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Best Practices for Exploring R&D Tax Credit Eligibility

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Be Prepared, and You Can Save Time, Effort, and Money.

If your company relies on the hard sciences or uses technology to create or improve products or processes, you might be able to reduce your federal taxes by a portion of the costs incurred using the Research & Development (R&D) Tax Credit. The credit can be significant and many types of companies potentially qualify. Smart preparation early in the process can also save you time, effort and, potentially, tax dollars.

Best Practices When Exploring the R&D Tax Credit

Reach out to qualified professionals to discuss the credit.

Find out if this professional has experience with the R&D Credit. Have they worked with companies similar to yours? They should ask about your new product(s) or innovation(s), your employees’ time associated with those developments, and if you retain rights to what you developed. Being mindful that your time is valuable, an experienced professional can often make a preliminary assessment in the first meeting as to the likelihood your company is eligible for the R&D credit or provide the preliminary questions needed in order to make that assessment.

Set up a meeting at your facility.

A walk-through helps immensely to educate your chosen consultant. That time walking through your plant or watching your prototype in action tells them a lot about your operations and, in turn, your potential to qualify for the R&D credit. Plan to set aside an hour to three hours, approximately (includes meeting time after the walk-through).

Have your subject matter experts easily accessible to discuss potential R&D activities.

These persons can be your employees or even outside contractors most connected to the development. Not having the right people involved as soon as possible in the exploratory process can negatively impact the amount of credit that you ultimately claim.

Understand that you’re trying to qualify for the tax definition of R&D.

We recently visited a manufacturing company where the chief technology officer claimed the company was doing no R&D. Of course the firm was constantly researching and developing as they were coming out with new products each year and making significant functional improvements to their existing products.

We helped him to understand that the definition of R&D for tax purposes might not match his scientific definition. This a pro-taxpayer credit: The tax definition of R&D can be more liberal and more encompassing than some traditional engineering minds might think.

That same company also experienced a year where technical challenges and other factors kept many of their developments from getting to market. They thought they had no activities to potentially quality for the R&D credit—but failure can be a positive when claiming a credit. It doesn’t mean you have no qualified R&D expenses—it can actually help show that R&D did occur.

Have your documentation ready.

Any contemporaneous documentation that monitors the activities qualifying as research activities will help to support your claim for the credit: blueprints or marketing materials, project write ups, financial information, status reports, modifications’ specs, and so on. (See our recent blog regarding proper documentation when exploring qualification for the R&D Tax Credit.)

Lack of documentation or no documentation makes the process of exploring your qualification for the R&D credit more involved; however, it is often possible to reconstruct information needed to claim the credit.

Talk to our experts today about your business’s potential to claim the R&D credit.

Freed Maxick R&D LinkedIn Showcase Page

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New York State Solar Power on The Rise!


By: Jeffery T. Zawada, CPA

A few years ago, talk of harnessing energy for commercial or residential sustainability didn’t seem practical. With no replicable models for doing community based energy projects or investments, local development didn’t seem thinkable. But with recent opportunities in community solar, crowdfunding and R&D, there has been a surge in commercial and residential development and investment.

What are other States Doing?

In 2012, California-based company, Solar Mosaic, launched their first community solar investment project, allowing 51 California investors to earn 6.38% returns for investing in a 47 kilowatt solar array on the roof of the Youth Partnership in Oakland. Their subsequent 235 KW project ups the ante; opening up to regular folks in California and New York (and accredited investors in all 50 states). 

The Mosaic model turns community solar into a simple investment, letting prospective investors select a particular Mosaic project to invest in, with significantly higher returns than parking money in a U.S. Treasury or savings account.  For now, it’s limited to broad participation in just two states, New York and California. This is just one example of how solar companies are expanding the reach of solar energy output.

What is New York Doing?
Governor Cuomo, in his 2013 State of the State Address, announced the Charge New York Program; making NYS part of a clean tech economy. Due to the large amount of money NY is investing in panel installations for home and business; various companies in New York offer incentives and tax credits for both residential and commercial businesses looking to recoup some of the costs.

Companies like New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) offer many state incentives and credits for commercial and residential builds.

  • NYSERDA Solar PV Program Incentives- Saves 40-70% off the purchase cost and install on a solar electric system by combining this program with other New York Energy SMART programs;

  • The NYSERDA Solar Thermal Program Incentive offers both residential and commercial 15-20% off the installed cost of an ST system.

On the state and federal level, NY offers tax credits and exemptions for various solar installations. Some of these include:

  • The NYS Solar Credit:  Is a 25% credit of the total installation cost. You have to file tax form IT-255 to receive the credit. Be mindful; there’s a cap of $5,000 on this. If you are installing a 5kw system, you’ll be due back $5,000 from the state.

  • The federal solar tax credit: Allows for a 30% solar installation tax credit. This credit differs slightly from NY state credits. You need to calculate your expenses after rebates. For example- on a hypothetical 5kw system priced at $25,000, you can expect back $4,875 (this is by taking the $25,000, subtracting the state solar power rebate of $8,750 to arrive at $16,250. Then take your 30% and you’ll get $4,875).

  • The NYS solar tax exemption: for the addition of solar panels to your home; giving an exemption from property tax increases, even though you’ll be adding roughly 20 times your annual electricity bill savings to your property value.

Still unsure what renewable energy credits or incentives you qualify for? Freed Maxick can help you figure it out. Contact us to connect with our experts, or call us at 716-847-2651.

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