UK engineering firms are wasting millions due to a tax blind spot

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More than 8 in 10 engineering firms in the UK could be eligible for research and development (R&D) tax relief on new products and services, but only 39% of them have ever claimed. Businesses in the sector are throwing away millions of pounds, even though a massive 83% of them have developed new products or business processes in the past two years, research shows (see 1 below).

This means they are in line for valuable R&D tax relief that the government provides to encourage innovation. But despite 80% of firms being aware of R&D tax relief, only 39% report ever claiming it. This is either because they don’t think they qualify or they incorrectly believe that it is expensive.

The UK national average for the number of firms that have ever claimed is 36.8%, roughly in line with the building and engineering sector whose executives massively underestimate the value of the average SME R&D tax relief claim by £23,011, according to the Censuswide survey.

Executives believed the average value to be just £22,989 when the true figure is £46,000 for firms in all sectors nationwide. Those engineering and building firms who have undertaken R&D over the past two years report spending £292,001 on average.

R&D doesn’t even have to have been successful to qualify and claims can be backdated to the last two years (see 2 below).

The engineering and building sector could be squandering tens of millions of pounds a year. The situation is that the majority of firms in the industry could be eligible to claim, but a minority do so. In a world of tight margins this situation has got to change, and cost benefit doesn’t come into it because most good R&D tax relief firms will work on a commission basis.

It’s important that firms recognize that R&D is not all about lab coats and multi-national companies, and the R&D doesn’t even have to have been successful to qualify. R&D tax credits can help to reduce a limited company’s corporation tax bill or be claimed as a cash sum reimbursement from the HMRC. R&D tax relief only applies to those businesses that are liable for corporation tax, including businesses making a loss.

  1. Source: Censuswide survey of 1,000 senior and middle managers nationwide
  2. Claims for R&D tax relief must be made within two years of the end of the tax year in which the R&D was undertaken.

Mark Tighe is CEO of specialist tax relief firm, Catax.

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