Late July, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, and Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced the bipartisan Research and Development Tax Credit Expansion Act that aims to double the refundable research and development (R&D) tax credit and increase the alternative simplified credit rate for new and small businesses. If enacted, the bill would provide additional cash savings for eligible businesses that perform qualified R&D activities.
While the R&D tax credit has been around for a while, historically, many small businesses and start-up companies could not immediately benefit from the R&D credit as they were not generating income in early years and thus they had no regular tax for the R&D credit to offset. Noticing this limitation, the PATH Act of 2015 added new IRC Sections to allow qualified small businesses to apply the R&D credit against their employer’s payroll tax liability (up to $250,000 annually). For these purposes, a “qualified small business” is generally defined as a corporation, partnership or sole proprietorship with: (1) gross receipts of less than $5 million for the tax year and (2) no gross receipts for any tax year before the five tax years ending with the election year.
New R&D Credit Bill
The new bill aims to double the amount of R&D credit that can be used to offset an employer’s payroll tax liability by increasing the annual cap from $250,000 to $500,000 and then automatically indexing for inflation. In addition, the bill would expand the number of eligible businesses that qualify for the credit by raising the maximum amount of gross receipts from $5 million to $10 million per year. It would also allow the R&D credit to offset all payroll taxes so businesses can apply the credit against Medicare and unemployment taxes, in addition to Social Security taxes. Lastly, the bill would increase the alternative simplified credit rate (a method used to calculate the R&D credit), which provides a credit of 14% for research that exceeds half of the average research spending from the last three years. The bill would increase the alternative simplified credit rate from 14% to 20% for new and small businesses that qualify for the credit.
If enacted, eligible taxpayers would doubly benefit by both generating a higher credit amount and being able to apply more of the credit generated against their payroll tax. Additionally, the bill would increase both the availability of the payroll offset option as well as the ability to generate cash tax savings for eligible taxpayers. The proposed Act certainly removes many of the barriers that limit a new or small businesses’ ability to claim the credit. Nevertheless, while we wait to see if Congress will approve the Research and Development Tax Credit Expansion Act, we will continue to advise our clients to ensure their R&D tax credit compliance and counsel on effective tax planning opportunities should the Act go into effect.
If you are interested in learning more about your eligibility or effective tax planning opportunities for the current and/or proposed R&D tax credit, please contact Attorney Britany E. Morrison at O’Neil, Cannon, Hollman, DeJong & Laing S.C. to discuss how we are able to assist you in your needs.