14 Jun 2023

Demystifying R&D Tax Credits

Chris Stuttle
Senior Consultant

A comprehensive guide on how to calculate R&D tax credits in the UK


Innovation lies at the heart of progress and prosperity, and governments worldwide recognise the importance of Research and Development (R&D) activities in driving economic growth. To incentivise companies to invest in R&D, governments offer tax relief through R&D tax credits. In the United Kingdom, the R&D tax credit scheme has been instrumental in supporting businesses engaged in innovation. In this blog post, we will provide a detailed overview of how to calculate R&D tax credits under the UK R&D tax scheme, shedding light on its key components and offering practical insights for maximising your R&D tax benefits. 

Section 1: Understanding R&D Tax Credits 

1.1 Definition and Purpose of R&D Tax Credits: 

R&D tax credits are a tax incentive provided by the UK government to encourage companies to engage in innovative activities. The scheme offers generous tax relief to eligible companies that invest in qualifying R&D projects. By offsetting a portion of the costs associated with R&D activities, companies can free up resources and fuel further innovation, ultimately strengthening the country’s economy. 

Section 2: Qualifying for R&D Tax Credits 

2.1 Eligibility Criteria: 

To calculate R&D tax credits, it is essential to determine if your company meets the eligibility criteria set forth by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). The key criteria include: 

  • Being a UK limited company subject to corporation tax. 
  • Engaging in R&D activities that seek to achieve scientific or technological advancements. 
  • Encountering uncertainties and challenges that could not be easily resolved by a competent professional in the field. 
  • Incurring eligible expenditures related to R&D activities. 

Section 3: Identifying and Categorising Eligible Expenditure 

3.1 Staffing Costs: 

One of the major components of eligible expenditure is staffing costs. This includes wages, salaries, employer National Insurance contributions, and pension fund contributions of employees directly engaged in R&D activities. 

3.2 Consumable Materials: 

Another category of eligible expenditure is consumed or transformed materials. This encompasses the costs of materials, components, and utilities used in R&D projects. 

3.3 Subcontractor Costs: 

Payments made to subcontractors directly involved in R&D activities can also be considered as eligible expenditures. Although there is a lot of complexity in ensuring correct rates depending on the status of the subcontracted and subcontracting companies, these costs may be eligible. 

3.4 Software: 

If your R&D projects require specific software licenses, the costs associated with them can be included as eligible expenditures. 

Section 4: Calculating the R&D Tax Credit 

4.1 Enhanced Deduction: 

The enhanced deduction allows you to claim an additional deduction on qualifying R&D expenditure. Currently, the enhanced deduction rate is set at 130% of the eligible expenditure incurred. But this will change and thus is dependent upon when the costs were incurred. 

4.2 Payable Tax Credit: 

If your company is making a loss or has a small tax liability, you may be eligible to claim the payable tax credit. This credit allows you to surrender your enhanced deduction for a cash payment, further boosting your R&D tax benefit. The payable tax credit is currently set at 14.5% of the surrenderable loss. 

4.3 Overall Calculation: 

To calculate your R&D tax credit, follow these steps: 

  • Identify eligible expenditure categories, including staffing costs, consumable materials, subcontractor costs, and software. 
  • Ensure only eligible costs spent on qualifying activities are considered. 
  • Apply the enhanced deduction rate of 130% to the qualifying expenditure. 
  • Deduct the enhanced deduction from your company’s taxable profits, resulting in a reduced tax liability. 
  • Calculate the payable tax credit at a rate of 14.5% on the surrendered enhanced deduction if applicable. 

Section 5: Documentation and Record-Keeping 

Accurate and comprehensive documentation is essential when claiming R&D tax credits. HMRC requires evidence to support your claim, including project descriptions, technical reports, timesheets, and financial records. Proper record-keeping ensures transparency and strengthens your claim during HMRC’s review process. 

Section 6: Seek Expert Advice 

Navigating the complexities of the UK R&D tax scheme can be challenging. Consider consulting with an R&D tax specialist, such as TBAT Innovation, to maximise your R&D tax benefits. Their expertise can help you identify eligible projects, categorise expenditure correctly, and ensure compliance with HMRC regulations. 


Calculating R&D tax credits under the UK R&D tax scheme can be a highly rewarding endeavour for innovative companies. By understanding the eligibility criteria, identifying eligible expenditure, and leveraging the enhanced deduction and payable tax credit, businesses can unlock significant financial benefits while driving technological advancement. Stay proactive, maintain thorough documentation, and consult with R&D tax specialists to optimise your R&D tax credit claims and propel your company’s innovation journey forward. With the right approach, you can maximise your R&D tax benefits and contribute to the growth and success of your business. 

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