While the revelations were painful, we weren’t surprised by them. In fact, the issues caused by poor-quality advisors are exactly why we started The R&D Community in the first place!  From the very start, we’d felt it was unfair that advisors who pay close attention to the rules are losing business to those who play fast and loose with the scheme. We wanted to do something positive by supporting advisors who want to do R&D to the very best of their abilities.

But raising standards in R&D tax relief is a big problem, and we’re just one company. So what can we do that will have a meaningful impact on an entire consulting industry?

Well, we can do a lot. We can create the UK’s first accredited qualification for R&D tax relief advisors. We can give compliance-minded advisors a way to test, improve and demonstrate a sophisticated and ethical understanding of the scheme. And ultimately, we can create a public and auditable standard that defines good practice in R&D tax relief.

Easy? Of course not. But here’s our step-by-step plan for how we’re going to achieve it.

Step 1 – Building out our training catalogue

We’ve already built a catalogue of online R&D courses on topics like establishing eligibility, software, subcontracting, and construction – but there’s so much more that we want to cover and teach you about. However, there’s little point in us developing courses at random – we’ve got to prioritise them carefully, so that our courses fit together in a sensible way that’s more than the sum of their parts.

So, the first stage is to work with our members to pin down all the topics that should be part of an industry qualification in R&D tax relief. This will identify the foundational courses that will form the bedrock of our certification programme and qualification.

Step 2 – Develop a certification process

Once we’ve finished building our full suite of training courses, we’ll move on to defining the process by which someone will achieve the qualification. That’ll involve thinking about the number and type of assessments, the order in which courses should be completed, how we can assess and give feedback on field work, how long the certification lasts for, and so much more. There’s a lot to think about in this stage, as it’s important that the qualification is demanding enough to be meaningful, while still accessible to those with limited budgets.

Step 3 – Accreditation

To be recognised as a high-quality training provider, it’s going to be really important to us that our training is reviewed and accredited by a major professional body. Accreditation from a body like ICAEW, ACCA or CIOT would add weight to our qualification, making it more valuable to those who attain it. We’ll be reaching out soon to the main accountancy and tax bodies to see which of them would be the best fit to assess and accredit our courses and certification.

Step 4 – Raising the profile of certified advisors

We want to do everything we can to help our members stand out in a very crowded and noisy marketplace. We already have a directory of our current members. Once we have people going through the certification process and earning the qualification, we’ll be showcasing their achievements here on our website. This will raise the profile of advisors who’ve taken the time to go through our training and demanding certification process. We’ll create links from the advisor through to their webpage or LinkedIn profile, so that potential customers can check them out or start a conversation.

Step 5 – Developing a public standard for good practice in R&D

The last stage, and the most ambitious, is to develop and publish a standard that defines good practice in R&D consultancy across all facets of an organisation. This will allow advisory organisations to review their operations against a consistent standard, so that they can ensure that all aspects of their marketing, sales and delivery align with best practice. The R&D Community will then be the independent organisation that audits companies against that standard, helping them to identify areas for improvement across the whole breadth of their R&D business.

All the above is a breath-taking amount of work. While it’s not going to be easy, we’re driven to do it by our belief that good, compliance-minded advisors need more tools, support and help to compete with, and differentiate themselves from, the many poor providers who are currently endangering the very future of R&D tax relief in the UK.

If you want to keep abreast of all the updates as we make progress, sign up for our newsletter, The R&D Review.