How to better forecast your R&D tax claim

Diagnostax Blog 2: R&D Better Forecasting

How to better forecast your R&D tax claim

When R&D tax relief first fell onto your radar, you were no doubt blown away by the generous benefit, of up to £33 back for every £100 you invest in R&D. But the truth is – as you may have already experienced – for R&D projects, the amount you can claim ranges anywhere from 0 to 33%, depending on several factors.

As a business that is investing in research and development activity, and making R&D tax relief claims, it’s important for you to have as much certainty over your R&D claim, as early as possible, even as early as the planning phase. But why?

Well, an R&D claim only gets you money back for costs you have already incurred. This means you’re not going to get any benefit from the investment until at least a year or so down the line, or if you’ve really got your act together, several months.

Getting a better understanding of what will qualify before the project, allows for a more accurate estimate of the true cost of the investment, at the outset. At the front of the project this enables more accurate budgeting for the time and resource invested. At the back of the project when the claim comes to realisation, this enables more accurate cashflow forecasting so you can plan for any potential future investment.


To get a better understanding of the true cost of your R&D investment, there are three big questions you need to be able to answer BEFORE you kickstartyour next R&D project:

  1. Is it even an R&D project?
  2. What qualifying activity can I claim for?
  3. What R&D rate should be applied to the qualifying activity?

Let’s take a look at each of these questions in a little more detail….

R&D investment
  1. Is it even an R&D project?

You’ve got to get past this hurdle first and believe us when we say, we still work with businesses that misidentify R&D projects all the time. To err on the side of caution it’s best to keep a record of all projects that you think will qualify and check it out with your R&D adviser if you are unsure.

So, how do you know if your project is eligible?

Well, to be eligible, an R&D Project must be:

Making a considerable improvement to existing technology. This doesn’t always mean it needs to be ground-breaking work. If you are working to overcome technical uncertainties in order make your products, services or processes, faster, less expensive, or better in some way, the project may be eligible for R&D tax relief.


Overcoming technological challenges, where the solution is not readily apparent to a qualified or experienced professional in their field of technology.

If it’s an R&D project, then it goes on the list, and you need to determine what costs you’ll be able to claim.

R&D project

2. What qualifying activity can I claim costs for?

To qualify, R&D activity must fall into one of the below categories:

  • Staff costs
    You can include the salaries, pensions and NIC of staff who are directly involved in the R&D project.
  • Reimbursed expenses paid to employees or directors on R&D travel
    You can include reimbursed expenses claimed by employees or directors on travel related to the R&D project.
  • Outsourced subcontractors or freelancers
    You can include 65% of the costs paid for “unconnected” subcontractors (under the SME R&D scheme).
  • Materials for prototype builds
    You can include the cost of the materials required for designing and constructing a prototype which will not be sold.
  • Ancillaries – utilities, software licences
    You can include an appropriate proportion of utilities and software costs used in your R&D projects.

Unfortunately it’s not always black and white, and knowing whether the activity ACTUALLY fits into a qualifying category can throw up some tricky red herrings.

software costs used in your R&D projects

Here’s a couple to keep an eye out for:

Software and Hosting….

Now this one’s a little cheeky. Although software licences can be claimed, hosting costs on their own do not fit into a qualifying category of R&D. This can be frustrating as businesses often incur large hosting costs used purely for R&D, so feel they should be included…but currently they aren’t.

Having said that, hosting can often include a lot of services, and depending on how the company uses them, there is the possibility they could be eligible under the software licence header. As you can see, this area is complex and your R&D provider would need to look into this for you, to help apportion the amount linked to a qualifying category.

Storage, telecom and data costs are just out of the game, they do not qualify.

Staff time…

Time allocation for employees involved in R&D projects will often be one of your biggest costs, and so it is vital to apportion everyone’s time as accurately as possible to get better certainty over your R&D claim. Record time spent by those directors, employees, qualified staff working on the R&D project.

It’s also important to make sure you are including staff costs for all indirect qualifying activity. This includes roles of support staff where they are engaged in activities such as finance and HR, that indirectly support an R&D project

3. What R&D rate should be applied to the qualifying activity?

So now we know the project is eligible, and the different qualifying categories the activity must slot into (including the nuances), we want to know the R&D rate that can be applied to the activities.

There are three main factors that could impact the amount of the costs incurred that you can actually claim back:

R&D SME Scheme vs. RDEC Scheme

Depending on which scheme you are claiming under, this can significantly impact the rate you can claim.

