount claimable.

Expert Review

In Australia what activities are classed as core and supporting activities is determined by AusIndustry. The R&D claim is audited and reviewed by experts in the relevant field to ensure it is R&D.

In the UK the only review is by the tax inspector who will only argue as far as their knowledge permits. The review is mostly about how well you have justified your work as R&D for tax purposes.

Minimum Spend

In order to claim the Australian R&D tax offset you must have spent at least AUD$20,000

There is no such requirement in the UK.

Reliefs

Up to 30 June 2016, Australia permitted a refundable tax offset of 45% for companies with an annual turnover of less than AUD$20 million. Companies exceeding this turnover are permitted a non-refundable rate of 40%.

From 1 July 2016, the refundable rate is 43.5% and the non-refundable rate is 38.5%.

The UK permits SME entities to make additional deduction against taxable profits of 130% of the qualifying expenditure. Effectively claiming 230% of the value of the cost (the original cost, plus an additional 130%)

If the company is lossmaking it may surrender it loss and receive cash at a rate of 14.5%.

This ultimately means that if you are in a loss making position, you may reclaim 33% in cash back on any relevant R&D costs (14.5.% x 230%).

Claims are made through normal corporation tax return, and they aim to consider and pay any claim within 30 days of submission – and are generally pretty good at doing this.

Large companies are required to claim under the Research and Development Expenditure Credit scheme which provides a reclaimable tax credit of 8.8% of the qualifying expenditure.

For more details of the UK reliefs please see the UK R&D quick guide

CPT 5                                                                                                                                                

Disclaimer: This note does not contain a full statement of the law and it does not constitute advice. Please seek advice if you have any questions about the information set out above.

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