A research and development (R&D) tax expert with regional accountancy firm and business advisor to SMEs Azets, has issued a warning to businesses using R&D tax relief schemes as a way to boost cash during the Covid-19 recovery, with repayments of rogue claims likely to cost millions of pounds. Azets has offices in London and across the South East.
In its latest annual report for 2020/2021, HMRC reported an implied monetary value of £303 million due to R&D error and fraud within the SME Scheme – up from £271 million in the previous year.
Hertford-based Tim Croft (pictured), National Head of R&D at Azets, believes this is in part down to a small group of ‘rogue’ boutique advisors who inappropriately seek to maximise R&D tax credit claims and actively target SMEs hit hardest by the pandemic.
"This is driven by non-prescriptive R&D rules which are open to interpretation and inappropriate claims by rogue firms targeting cash-strapped businesses. Ultimately, it’s the businesses that will suffer when the Government inevitably acts to reduce the growing cost of R&D error and fraud, particularly with new incentives for R&D investment increasing their vulnerability to rogue advisors.”
In September, HMRC reported a significant increase in the total number of R&D claims, revealing a 16% increase in the year ending March 2020. This equates to £7.4bn in total support claimed, up 19% from the previous year (£6.3bn), with further increases from 2023 following the expansion of the R&D tax relief scheme to include cloud computing and data costs, announced during the Autumn Budget 2021.
Tim Croft notes the steps businesses can take to ensure they take appropriate advice and take advantage of R&D tax relief schemes in a way that is safe and legal: