Last night I met up with a friend. Over drinks, he told me about his new business idea, which is a radical departure from what he’s been doing for the last 8 years. Despite that (and the wary horror of his partner!) I could tell that he believes in his idea. He’s thought through the angles, the costs, the times, and is realistic about his profit and future lifestyle. Having heard him speak about it, now I believe that he’ll make it a success. Belief is contagious.
This got me reflecting on what I believe, and why I started my new business, The R&D Community. What do I believe, and what am I trying to do that hasn’t been done a thousand times already? Good question.
- I believe that the R&D tax relief market has fundamental, systemic issues and is due for a big correction in the coming years. The signs have been there for a while – from the accountants I’ve spoken to this year, many are frustrated with what they see as cavalier or irresponsible claims management companies interpreting the scheme very loosely, leading clients into ‘marginal’ claims that they, as the accountant, are asked to sign off on to lend a sheen of respectability. Some told me they’d lost sleep over certain claims and were considering refusing to submit the tax return amendment if they hadn’t also prepared the claim for R&D tax relief.
- I believe that HMRC, stung by years of criticism that they’re not doing enough to police the scheme, is now taking a very tough stance on enquiries. It now seems to be the case that if your client gets an enquiry, you can expect it to be refused on one or more technicalities. Gone are the days when HMRC would give and take on eligibility – from the enquiries I’ve been assisting accountants with recently, it seems to be much more an attitude of ‘We don’t think any of this is eligible, now let’s find a reason why.’ If that’s going to be their stance, avoiding enquiries by submitting only compliant claims has never been more important.
- I believe that there is a pressing need for more training and information about the scheme and how it could and should be applied in practice, but that the market in its current form is unlikely to provide this. After all, why would R&D consultants, who pitch their services as ‘Use us, we’re the experts!’ share their knowledge? They actively want as much grey and vagueness as possible, so that companies and their agents feel that they need to work with a specialist. And from what I’ve seen, much existing training seems to stick to the basics – the rules and numbers that anyone could Google for themselves, while staying silent on the important stuff – the nuances, complexities and ethical choices encountered by someone out in the field, trying the best they can to interpret and apply the guidance to real clients.
- I believe that I have an opportunity here, to make a difference, to help, to change things up. How? By finding a way to make 13 years of R&D experience available to those advisors and providers who think that the rules are important, who want to understand them better, and who want to make sure that their clients receive honest, accurate information about their eligibility and the scheme itself.
If that sounds like I’m setting myself up yet as another consultant, I’m really, really not! Been there, done that (2008-2017). Nope. Instead, I’m combining my experience in Software, Training Management and R&D Tax Credits to create something a bit special – an online training academy for advisors that gives you access to engaging, honest and accurate video-based training on all aspects of R&D tax relief. My aim is:
- To use this platform to talk about all aspects of the scheme, and how it can or should be applied in practice – to prise open and lay out the secrets and tricks of the trade, so that you can recognise and counter the sharp practices and unethical tactics used by some providers.
- To help you and your team become expert, so that you’re much less reliant on external consultants and can have more of a say about the level of risk your clients are exposed to.
- To help your organisation become more aware of R&D opportunities and how to close and process them, so that you, as an organisation that values training, fairness and adherence to standards, can flourish in what is now a super-competitive market.
This is what I believe in: positive change, support, help and enablement for those who value it and want to do the best job they possibly can for their R&D clients.