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Overcoming bottlenecks to deliver a sustainable R&D in-house tax service

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When introducing an R&D tax advisory service to an accountancy practice, or expanding a current one, many companies find that they very quickly run into bottlenecks. Whether it’s a case of not having enough trained staff or not enough hours in the day, or even existing processes getting in the way, these bottlenecks can prevent a practice from realising the benefits of offering the service, or even reduce customer service to an unacceptable level.

Staff-related bottlenecks

Something we see time and again in accountancy practices is one staff member, almost always a director or managing partner, being responsible for preparing and submitting all R&D tax relief claims. The reasons for doing this vary, but the most common include not having the time to train other staff members in how to do claims, fears that standards will slip if the work is handed to more junior staff members, and difficulties related to being able to expand the team with sufficiently qualified staff.

While this approach can work in smaller practices, or those with few eligible clients, for anyone else it very quickly becomes unsustainable. So, how can these firms solve this bottleneck without reducing standards?

Expand the team

Obviously, the fastest way to increase R&D tax claim capacity is to add experienced staff members to the team. However, there are several things to consider when hiring R&D tax staff:

  • Should they have accounting experience and knowledge, so that they can carry out other duties within the team, or will they focus entirely on R&D tax claims?
  • Should they be an expert in R&D tax claims in a single sector, such as software development, or have a broader knowledge of R&D tax relief?
  • Did they gain their experience working for a reputable R&D tax advice provider?
  • Should they continue to use processes that they have learnt elsewhere, or prepare claims using the firm’s usual practices?

Hiring experienced staff can be a quick and straightforward way to increase R&D tax claim capacity within an accountancy practice but does come with the challenge of ensuring new hires prepare claims to the right standard and deliver the expected level of customer service.

Train existing staff

Existing staff already have relationships with a firm’s clients and have been trained in both the firm’s current ways of doing things and the expectations around client management, so training these staff to prepare R&D tax relief claims can be very fruitful. However, this requires careful planning, as asking staff who are already working at capacity to deliver an additional service can cause problems, especially where robust processes have not been put in place.

Consistent processes

No matter how a firm expands its capacity for R&D tax relief claims, implementing robust and consistent processes is key to its success. Without such processes, quality of claims cannot be easily maintained whilst bringing on new staff or training existing staff to produce claims, and client claims could be detrimentally affected by inconsistencies and disorganisation. Established processes also allow a practice to maintain an R&D tax relief service even when key staff members move on.

Capacity bottlenecks

Even practices with a well-trained team can experience bottlenecks in the production of R&D tax relief claims. Deadlines for R&D tax relief claims are directly linked to accounting and corporation tax deadlines, so it stands to reason that busy periods for the preparation of accounts and corporation tax returns can also be busy times for the preparation of R&D tax relief claims. This can be exacerbated by having the same staff members working on both tax returns and R&D tax relief claims.

While these busy periods are inevitable in a growing accountancy practice, it is possible to reduce the strain on the R&D team through, firstly, having robust processes as described above. This ensures that all claims are completely efficient and to the same standard and can allow team members to pass claims between themselves to share the load. Secondly, pulling R&D work forward and starting to prepare claims as soon as the claim period has ended helps to spread the work throughout the year, rather than having to prepare huge numbers of claims in March and December.

How can WhisperClaims help overcome bottlenecks?

WhisperClaims is designed to provide a robust and repeatable process for the preparation of R&D tax relief claims, giving users a way to grow their R&D tax relief service quickly and sustainably. It ensures that the same process is followed every time, and can be used as a training tool for both new hires and existing staff. In addition, users are sent reminders about claims that are approaching deadlines, as well as claims that are newly available, helping them to manage their R&D workload effectively.

How to write an R&D tax relief technical narrative

With HMRC’s new mandatory requirement for project descriptions on all submissions, we wanted to share our experiences to help others to write their best possible technical narratives.

Available to download here.

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