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R&D tax credits for building companies

When we think about the business of building, we tend to think in terms of design and aesthetic outcomes rather than the engineering advances that are needed for those buildings to be realised.

How we live, work and enjoy space evolves with every new generation and the construction industry continually responds with innovative solutions. New plans or ways of using space demand that experts to come up with a way of achieving beautiful design. Those head-scratching moments and the continuing development of infrastructure come from R&D. Simply, if it’s not a routine task or maintenance, there is a fair chance that it qualifies as R&D.

At the heart of R&D for tax purposes, development needs to satisfy two core tests:

  • An advance in science or technology
  • Scientific or technological uncertainty

R&D for tax purposes takes place when a project seeks to achieve an advance in science or technology, for example:

A typical claim is likely to include:

  • Process improvements
  • Increased production and scalability
  • Technology and software
  • Improving standards

The know-how of experienced contractors is an ever-developing knowledge bank. It is often taken for granted, but it’s their expertise that make new spaces possible.

What qualifies for R&D in Construction?

Using a broad categorisation, there are five areas which R&D claims apply to in Construction; staff costs, subcontractors, externally provided works (EPWs), consumables and heat, light and power.

The majority of most R&D tax relief claims are based around staff costs. This includes people directly involved with the activity and others who are indirectly involved.

An example of direct costs would be a specific solutions architect – they tend to be defined, technical roles who are the doers of the project. A common misconception is they have to be scientists and academics, this is incorrect. If they are a competent professional whose expertise is part of the R&D effort, then they should be included.

Indirect staff are people who are also involved in supporting the R&D project such as management, procurement, control functions, where they help enable the R&D to happen and also are part of the management of the process. These costs are usually overlooked and can be a big impact on the claim.

Where you may not have the expertise in house, you may rely on a third party to help with part of the R&D process. These claims are qualifying expenses for the R&D tax relief scheme.

Like subcontractors, you may not have directly employed staff but want to have resource for a particular role who act in the same way as employees – i.e. under your care custody and control. These costs form part of the claim.

Any items that are used only for R&D and have no use once the project is completed so consumed by the project is also qualifying expenditure.

When you know how much R&D you are doing, you can then attribute a proportion of your heat, light, power & water to the R&D tax relief claim.

Typical scenarios

Structural engineering of glass

Using glass in buildings is no new thing, but how glass is used keeps evolving. For instance, the designers of the Pinnacle building in the city of London wanted to create a beautiful curved glass top – but the engineering seemed impossible. The challenge was to have single panes of curved glass that could sustain the wind tolerance at the planned height. Whilst the project was abandoned, companies have continued to develop solutions and systems that could potentially achieve this breath-taking effect. One of the most significant challenges is how you test these innovations before they get to site – these are all great examples of R&D in the construction sector.

Resin demand and installation

Our client has been a leading supplier of aggregate materials to the south east for decades and has seen the rising demand in resin products for both residential and commercial developments. The challenge they faced was installing the resin in wet conditions which can be difficult and create a poor fix. Our client started to experiment with different material blends and types of resin to see if they could achieve a product that was more weatherproof on install. For the past 18 months, they have continued to create and test different solutions and now entering the next stage of development.

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