The link between marketing your R&D service and HMRC enquiries
HMRC received more R&D tax relief claims in 2023 than ever before, with hundreds of tax services across the nation working to help businesses support innovative projects.
While most tax services prepare claims in a responsible manner, others are less diligent. This divide is especially apparent in how some of these R&D providers market their services.
Some are up-front and truthful in their marketing, leaving potential customers well-informed about HMRC’s qualifying criteria and the work involved in making an R&D claim. Other providers argue that the purpose of marketing is to stimulate new conversations, and that it’s not something to be taken too seriously. The reality is that how an R&D tax relief provider advertises its services can now have a big impact on how they are viewed by HMRC and potential customers alike.
In fact, HMRC can and do look at your website before or during an R&D enquiry. If they see you talking about ‘free money’ and ‘100% success’, that could lead to them targeting your claims for further investigation.
So, what you say in your marketing directly affects how people perceive your brand and make decisions about whether to trust you. And with HMRC increasingly eager to apply penalties, there can be harsh consequences to saying or doing the wrong thing.
From potential claimants trying to work out if they are eligible for the relief, to HMRC evaluating if you are a provider of concern, it pays to make sure that your marketing practices are regularly reviewed and at the standard they need to be at.
What does responsible R&D marketing actually look like in practice?
One of the main reasons that potential customers may be looking at your website is to learn more about the R&D scheme and whether they may be eligible to apply. The more information you give them, the better informed they’ll be and the more likely it is that you’ll get to work with a company that a) has genuinely done R&D, and b) has realistic expectations about the process and its results. Referencing HMRC guidance, providing current information about the scheme, and setting reasonable expectations are all key points to consider when adding content to your website.
It is also a good idea to showcase members of your team and their experience. This allows people to make a more informed decision about whether they would like to work with you.
Ultimately, good marketing generates better prospects. Better prospects yield better clients, claims, and a healthier relationship with HMRC. By being accurate and ethical in your marketing, you'll not only protect your brand but also contribute to a more robust industry with higher overall standards – which is exactly what we want to see.
If you currently offer an R&D service and have been concerned about whether you’re saying the right thing on your website and social media posts, we recently published an article which goes into further detail and includes some practical steps you can take to strengthen your messages. We also offer a comprehensive course as part of our training catalogue which covers all aspects of marketing your R&D service.
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