  • RDEC SCHEME: Following the 2021 Budget, RDEC increased to a 13% tax credit for expenditure incurred on or after 1 April 2020. As RDEC is subject to corporation tax, the net of cash benefit is currently 10.53%
  • SME SCHEME: The SME R&D Scheme is currently an additional 130% tax deduction for qualifying expenditure. So this equates to a 24.7% cash benefit for profitable companies, and up to 33.35% cash benefit for loss making companies that can claim the SME “tax credit”. Also note that following the 2021 Budget, SME tax credit claims are now subject to an annual cap of £20k plus 300% of the company’s PAYE and National Insurance Contributions liability.

The other major difference with the RDEC scheme is that you cannot claim for costs paid to limited company subcontractors.

Subcontracting vs. Inhouse

If your business sub-contracts R&D work to a third party subcontractor (unconnected to your company) – you will still be able to claim for some qualifying costs but the relief may only be 65% of those costs.

NOTE. If you have taken on subcontracted R&D work to your business, you might not be able to claim R&D tax relief at all, or the only route available to you is under the RDEC scheme – reducing your claim to 10.53% of the qualifying expenditure.

Profit Position vs. Loss Position

The upfront cashflow benefit is actually greater for loss-making SMEs. Here’s a look at the how this affects the rates:

Loss: If you’re going to be in a loss position, then HMRC will make a cash payment to you of up to 33.35p for every £1 spent on R&D activities.

Profit: If you’re going to be in a profit position then HMRC will make a cash payment to you (or offset against your corporation bill) of up to 24.7p for every £1 spent on R&D activities.

Then timings come into play….

Loss: If your company is going to make a loss, you can make the claim as soon as your accounts are prepared and ready for filing.

Profit: If your company is likely to be profitable, it’s a little different. The biggest benefit will come by reducing the tax bill which is due nine months after your year end.

Diagnostax. If your company is likely to be profitable, it’s a little different. The biggest benefit will come by reducing the tax bill which is due nine months after your year end.

R&D for Financial Forecasting

As you can see there’s actually a lot to consider when it comes to forecasting your R&D claim. Any steps taken towards getting a more accurate idea of your R&D claim in advance of the project are worthwhile.

If you are a business that is already claiming R&D tax relief, you should be able to retrospectively use the information from your previous claims to help you navigate some of the more challenging nuances of R&D tax relief.


If you think you might be eligible to claim R&D Tax Relief, or you’d like to discuss your R&D claim with us, please book a call.

Diagnostax.Fast forward your R&D Tax Credit

Diagnostax Blog 7: Fast Forward R&D Claim

With the backlash of Covid-19 and the relentless lockdowns, businesses have been hit hard. It’s hardly surprising cashflow is on every business owners mind right now. This is just one of many reasons, you might be looking to fast forward your R&D tax claim. If successful, bringing forward your R&D tax refund could be a huge helping hand for your business.


So how can a company fast forward their R&D Tax Credit?  Well, there are four routes we’re going to share with you, that are realistic options and easy to implement.

These are:

  • Shortening your year-end
  • Shortening your year-end…..again
  • Applying for advance funding
  • Getting your account filed on time

Before we look at the first option, let’s start with a quick recap on the timeframes. The hard and fast deadline for making a claim is two years after the end of the accounting year in which you incurred the costs. If you don’t claim within that two year window, you have missed out and there is no way to claw it back.

R&D tax claims are made via the company’s tax return which cover the same period as the company’s accounting year. You can only prepare and submit your accounts and tax return after the end of your accounting year. So in theory the earliest you can make your R&D Tax Credit claim is the day after the end of your accounting year.



Companies House automatically sets your company year-end based on the last day of the month the business was incorporated. But you can change your accounting year-end.

If you are experiencing cashflow issues, shortening your company year-end to bring the R&D Tax credit forward could be a way to get money back into your business faster. If money is tight, you should seriously consider shortening your current accounting period end, so you can make the claim as soon as feasibly possible.

Here’s an example.

A Software Company with a June year end has R&D costs of £100k and total losses of £100k up to 31 March 2021. However, they have forecasted their spend to be significantly less up to June.As a result they decide to shorten the year-end by nine months, bringing it forward to 31st March 2021. By doing this they can now submit an R&D Tax Credit claim of £33,350 to HMRC, three months earlier.


There’s actually no limit on how often you can shorten your accounting period year end. If you are expecting a fairly sizable credit, you could bring your year-end – and claim – forward by 6 months, say from September 2021 to April 2021, getting the cash back into your business by the June. You could then bring it forward again to the September and get even more cash into your business. The only thing to be mindful of is the fees associated with shortening your accounting period but these are likely to be minimal in comparison to the benefit of the cash to your business.


