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How sector specialists give your R&D tax relief claim the cutting edge

Tom Heslin technical specialist
(Last updated on )
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Research and Development (R&D) tax relief, as the name suggests, rewards firms for investing in R&D. And naturally, businesses doing qualifying R&D are innovating in some way within their fields.

This innovation takes place across all sorts of sectors, using complex and sometimes highly specialised knowledge to make things happen. Consequently, exceptional R&D tax advice is built on two pillars: Tax expertise and industry expertise. An adviser should be able to see behind and beyond the numbers – and bring them together.

How ForrestBrown uses our sector expertise

ForrestBrown is a Chartered Tax Adviser firm of 120+ people with one focus: R&D tax relief. This number includes a large team of qualified tax advisers.

Alongside these tax specialists, we have a sector team comprising individuals with decades of relevant industry experience across engineering, software and hardware, manufacturing, renewables, and the sciences. We offer a level of specialist insight that’s unrivalled.

Our sector specialists are an integral part of preparing each of our clients’ R&D tax relief claims. They are conduits between your technical team and our tax specialists – and enable us to communicate your R&D effectively to HMRC.

A relevant sector expert is cut from the same cloth as your technical professionals. They have the training and experience to understand the technical challenges your project faces from an insider perspective. And crucially, our experts also specialise in understanding the requirements for an R&D tax relief claim.

They are there to ensure that all potential R&D is identified and discussed. But they do more than guide and listen, they also provide your technical specialists with a trusted partner to challenge assessments and help ensure that the boundaries of your R&D are accurately drawn for HMRC.

This sector insight facilitates peer-to-peer discussions, accelerates the process, makes your claim more robust and gives you peace of mind.

Specialist consultancy

Our sector teams contain a wealth of expertise that is available to support clients and partners as a standard part of claiming with ForrestBrown or on a consultancy basis. R&D is forward-looking, so understanding how your business plan interacts with your future funding from R&D tax relief ensures that you maximise the potential of the incentive and avoid any pitfalls.

Our sector experts also support clients by reviewing claims prepared in-house, providing training sessions to increase awareness and engagement across a business, or providing expert second opinions.

This targeted advice can be provided either directly to businesses, or to our accountant partners. To do this, they draw on their sector and R&D tax insight. The result is maximum financial reward and effective risk management.

In our experience, reviewing your approach to R&D tax relief regularly can unlock additional value, even for businesses that have claimed R&D tax relief for many years. Businesses change and new areas of potential can easily be missed. Our sector specialists spot these opportunities throughout the business, drawing on their own practical experience to get to know your business.

Likewise, technology doesn’t stand still and HMRC’s approach to different types of development evolves over time. Our team remain at the forefront of HMRC expectations and can ensure that your claim remains enquiry ready.

In my career, I’ve worked in many innovative tech firms. I know how it can be when you’re in the process of claiming R&D tax relief. An external set of eyes can offer a new perspective on your work. Much of what I do at ForrestBrown is refreshing and challenging peoples’ understanding of what counts as R&D for tax purposes — and what doesn’t.

Tree MA(Cantab) MBCS, Senior Sector Specialist at ForrestBrown.

Enquiry support

A relevant sector expert can provide vital support when dealing with an HMRC enquiry. Just as they can translate your project details for the benefit of HMRC, so too can they translate HMRC’s requests for information to help you satisfy their questions.

In an enquiry, our sector specialist works directly with your competent professionals, reviewing projects and boundaries and how these have been linked to the expenditure claimed. This can include a visit to your workplace to understand your R&D processes. Our aim is for our experts to gain a thorough understanding of your projects, so that we can work directly with HMRC to correct any misunderstandings that may have arisen.

An overlooked facet of any enquiry process is that HMRC may wish to speak to your technical specialists. For technical staff, this can be a nerve-wracking experience. They are, after all, not tax advisers or accountants, but HMRC will expect them to justify the assessments made.

Our sector specialists are intricately familiar with how these interviews take place and what sort of questions are asked. Good preparation demystifies the experience and instils confidence in your staff. This expertise is available to all of our clients where we prepare their R&D tax relief claims, but also as part of our enquiry support service, which helps businesses who have prepared their claims in-house or with another adviser.

I’ve supported a number of clients facing an HMRC enquiry, particularly for companies in the chemical, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, engineering and food sectors. For other sectors, my fellow sector specialists – who have experience in other disciplines – step in to fulfil the same role.

Peter Beavis MSci PhD, Senior Sector Specialist at ForrestBrown.

Shaping the future of R&D tax incentives

As the UK’s leading specialist R&D tax adviser, ForrestBrown both helps businesses access R&D tax relief and plays an active role in shaping policy around the incentive. Our sector teams are a critical part of these efforts.

When we consult with the government about the future of R&D tax relief, our specialists offer on the ground insight relating to specific industries and disciplines – like 2020’s consultation on data and cloud computing expenditure.

In 2018, I was a member of the working group which authored HMRC’s latest guidance on what constitutes software R&D. I was invited to present our findings to the R&D Consultative Committee before the publication of the guidance.

We believe that it is important for our team to engage with key stakeholders in our industry to support the long-term future of R&D tax incentives and to drive positive policy changes. This work also puts us in a position to offer clients a powerful mix of tax skills, HMRC policy insight and sector expertise.

Tom Heslin, Associate Director and software specialist at ForrestBrown.

Specialist R&D tax relief support

R&D tax relief is a highly specialist area tax, incorporating both accounting know-how, legal expertise and, crucially, sector-specific insight. ForrestBrown has everything you need to claim effectively or resolve any issues you may have. Speak to us today about your needs.