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In the United Kingdom, When should you surrender losses for an R&D tax credit?

R&D Tax Credits United Kingdom Surrender Losses
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Luke Hamm, CEO
When claiming R&D tax relief, companies can choose to use their qualifying R&D expenditure as a tax credit – or in other words a cash payment. This process of surrendering losses only applies if they are in a tax loss position as per the tax computation (and not necessarily the financial statement’s position).

Tax credits are available under both the SME and RDEC schemes, though the amount of cash benefit the company receives will depend on the R&D scheme the company is claiming under. As each company’s circumstances will be specific to them there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the right situation to surrender losses. The purpose of this overview is to provide additional detail into those important factors that should always be considered for each company’s individual circumstances.

Knowing when to surrender the loss for an R&D tax credit
Factors to consider to aid the decision process of when or if a tax credit is the appropriate decision for your company:

R&D tax credit scheme – The scheme you are claiming under RDEC or SME
Tax group considerations – Whether another company in your tax group is making profits chargeable to Corporation Tax
Future profits – When are you projected to move into profit – in the short, or medium term?
Past profits – Whether you have any profits in previous periods
Current value of cash – How much more valuable is that cash to the company today, rather than at some point in the future. What is the company paying for credit facilities for example?
Potential tax rate changes in the future – the CT rate is already set to increase for company’s generating more than £50,000 of profit from April 2023 – for company’s generating over £250,000 the top tier CT rate will be 25%. That is quite a difference from the 14.5% rate for cash today.
If you surrender for a tax credit, if the company subsequently turns to profit and the benefit of hindsight says, “we would have been better to carry forwards.” This can be rectified by filing an amended tax return providing the tax return period is still open, the tax credit would be immediately due to be re-paid to HMRC with interest though.

If we first look at the specific options available under each scheme.

R&D tax credit options available under the SME scheme
When an SME company is in a tax loss position, they have 4 options as noted below:

Carry back the loss. If the company made a taxable profit in previous periods the loss can be carried back to offset against previous taxable profits, this would provide a tax refund at the prevailing Corporation Tax rate of that period, currently 19%.
Note previously this option was only available to the immediately preceding 12-month accounting period. Under new rules this has been temporarily extended to 3 prior accounting periods as an additional support to companies as a result of the pandemic. Further details can be found here.
Immediate cash refund at 14.5% of the surrendered losses in the period, the maximum that can be surrendered is the lower of:
a. The total loss in the period (after the R&D claim) or
b. the total enhanced R&D expenditure figure.

Any surplus loss that is not related to the enhanced R&D expenditure can be carried forward and offset against future taxable profits.

Note at current SME rates:
Enhanced R&D expenditure = Qualifying Expenditure *130% (Tax computation adjustment)
Total Enhanced R&D expenditure = Qualifying Expenditure *230% (CT600 form)

Group relief If the company is part of a group for tax purposes these losses can used to reduce the taxable profits of entities within the same tax group. This would provide a tax benefit at the prevailing Corporation Tax rate, which is currently 19%.
Carry forward the loss and use it to reduce future taxable profits. Whilst there is no immediate cash or tax benefit there will be a future tax benefit. Depending on the anticipated time frame for the company to become profitable the Corporation Tax rate may well be higher than the current rate of 19%.
The above are the 4 options available and whilst one company’s position may allow for just 1 of the options to be used, others may use a combination of methods according to their individual and specific circumstances.

R&D tax credit options available under the RDEC scheme
HM Treasury designed the RDEC scheme so that the RDEC adjustment is accounted for in the Income Statement (above the tax charge line) rather than as part of the tax adjustment in the corporation tax computation. That is why the best practice is to record the RDEC adjustment as a credit in other income.

When a company is in a tax loss position and intending to claim a tax credit under the RDEC scheme this is based on the RDEC figure, which is currently calculated at 13% of the qualifying R&D expenditure. The tax credit amount is then calculated net of the Corporation Tax liability accrued on the RDEC income being recognised in the P&L, currently 19%.

A company has 3 options as noted below:

Immediate cash refund at 81% of the RDEC value, assuming the current 19% Corporation Tax rate, with the 19% available to carry forwards and offset against future periods profits or group relieved.
Group relief offset your RDEC against the Corporation Tax payable in another company in your tax group, this would provide a benefit of the prevailing Corporation Tax rate currently 19%.
Carry forward the RDEC to be offset against future Corporation Tax liabilities. This will be at the Corporation Tax rate in place at the time the claim is submitted, currently 19%. If the prevailing Corporation Tax rate in the future is higher or lower, it will not impact the benefit (unlike the SME scheme carry forward).
In order to surrender losses for a tax credit under the RDEC scheme, there are steps that must be followed in a specific order.

Before you are able to claim the cash credit under the RDEC scheme there may be other tax obligations that you need to pay before HMRC will make the payment, again this is different from the SME scheme. For example:

Discharge the Corporation Tax liability for any other accounting period that was due and has not yet been paid.
Discharge any other liabilities of your company with HMRC e.g., overdue PAYE or VAT liabilities.
Are payable tax credits subject to a cap?
Yes, each scheme has its own specific requirements restricting the amount of a payable tax credit, the intention is to prevent companies taking more from the pot that they put in whilst still encouraging innovation. The differences between the caps are explained below:

The SME cap
For full accounting periods starting from 1 April 2021 (so first full 12-month accounting period ended 31st March 2022).

The payable tax credit is capped at

3 x total PAYE

NIC (employers and employees) paid to HMRC for all employees within the company

If a company, therefore, has no employees, PAYE, or NIC contributions the maximum payable tax credit is £20,000.

The RDEC cap
The payable tax credit is capped at

total PAYE


NIC (employers and employees) paid to HMRC relating only to employees included in the RDEC claim

(i.e., not the entire company employees).

Amounts in excess of the cap can be carried forward for use in future periods.

In summary
These are the main points to take into consideration and often the decision involves an element of polishing the crystal ball to look into the future, hopefully, this overview allows you to make an informed decision as to the right course of action for your circumstances with the facts at hand overlayed against best predictions of future activity.

Do you need help? Contact Eric Larson for guidance:
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