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New, merged R&D tax relief scheme lacks guidance

29th Feb 2024
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R&D tax relief training and support

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With just a month to go until the implementation of the merged R&D tax relief scheme, practical guidance from HMRC is still hard to come by.

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Despite last-minute uncertainty about whether the new, merged R&D tax relief scheme would come into effect on April 1, the Finance Bill has now received Royal Assent and HMRC has updated its Additional Information Form to facilitate claims through the R&D Intensive Scheme . While HMRC conveyed some of the details and broad changes in the Autumn Statement, fresh guidance about how it’ll function in practice is still thin on the ground.

What do we know about the new, merged scheme? 

While it was clear that the scheme needed some revisions to make it more accessible and resistant to fraud, not everyone agrees that it should have been changed just yet.
 
The House of Lords Finance Bill Sub Committee was critical of how the new changes were being brought in, citing a lack of detailed guidance, a rushed timetable, and a lack of proper consultation with industry. Their report strongly recommended to delay the merged scheme to accounting periods starting on or after 1st April 2025.

For whatever reason, HMRC decided to forge ahead and bring the changes into effect this year. They have published plenty of information about why they’re making these changes, how they expect the new scheme to aid the economy, and the other impacts it might have. But, the format and scope of this information is difficult to digest and actually apply in practice. 

It’s not like the changes are just tweaks and small modifications to the existing scheme, things are set to change significantly. So, while the new Guidelines for Compliance will still be applicable, HMRC haven’t updated the Corporate Intangible Research & Development (CIRD) manual, which provides essential guidance for practicing R&D advisors.

It’s frustrating, as this leaves the taxpayer with very little information to navigate the practical workings of the new scheme. At minimum, it should be a joint effort. Especially when HMRC has put so much emphasis on preparing compliant claims, you’d think they might want to save themselves some headaches by providing companies with clear, timely guidance.

How can R&D advisors prepare for the merged scheme?

Despite the lack of communication from HMRC, there are still steps you can take to prepare for the merged scheme. Some industry experts have pored over the legislation to develop resources to fill the gap. Using these tools, you can hit the ground running with the changes brought by the scheme and make sure your whole team is on the same page.

Our upcoming joint webinar with WhisperClaims will provide a concise breakdown of what you need to know about the new, merged scheme. It’s free and will also provide insights into how the legislative changes might affect the R&D advisory market as a whole. 

Sign up to our free webinar