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Could there be a smarter way to prepare R&D tax claims?

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The recent reforms to R&D tax legislation and HMRC’s ramping up of enquiries has even the most battle-hardened accountants feeling a little rattled. Many are asking themselves if their clients’ claims will pass muster, and whether there’s more they could be doing to ensure that their processes are good enough to withstand scrutiny from HMRC. 

Alongside this looms the spectre of April 2023 changes to R&D tax legislation kicking in, company year-ends, personal tax returns, and R&D claims with hard deadlines all piling up. Times like these make it difficult to find the time to dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s; even with the most robust of manual or outsourced processes, errors can creep in.  

Controlling the process 

Having a robust process that is applied in the same way every time, for every claim, is key to preventing errors. This could be achieved through manual processes, however experience tells us that in any process the weak point is people. People can be inconsistent, rushed and forgetful—often convincing themselves there’s no need to follow processes, especially given the other pressures of running a busy firm.  

So, how can accountants ensure that claims are produced consistently, even during the busiest times of the year? In short, software automation! WhisperClaims’ R&D tax claim preparation software is designed to ensure consistency of process and output. The question set is dynamic and flexes depending on the data being input, providing a structure to help guide the conversations between accountant and client. Questions can’t be forgotten or skipped over, so accountants can be certain that the data has been reliably gathered.  

Owning the relationship 

Another important factor to an efficient claims process is the relationship between the accountant and client. As an accountant you have a unique in-depth knowledge of all aspects of the client’s business, including: 

  1. Finances
  2. Company structure
  3. Pain points/problems
  4. Plans for the future 

The client, on the other hand, is the competent professional in HMRC’s eyes, and are the only ones who can judge—with the accountant’s guidance—whether the work they have done constitutes an advance in science or technology.  

With the right technology, training and support, it is absolutely feasible for the accountant to deliver an in-house service and collaborate with clients in a credible and efficient way. Just as technology has transformed every other aspect of the accountant’s role over the past decade, dedicated R&D tax claims software can empower accountants with a framework and structure that enables them to deliver a high quality service that is robust, compliant and—most importantly—smart. 

Optimising time 

WhisperClaims software introduces efficiencies in two main areas—data capture and report writing—and ensures all claims are produced consistently and to the same standard, reducing the need for checking and reworking. 

Software doesn’t replace the need for a conversation with the client to a) educate them about HMRC’s eligibility criteria and b) talk through their projects to ensure they correctly identify which qualify. What software does do is provide the accountant with a robust set of questions, and a structure for the conversation. This reduces the risk of having to go back to the client to get information or ask questions that were missed the first time around. 

Report production through WhisperClaims is completely automated and reduces the time taken to prepare the technical narrative and costs breakdown for submission to HMRC. This saves the accountant hours, if not days, of report writing.  

What difference does this all make? Fundamentally, it means the accountant can spend more time on the important parts—talking to their client, understanding eligibility and building the relationship—and less on the highly repeatable processes like writing a technical narrative. This in turn means they can process more claims at the same time without compromising on quality, consistency or customer service—a win all round! 

Remaining compliant 

The R&D tax relief scheme is less prescriptive than any other area of tax regulation. It is not, however, beyond the comprehension of a qualified accountant. Fundamental to helping clients reap the benefits of the R&D tax scheme is understanding what HMRC’s definition of ‘eligibility’ is, how to apply that knowledge when talking to clients about the R&D work they have been carrying out, and being able to determine where eligibility does or does not sit. 

When an accountant adopts WhisperClaims they gain access to both software and a comprehensive suite of expert-led services to bolster their confidence and understanding of the scheme. Our advice line—a variety of live chat and 1-1 channels—gives them direct access to a team of R&D tax experts who they can lean on for advice at any point in the claims process. On top of that, they can register for back-to-basics training and immerse themselves in our extensive video and online learning materials.  

A common challenge faced by accountants is identifying eligibility within their current client base. If advice is needed, our ‘Portfolio Review Service’ helps them uncover low-hanging fruit and potentially overlooked companies, while also flagging clients who are unlikely to be eligible. This allows the accountant to focus their time in the right places.  

Once a claim has been prepared within the app, our built-in risk mitigation features will flag areas of weakness that should be reviewed, and our optional ‘Claim Review Service’ provides an additional layer of reassurance that the claim has been thoroughly reviewed by an R&D tax expert prior to submission. 

High quality service 

All of this can be done without compromising on consistency or quality. Accountants can be sure that all claims are being prepared in the same way every time, and that their clients are receiving a robust and high-quality service from them as their trusted advisor.  

Critically, accountants can be confident that they are minimising the likelihood of prompting an HMRC investigation. Even in the event of one being launched, the structured and consistent process of WhisperClaims software ensures an accountant can remain confident when responding to any additional questions HMRC may raise, with the added back-up of advice, guidance and support offered by our ‘Enquiry Support Service’.

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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