There are lending companies that may lend you up to 50% of your tax credits up to six months before the end of your accounting year. The lender would need to perform a due diligence and eligibility assessment, to determine just how much they could lend you. If they agree to provide the funding the money is transferred to you, and when HMRC pays your R&D claim, you use the credit to repay the debt.

Here’s an example:

A Manufacturing company has been claiming R&D Tax Relief for three years and each year they get approximately £100k back from HMRC.They have a June year-end, but their accounts and tax usually take nine months to finalise. Advance funding is available in January 2021 for the June 2021 year-end, which would otherwise only have been received in around May 2022. This effectively brings the cashflow forward by 16 months, with only the financing cost to the client.

Diagnostax. R&D tax relief claim


The earlier you get can get all the necessary company information to your accountant, the quicker they can process your R&D Tax Relief claim. You can’t do one without the other. We don’t want to be waiting to submit our clients R&D Tax Claims because we haven’t got expense receipts! It’s valuable funds waiting to come back into your business.


If you’d like to explore bringing forward your R&D tax claim, we can help you, please book a call.

Diagnostax. R&D project fails

Diagnostax Blog 8: Failed R&D Projects

Can I claim tax relief for failed R&D projects?

Failure is a reality of life, and the same applies in business. Failure comes hand in hand with innovation; it’s a by-product of learning and development. So to innovate, is to take a risk. When you start an R&D project, you have no guarantee that the project is going to be a success. You know that. That’s why R&D tax credits exist, to incentivise businesses to take that risk.


R&D tax relief is not solely aimed at rewarding successful projects, it is intended to incentivise certain behaviour in businesses. The Government Guidelines on the meaning of research and development for tax purposes, clearly state: “Even if the advance in science or technology sought by a project is not achieved or not fully realised, R&D still takes place.” (Paragraph 10)

Diagnostax. Failed R&D is still R&D

Here’s four points you should consider if an R&D project you are working on fails:

  • Not all projects achieve the advance in science or technology they are seeking:
    As long as the projects seeks to achieve an advance in science or technology and completes work to attempt to resolve the scientific or technological uncertainty, R&D applies.
  • Projects that fail can often be the most fruitful, from a learning perspective:
    The information from these projects is invaluable. The more you fail, the more you learn and get closer to your goal of success.
  • If a project fails, keep a record of why:
    If it’s a technical reason make sure you raise this with us, and that we consider this when you claim.
  • If a project fails for business, commercial or legal reasons, it’s not a failed R&D project:
    You still have to look at the advances sought, and technical difficulties and challenges faced. Provided the project meets these criteria, you can claim, whether or not you achieved the intended outcome.




Attempted integration of several systems for a bespoke enterprise resource planning system, where APIs were either not set up or of limited use. Significant time and effort went into trying to find a workable solution, but technical difficulties lead the project to be put on hold whilst other solutions were considered. The investment of staff time and external subcontractors had run to £120k and lead to an R&D tax refund of £25k in total.  



Development of an adjusted process to reduce waste in the manufacturing process. The company manufactures car parts and was trying to find ways to reduce the waste materials produced in the production process. After trialling three different methods and testing new materials, no significant reductions in waste were available. The project was abandoned due to other business areas becoming prioritised when the market changed due to Covid. The in-house team’s time and some materials and tooling costs were incurred, which resulted in a tax credit refund of £55k.


An R&D Tax claim can be a very welcome friend, following the financial hit of a failed project, it takes the edge off the risk and enables further investment into innovation.  It’s a great way to fund R&D projects and claw back the losses from the failed work, so you can go again. If successful, R&D tax credits can provide businesses with the funding to kickstart further projects and enable a continuous flow of funded innovation.  And innovation promotes more innovation.


If you think you might be eligible for R&D Tax Relief, and you’d like to find out more about how we can help you make your R&D claim, please book a call.

R&D Blogs for you

R&D Blogs all of the advice and guidance you need in one place to better understand research and development.

It’s time to put your front foot forward…manage risk…educate…raise awareness…
create opportunity and protect yourself.

And we’ve done the leg work for you.

R&D in one place

R&D Blogs all of the advice and guidance you need in one place to better understand research and development.

It’s time to put your front foot forward…manage risk…educate…raise awareness…
create opportunity and protect yourself.

And we’ve done the leg work for you.

