Our take on the recent ATO Taxpayer Alerts
What has happened recently
The ATO has released four Taxpayer Alerts (TAs) concerning the R&D Tax Incentive program, highlighting the nature of incorrect R&D claims observed by the ATO and AusIndustry (joint program regulators).
The total annual program cost of the R&D Incentive is much higher than expected (~$4.7b). This, combined with companies/advisors not claiming appropriately or trivialising the scheme, has forced the regulator to apply even greater scrutiny.
TAs are linked for your reference as follows:
What this means:
The TAs highlight the regulator targeting aggressive R&D arrangements, broadly described 'whole of project' claims, and claimants/advisors that trivialise what qualifies as R&D. Misconceptions such as activities qualifying based on business risk, and that all software development qualifies as R&D, have been quite common.
The concepts covered are not new. They represent the legislative rules which have been in place since 2012.
The concepts covered align to how RSF view, prepare and have successfully defended all R&D claims reviewed over the recent 12 months.
Any responsible and experienced R&D specialist advisor should be aware of these rules and have experience in dealing with regulator audits.
It is highly likely that over the next 12 months, greater review and audit activity will ensue as greater focus is being placed on R&D claims.
This typically is in the form of an initial request for further information, clarifying aspects of the R&D claim, or a site visit. Over the last 12 months we have been involved in 5 such reviews, all of which have been cleared. Over the last decade, RSF Director, Tim Florea has been involved in over 50 reviews/audits, all successfully defended with positive outcomes.
Both the ATO and AusIndustry undertake regular reviews of claims to ensure compliance, and this should not be a cause of concern.
What we are doing about it:
Applying a greater focus on clearly defined R&D activity descriptions, and advising clients on rules and substantiating documentation required on a real time basis.
Liaising with the regulator to clarify areas of ambiguity.
Providing direct feedback and input as a part of the State Reference Group panel on policy and relevant issues.
We are confident in the integrity of the R&D claims we assist to prepare, and have critically challenged and rejected preparing claims with marginal merit.
Overall we welcome greater scrutiny applied in this area as it will help preserve the R&D Incentive program for the long term to support companies innovating in technology and science, aligned to the National Innovation and Science Agenda.