Scaling through automation: why your current claims process may be holding you back
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Anyone working to prepare R&D tax relief claims for clients knows one thing for certain—it always takes longer than you want it to! Working to best practice guidelines, while incredibly important, is time-consuming, and you can never rely on your clients to return data and documents at the right time.
From talking to clients and prospects, we know that there are huge numbers of advisors out there who want to grow and scale their R&D tax relief claim service, but who are being held back by their processes—they simply don’t have the time and resources to process more claims.
How can automation help?
Used well, automated R&D tax relief claim preparation software can help with (almost!) every step of the process. As we’ve described before, best practice in claim preparation has seven stages, taking you from the initial conversation with the client to submitting the claim to HMRC. Here’s how automation can streamline each stage:
Stage 1: talking to your client about R&D
R&D tax relief claim preparation software cannot replace the need for a conversation with your client to a) educate them about HMRC’s eligibility criteria and b) talk through their projects to ensure they correctly identify which contain elements of eligibility. There’s no avoiding this stage, but what automation software can do here is provide you with a robust set of questions and a structure for the conversation, and ensure that all of the right questions are asked every time. This, in turn, reduces the risk of having to go back to the client to get information or ask questions that were missed the first time around.
In addition to all of this, the WhisperClaims app enables you to invite your client onto the platform to fill out any or all of the claim information, assisting with data capture and reducing the need for to-ing and fro-ing with the client about what data is needed.
Stage 2: Assessing project eligibility
Again, automation software cannot replace the need for an in-depth understanding of HMRC’s guidelines and criteria for eligibility, but what it can do is make sure that you’re assessing every project in the same way. Alongside this, software like WhisperClaims can indicate where the information given by your client suggests that the company or the claim don’t meet the criteria, and prevent you pursuing claims for companies that are not eligible.
Stage 3: Identifying eligible costs
As with the technical detail, the important job automation software does for the costs is ensure that all cost categories are assessed every time, and only those costs that fit into a category are included. Working collaboratively with your client to gather the costs can also massively cut down on the time taken to gather costs data—giving them access to their claim in WhisperClaims means they can add the costs data in their own time, and reduces the risk of errors being introduced during data entry.
Stage 4: Preparing a technical narrative
The preparation of the technical narrative is where automation apps like WhisperClaims really come into their own. Essentially, the app merges the data capture and technical narrative stages, meaning that as soon as you’re happy with the data you’ve entered into the platform you can generate the report in seconds. This cuts out hours or even days of report writing and ensures that the report output is consistent and robust every single time.
Stage 5: Prepare a breakdown of the eligible costs
As with the technical narrative, using automation software means that the cost breakdown is produced automatically at the end of the data collection process. This reduces the need to send spreadsheets back and forth, and ensures that the calculations of eligible expenditure are always correct and incorporate any complexities, such as the 65% filter on subcontracting and EPW costs.
Stage 6: Client review
While software can’t automate the process of having your client read over and approve the claim documents, using software means you can involve your client more closely in the process, so that by the time you are seeking their approval, they’re already familiar with the claim and the figures. This familiarly reduces the potential for last minute changes and makes this stage of the process much smoother.
Stage 7: Claim submission
Submitting the claim to HMRC is the end of the journey for both the claim and WhisperClaims ability to automate the process. This part of the process can’t be automated, but having used software to prepare your claim, you can be sure that the documents you send to HMRC are robust and compliant.
Scaling through automation
What difference does this all make? Fundamentally, it means that you can spend more time on the important parts—talking to your client and understanding the eligibility—and less on the highly repeatable processes like writing a technical narrative. This in turn means you can process more claims at the same time without compromising on quality, consistency or customer service—a win all round!