What are SR&ED Tax Incentives?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

city-towers-residencyWe’re getting a little sciencey with this Tidbits post, but don’t worry, we’ll keep it simple (lord knows I need to do that). So what is Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) [pronounced ‘shred’] Tax incentive program? It’s a federal government tax incentive program administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) that encourages Canadian businesses of all sizes, and in all sectors to conduct research and development (R&D) in Canada. It is the largest single source of federal government support for industrial R&D. The SR&ED Program gives claimants cash refunds and / or tax credits for their expenditures on eligible R&D work done in Canada.

With SR&ED there are two benefits. The first lets you deduct SR&ED expenditures from income for tax purposes. Second, you get a SR&ED Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which you can use to reduce Part I tax payable (corporations). And, you could a refund if the ITC is greater than your taxes owing.

You can be a Canadian-Controlled Private Corporations (CCPC), other corporations, proprietorship(s) or trusts. Partnerships are treated quite differently, as they are not considered a taxpayer, and, as such, cannot earn Investment Tax Credits (ITCs).

SR&ED Investment Tax Credit (ITC)

Generally, a Canadian-controlled private corporation (CCPC) can earn a refundable ITC of 35%, 100% refundable on qualified SR&ED current expenditures and 40% refundable on qualified SR&ED capital expenditures, up to a maximum threshold of $3 million of qualified SR&ED expenditures for SR&ED carried out in Canada. A CCPC can also earn a 20% non-refundable ITC on any amount over that threshold. However, for a CCPC that meets the definition of qualifying corporation, the 20% ITC on any amount over that threshold is refundable, 40% refundable on qualified SR&ED current and capital expenditures.

For other corporations, the ITC is 20% of qualified SR&ED expenditures. The ITC can be applied to tax payable and is not refundable.

For individuals (proprietorships) and trusts, the ITC rate is 20% of qualified SR&ED expenditures, only 40% of which is refundable. After applying the ITCs against tax payable, individuals and trusts can get a refund for part of the ITCs.

What work qualifies for SR&ED tax incentives?

To qualify, the work must meet the definition of Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED). “Scientific research and experimental development” means systematic investigation or search that is carried out in a field of science or technology by means of experiment or analysis and that is:

  1. a)     Basic research, namely, work undertaken for the advancement of scientific knowledge without a specific practical application in view,
  2. b)    Applied research, namely, work undertaken for the advancement of scientific knowledge with a specific practical application in view, or
  3. c)     Experimental development, namely, work undertaken for the purpose of achieving technological advancement for the purpose of creating new, or improving existing, materials, devices, products or processes, including incremental improvements thereto,

And, in applying this definition in respect of a taxpayer, includes

  1. d)    Work undertaken by or on behalf of the taxpayer with respect to engineering, design, operations research, mathematical analysis, computer programming, data collection, testing or psychological research, where the work is commensurate with the needs, and directly in support, of work described in paragraph (a), (b), or (c) that is undertaken in Canada by or on behalf of the taxpayer,

But does not include work with respect to

  1. e)     Market research or sales promotion,
  2. f)      Quality control or routine testing of materials, devices, products or processes,
  3. g)     Research in the social sciences or the humanities,
  4. h)    Prospecting, exploring or drilling for, or producing, minerals, petroleum or natural gas,
  5. i)      The commercial production of a new or improved material, device or product or the commercial use of a new or improved process,
  6. j)      Style changes, or
  7. k)    Routine data collection;

How do I calculate my SR&ED expenditures and investment tax credit?

If you have done work that qualifies for Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax incentives, you can claim the following expenditures:

  • SR&ED salary or wages
  • Expenditures for materials for SR&ED
  • Contract Expenditures for SR&ED Performed on Behalf of a Claimant (policy)
  • SR&ED Lease Expenditures (policy)
  • SR&ED overhead and other expenditures (traditional method only)
  • Third-party payments
  • SR&ED capital expenditures

To calculate your SR&ED expenditures, you have to choose between the traditional method and proxy method. The traditional method involves claiming all of the SR&ED overhead and other expenditures you incurred during the year. The proxy method involves calculating a substitute amount for overhead and other expenditures, called the prescribed proxy amount.

Your SR&ED expenditures are accumulated in a pool of deductible SR&ED expenditures. This pool is your current and capital expenditures carried out in Canada, which you can deduct when calculating the income from your business. Any payments you get whether government, non-government or contract, such as research and development tax credits from a province or territory, will reduce this pool of deductible SR&ED expenditures and the total qualified SR&ED expenditures.

Are you using equipment both for SR&ED and commercial purposes? If so, you can claim a partial ITC for this shared-use equipment. However, if you dispose of this equipment and used it for a SR&ED ITC then there could be a recapture of the ITC and you may have to repay back part of it.

SR&ED is a great way for those businesses doing research and development for a product, whether physical or intangible, that they want to bring to market. If you think your R&D could fall into SR&ED then you need to talk to a professional that specializes in SR&ED. It can be very complicated, and needs to be done by someone specializing in this area.

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