15TH MARCH, 2023

Unlocking R&D Tax Credits for Manufacturing Companies in the UK: Understanding Qualifying Activities

I. Introduction

Innovation is at the heart of the UK's quest for competitive advantage in today's global market, and the manufacturing sector plays a pivotal role in driving this quest.

As a substantial contributor to the nation's GDP, employing approximately 2.6 million people in 2019, the UK manufacturing sector covers diverse industries, ranging from automotive and aerospace to food and beverages, pharma, and technology.

Recognising the significance of research and development (R&D) in maintaining the momentum of progress and growth within this sector, the UK government has introduced R&D tax credits to incentivise companies conducting developmental activities in science and technology fields.

R&D tax credits are essentially government-sponsored, tax-based incentives that allow companies to recoup up to 33% (for now) of their qualifying R&D expenditure, thus reducing their corporation tax bill or receiving a cash refund. 

This can serve as a valuable financial catalyst, allowing UK manufacturing companies to continue investing in groundbreaking research, industry-focused innovation, and advanced technologies. However, the key to unlocking these benefits lies in understanding the qualifying activities that are eligible for these tax credits.

These can encompass a broad spectrum of project-based activities, from designing and prototyping to developing new production processes, improving existing manufacturing methodologies, and incorporating automation in production lines, among others.

By comprehending these eligibility criteria and integrating them into a company's R&D strategy, UK manufacturers can significantly enhance their claim potential, resulting in substantial cost savings, streamlined operations and faster time-to-market for products, while simultaneously boosting their reputation and credibility in the competitive manufacturing landscape.

With the increasing emphasis on Industry 4.0 and a renewed focus on manufacturing excellence, R&D tax credits offer an ideal springboard for UK manufacturing companies to leverage in their endeavours to foster innovation and forge a dynamic, sustainable future.

II. Qualifying activities for R&D tax credits in the manufacturing sector

Research and development (R&D) for tax purposes is defined as any project undertaken to achieve an advance in the fields of science or technology by resolving scientific or technological uncertainties. This definition is based on the guidelines issued by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in the UK.

It is crucial to note that R&D tax credits are designed to encourage innovation and support companies that invest in R&D activities, regardless of their size or sector. In the manufacturing sector, such activities may include developing new products, enhancing existing manufacturing processes, or implementing new technologies.

Examples of qualifying R&D activities in the manufacturing sector span a broad range of projects. These could involve developing new materials for improved product performance, creating advanced production techniques to reduce waste or energy consumption, or enhancing processes for greater precision and control.

For instance, a company may qualify for R&D tax credits if they are involved in the development of new composite materials to improve the strength-to-weight ratio of manufactured parts or if they are working on innovative manufacturing techniques to increase efficiency in the production process.

It's essential to consider any work that aims to resolve scientific or technological uncertainties when evaluating whether a project qualifies for R&D tax credits.

A common misconception regarding R&D tax credits is that they only apply to groundbreaking inventions or cutting-edge technology. In reality, R&D tax credits can be claimed for a wide variety of projects aimed at improving existing processes or products, as long as they involve overcoming scientific or technological difficulties.

Businesses should also be aware of the potential pitfalls in making an R&D claim, such as not documenting their R&D activities adequately, underestimating the extent of qualifying activities, or not seeking expert advice in preparing their submission.

To avoid these pitfalls and ensure a successful claim, it is highly recommended to engage professional assistance from R&D tax credit experts who understand the latest guidelines and legislations set forth by HMRC.

This way, manufacturing companies can maximise their R&D tax credit potential and continue to flourish as innovative players in the industry.

III. Maximising your R&D tax credit claim potential

To maximise your R&D tax credit claim potential, it is crucial for your UK manufacturing company to first accurately identify eligible expenses that qualify for R&D tax credits. Expenditures that qualify usually include staff costs, subcontractor costs, materials, consumables, software, and prototypes.

However, expenses related to production, distribution, or capital expenditure, and the cost of obtaining patents and trademarks, are generally not eligible for R&D tax credits. A comprehensive understanding of the government guidelines on eligibility criteria can help in ensuring that you do not miss out on any valid expenses.

Once you have a clear understanding of the eligible expenses, the next step is to calculate your claim amount, which depends on the size and structure of your business. SMEs can claim up to 33% of eligible R&D costs, while large companies can claim up to 13% through the Research and Development Expenditure Credit (RDEC) scheme.

