With not much in the way of public fanfare, HMRC recently launched their beta online platform to support the submission of SME R&D claims. As we’re in the R&D software platform business ourselves, you can imagine we had been awaiting this development with bated breath! So, now that it’s broken cover – what does it look like and what’s it for?
Well, our first impressions are that the tool is surprisingly basic and comes with a couple of fairly substantial limitations. The good things first – it allows SMEs to present their R&D claim information directly to HMRC. They can enter the usual costs – employees, connected and unconnected EPWs and subcontractors, software, consumables and costs for clinical trial volunteers. They can also enter a technical description of their projects, covering the baseline state of technology, the advance attempted, and the technical challenges faced on the way.
The big catch is that the portal assumes that the SME knows what they want to claim for – and that’s a big assumption. If you’ve ever been asked to assist with a client’s claim, you know that they usually need help in assessing their SME status, the boundaries of their R&D, and whether their work would even be considered eligible by HMRC. In the new portal, however, there’s not much in-built support to help claimants or agents who are unfamiliar with the scheme to answer these questions. It also doesn’t help companies to calculate whether they’re an SME, or support SMEs who have received grants, or undertaken work as a subcontractor to a Large Company. This means that complex claims with expenditure eligible under the SME and RDEC schemes are essentially not supported at all. That affects a pretty chunky number of companies, particularly within the life sciences and manufacturing sectors.
Maybe these areas will be addressed in the future. In the meantime, we’re confident that WhisperClaims, our award-winning cloud based platform for R&D tax submissions, will continue to prove more useful (and useable) to our accountancy clients, helping them generate significant additional revenues by delivering truly comprehensive R&D support to their clients.