Diagnostax: R&D Blogs for you

R&D Blogs all of the advice and guidance you need in one place to better understand research and development.

It’s time to put your front foot forward…manage risk…educate…raise awareness…
create opportunity and protect yourself.

And we’ve done the leg work for you.

Secret R&D

Diagnostax Blog 12: Secret R&D

Are you sat on secret R&D?

Even though you already claim R&D Tax Credits, there’s every possibility your company could be sat on ‘secret’ R&D. But what do we mean by ‘secret’ R&D? Well, we often come across clients that have developed or built a product, process or service specifically for themselves without recognising that what they are doing is research and development. They are so focused on just ‘doing’ the work they do, they don’t recognise the steps they are taking. It’s only when you start thinking in a certain way that you begin to recognise that you are sat on products, service and processes that you could claim R&D Tax Relief for.

With that in mind, we want to share some examples, to give you an idea of the types of activity and situations in which secret R&D occurs.


Secret R&D can manifest in many different ways, through things like:

  • Investing in technology and bespoke integration to improve efficiency
  • Developing specialist software to resolve inefficiencies in business processes
  • Developing new products to improve service delivery
  • Developing an existing service to improve customer experience
  • Developing new systems to improve business processes

Here’s five real life examples of businesses that had been sat on secret R&D..

Are you sat on secret R&D?

Business: SAAS Technology solutions
Secret R&D:
Business as Usual
R&D Tax Refund:

Working with clients to deliver bespoke technology business solutions for a wide range of industries and business scenarios, this company delivers R&D qualifying projects pretty much every day. The business was so involved in the day-to-day, they didn’t recognise that they were delivering research and development, daily. The company had also invested significant resource into the development of their own technology solution, just seeing it as an internal project needed to improve their efficiency.

Working with a client they recently developed one of the UK’s most advanced smart metering platforms leading to just over £7.5K of R&D tax credits.

Business: E-commerce
Secret R&D:
Resolving Inefficiency
R&D Tax Refund:

Anecommerce business specialising in sports accessories, developed a specialist shipping integration software to improve inefficiencies in their business processes.Working with a subcontractor, they modified a program to make it more efficient for use within their business. Significant improvements were made to the software program to integrate the software into their systems, and the internal R&D project generated a claim worth £6k over a two year period.

Although the business set out to resolve inefficiencies in their business process, they were too involved in the project to recognise their own work to be innovative.

Business: Scaffolding contractors
Secret R&D:
Save Time & Money
R&D Tax Refund:
These guys are experts in scaffolding, specialising in the provision of scaffolding installations to a wide range of industries.They had invested in the development of a free-standing scaffolding structure to be used for internal scaffolding, primarily to save their time and cost when setting up jobs.

The company was clueless that what they had set out to do was an R&D project. They just wanted to save themselves time and money! However, in the process they developed a new innovative scaffolding product applicable industry wide and acquired a corporation tax repayment of over £22K for a two year period.

Business: Gastropub & Hotel
Secret R&D: Improve customer experience
R&D Tax Refund: £7K

A Gastropub and Hotel based in the North of England, wanted to provide a menu that catered for all tastes and needs, as they wanted everyone to find something really good on the menu. They knew it didn’t make economic sense to have a dozen different menus, so they worked on a new menu to cater for all dietary requirements.

The gastropub developed an innovative menu that could be produced to cater for vegan and gluten free diets, without compromising on the customer experience.

The owner was convinced there wouldn’t be a claim because it’s just ‘what they do’ but when he reflected on all the hard work that goes into crafting their menus he was able to see the numerous research and development steps in their work.

This work realised an R&D Tax claim of £7k for the gastropub.

Business: Fashion & Apparel
Secret R&D: Sales toolR&D
Tax Refund: £15K

A women’s clothing manufacturer and retailer, developed a unique sports clothing range for pregnant women which they understood would qualify for an R&D claim. However, alongside this they delivered a complex website project which included the development of a global directory of maternity fitness instructors. Developed as a sales tool, the business was completely unaware that they had built something completely new and innovative.

Altogether the R&D projects equalled a total benefit of just over £15K.

Ensuring you identify all the R&D in your business requires a mindset change, and cultural shift to make it work business wide. You have to change the way you think about what you are doing day-to-day. Encourage your employees to constantly challenge the way they – and others – do things, to make suggestions for improvements and bring forward new ideas.

You could be sat on secret R&D gold.


If you think you might be eligible for R&D Tax Relief, and you’d like to find out more about how we can help you make your R&D claim, please book a call.

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