It is important to maintain detailed records of your R&D activities and expenses, as well as the method employed for calculating the claim amount, for further substantiation and clarification during the tax credit evaluation process.

Preparing a successful R&D tax credit claim requires diligence and careful documentation. Here are some tips to help you reap maximum benefits from your claim:

1) Maintain comprehensive records of projects, costs, and employee timesheets related to R&D activities;

2) Track all direct and indirect expenses incurred, including any that were previously overlooked, as even minor costs can add up to substantial amounts;

3) Develop a clear and concise explanation of your R&D projects, highlighting the scientific or technological advancements attempted and the challenges faced in finding a solution;

4) Engage with experienced R&D tax specialists to review your claim and ensure its accuracy and compliance with HMRC regulations; and

5) Submit your claim in a timely manner, as the window for claiming R&D tax credits closes two years after the end of the accounting period in which the costs were incurred.

With these insights and practices in place, your manufacturing company can effectively maximise its R&D tax credit claim potential and fuel further innovation and growth.

IV. Real-life examples of successful R&D tax credit claims in the manufacturing sector

In recent years, numerous UK manufacturing companies have successfully claimed R&D tax credits for their innovative projects, allowing them to reinvest in research and development, improve their products, and maintain a competitive edge in the market.

One such example is Charpak Ltd, for almost 30 years, Charpak has been a market leader and innovator of vacuum formed packaging.

Charpak have developed thermo-formed packaging products for all market sectors worldwide as well as specialising in packaging for food and pharmaceutical products.

Charpak’s specialist team work on initial concepts through to the finished product, offering design, prototyping and production of its packaging products. By claiming R&D tax credits, Charpak received a well deserved corporation tax refund which will be used to help fund future R&D projects.

Another successful claimant was Cleaver Scientific Ltd, Cleaver Scientific is a UK based electrophoresis equipment supplier who provide premium and technically enhanced high specification, low cost electrophoresis equipment for the world market. 

Cleaver Scientific are constantly looking to develop and expand their range of electrophoresis equipment. They have undertaken a number of development projects which were technically challenging and had not previously made an R&D tax credits claim. The Company has made significant investments into people, materials and fixed assets to support these projects. 

Thier R&D tax credits claim was processed by HMRC within 4 weeks and Cleaver Scientific received a well-earned Corporation Tax refund covering the last two accounting periods.

Cleaver Scientific plans to re-invest their R&D tax credits refund back into the business to support on-going development activities.

Daften Die-Casting Ltd is a UK based specialist aluminium pressure die-casting manufacturer, providing a full in-house service offering that includes tool and component design, tooling manufacture, machine finishing and powder coating.

Daften Die-Casting is at the forefront of aluminium pressure die casting and continually make significant investments into people, state of the art equipment and processes. Daften Die-Casting were unaware that their development activities qualified for R&D tax credits.

By making a succesful claim for R&D tax credits, Daften Die-Casting were rewarded with a well deserved Corporation Tax Refund. They will be investing this refund back into the business to support on-going development and growth plans.

These real-life examples of successful R&D tax credit claims in the manufacturing sector demonstrate the wide range of qualifying activities across various industries.

These companies capitalised on this valuable form of government support to push the boundaries of innovation, create new market opportunities, and drive positive change in their respective sectors.

Strengthening the UK’s position as a hub for advanced manufacturing technologies, R&D tax credits have proved essential in fostering technological advancements and economic growth.

V. Engaging with specialist tax firms

UK manufacturing companies can significantly enhance their potential to claim R&D tax credits by engaging with specialist R&D tax firms.

These firms possess in-depth knowledge of the tax credit system, regulations, and critical success factors, ensuring that companies maximise their claim potential. The benefits of working with a professional R&D tax credit advisor extend beyond just claiming the most significant possible tax credits – it also involves minimising risk, ensuring compliance, improving efficiencies in R&D processes and helping companies adopt best practices to stay competitive in their respective markets.

One of the key benefits of working with a specialist R&D tax firm is their vast experience in identifying qualifying R&D activities, often overlooked by companies handling the process internally.

These experts can help businesses identify cost allocations for staff, contractors, consumables, and software, ensuring that a comprehensive claim is prepared. They can also assist in mitigating the risks of potential errors or omissions, thereby preventing any potential claim rejections or HMRC investigations.

Moreover, these experts can assist companies with integrating R&D tax credit claiming processes into their existing financial practices, ensuring a seamless and efficient approach towards innovation and development.

When choosing an R&D tax firm, manufacturing companies should consider factors such as the firm's industry expertise, size, credentials, and track record in delivering successful claims. It is crucial to choose a firm that specialises in the manufacturing sector and has a proven history of helping similar businesses successfully claim tax credits.

Additionally, companies should evaluate the team's qualifications and credentials, verifying that they possess the necessary skills and experience to support the business effectively. The firm's size may also be an essential factor, as larger firms may offer a broader range of services and resources to enhance the business's R&D capabilities, while smaller firms may provide a more personalised approach.

In conclusion, engaging with a specialist R&D tax firm can provide significant advantages to UK manufacturing companies, helping them navigate the complexities of the tax credit system, maximise their claim potential, and enhance their R&D efficiencies.

By carefully considering factors such as industry expertise, size, credentials, and track record, companies can select the best possible R&D tax firm to support their innovation journey.

VI. Conclusion

In conclusion, unlocking R&D tax credits for manufacturing companies in the UK remains a significant yet underutilised opportunity. By understanding the qualifying activities, firms can identify and substantiate their eligibility, thereby maximising their claim potential.

As highlighted in this expert guide, eligible undertakings can include (but are not limited to) the development of innovative production techniques, the creation of energy-efficient methods, and the application of robotics and automation systems.

Furthermore, the R&D tax credits scheme allows companies to explore the development of prototypes, improvement of existing processes, and fostering collaborations with suppliers and customers to drive cutting-edge research.

It is imperative for UK manufacturing firms to familiarise themselves with the process of claiming tax credits and to recognise that their everyday activities may contain hidden components that can make them eligible for R&D tax relief. With R&D tax credits offering up to 33p for every £1 spent on qualifying projects, the economic benefits of securing these incentives can substantially increase the competitiveness of UK manufacturers in the global market.

Organisations should not shy away from consulting experts who can provide valuable insights and practical advice on maximising R&D tax credit claims.

Professional guidance can help demystify the intense terminology and intricate procedures, making the entire process more accessible to businesses of varying sizes and industries.

By fully exploring R&D tax credits opportunities, UK manufacturing companies stand to benefit not just financially, but also in terms of fostering a robust innovation culture and bolstering their market position.

In light of recent economic challenges and uncertainties, it is now more critical than ever for UK manufacturing companies to harness the potential of R&D tax credits.

By understanding qualifying activities and engaging with experts on navigating the process, UK manufacturers can continue to thrive in an increasingly competitive market, utilising financial support to fuel innovation, drive growth, and maintain a leading edge on the global stage.

Tax Cloud: The UK’s leading R&D tax relief self-service portal

Powered by the R&D specialists at Myriad Associates, Tax Cloud offers an affordable solution for any company looking to claim an R&D tax rebate. Large or small, profit or loss-making, any UK company can apply with claims quickly running into the thousands.

Simply sign up online and work through the easy-to-follow claims process, gradually moving step-by-step. It’s fully supported so you’re not just left to get on with it either. Our team are on hand at all times and will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

To make a fully maximised R&D Tax Credits claim that gets you the entire amount you’re owed, visit the Tax Cloud website, give us a call on 020 7360 4437, or send us a message.

Barrie Dowsett, ACMA, GCMA
Author Barrie Dowsett, ACMA, GCMA CEO, Tax Cloud
Start your Tax Cloud claim now Discover if you qualify and ensure your R&D tax claim is maximised. Get started
Powered by Myriad Logo

Myriad are the creators of Tax Cloud, we help enterprises navigate, apply and secure tax incentives and grants. We specialise in R&D Tax Credits, Creative Tax Reliefs, Innovate UK grants, Horizon Europe grants, and R&D Capital Allowance Claims.

  • Submitting R&D tax claims since 2001
  • Strong track record spanning 20+ years delivering R&D tax credit claims
  • Over £70m claimed and counting
  • Industry leading specialists
  • We employ technical, costing and tax experts and tax experts
  • Confident of delivering value to our clients, we offer our R&D tax services on a success fee-only basis.

Meet some of the team behind Tax Cloud

Barrie Dowsett Barrie Dowsett ACMA CGMA Chief Executive Officer
Jillian Chambers Jillian Chambers Technical Analyst/Writer
Lauren Olson Lauren Olson Technical Analyst Manager
Rabia Mohammad Rabia Mohammad Corporate Tax Associate