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See New York’s Top 10 Tax Credits and Cash Incentives for Start-ups

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Here in New York State, the federal and state governments offer certain types of programs that can incentivize companies as they start and grow their business. Our team recently presented this topic to the Genesee County (N.Y.) Chamber of Commerce. 

You can see the video of the full presentation here.

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10 Programs and Tax Credits for New York Start-ups to Consider:

While there are many programs and credits available to start-ups, here is our list of the top 10 to consider:

1. The U.S. government provides the federal research tax credit for companies that are innovative and are creating something new to their business or industry, or that are expanding a business into a new area.

2. NYS has designated 10 Innovation Hot Spots in each of the state’s economic development regions. This a tax credit program whereby your company can potentially avoid income taxes and sales taxes for five years.

3. START-UP NY offers new and expanding businesses the opportunity to operate tax-free for 10 years on or near eligible university or college campuses in the state.

4. The Excelsior Jobs program, which provides tax credits for such strategic businesses as high tech, bio-tech, clean-tech and manufacturing that create jobs or make significant capital investments, also applies to innovative companies.

5. The Investment Tax Credit applies if you or your business placed qualified property into service during the tax year. If your application is properly structured, as a new business you can potentially get cash back from NYS for up to five years.

6. The Qualified Emerging Technology Company (QETC) credit is for innovative companies looking to fulfill a key need: investment capital. This particular credit is for the investor who puts money into your company.

7. Companies starting up that are also doing R&D activities can realize a break in paying sales tax.

8. Grants for NYS start-ups come in many varieties: research, educational, energy-efficient improvements to your manufacturing facilities, capital investments. Grants can also come from many sources, such as Empire State Development.

9. With employment-based tax credits, if you’re looking to hire employees, you should be screening those employees for qualification for potential tax credits.

10. If you’re a manufacturer in NYS, you now pay 0% tax. That brings home the importance of looking for tax credits that give you cash back.

Our team is experienced in getting companies of all sizes the most they have coming through federal and New York state tax credits. Contact us to learn more about how we can help.

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The 4-Part Test to Qualify for the R&D Tax Credit

R&D Tax Credit Test - Buffalo CPA Firm

The Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit, recently made permanent, can be a financial boon as you work to improve cash flow in your business. As we've discussed in previous posts, if you rely on the hard sciences or use technology in your business to create or improve products or processes, you might be able to reduce your federal taxes by a portion of the qualified costs incurred.

A four-part test can help you determine if your company’s activities qualify for the R&D credit.

#1: Permitted Purposes

To qualify for the R&D credit, the activity must relate to a new or improved business component’s function, performance, reliability, quality, or composition. You don’t necessarily have to discover an innovation or advancement that’s new to your industry, only what may be innovative or new to you and your company’s processes or products.

#2: Technological in Nature

The activity performed must fundamentally rely on principles of physical sciences, biological sciences, computer science, or engineering. For example, if you’re in food production, simply adding more salt to your product won’t necessarily qualify—but a method based in hard sciences to enhance your product’s flavor might, as would similar methods designed to keep food fresher longer.

#3: Elimination of Uncertainty

The activity must be intended to discover information to eliminate uncertainty concerning the capability or method for developing or improving a product or process, or the appropriateness of the product design.

#4: Process of Experimentation

The qualifying activities must constitute the process of experimentation involving: simulation; evaluation of alternatives; confirmation of hypotheses through trial and error; testing and/or modeling; or refining or discarding of hypotheses.

Beyond definitions stipulated by the four-part test, examples of activities that might qualify for the credit include those to advance the design of an existing product or process, or those to correct significant design defects or obtain significant cost reductions or enhanced function. Costs of design, construction, and testing of pre-production prototypes and models can also qualify.

For example...

Let’s say you’re a manufacturing firm developing eyewear and you want to increase productivity 10% to 15%. Your costs for doing an evaluation of the raw materials, considering new molds, and determining such factors as the proper heating and cooling temperatures for that raw material and/or molds may qualify for the R&D credit.

Similarly, if you have a product run by software, costs of developing new software to make that product more reliable and more efficient might quality for the credit. If you’re an architectural or engineering firm, costs of researching and incorporating green technology might qualify.

Other activities potentially qualifying for the credit: conceptual formulation, design, and testing of possible product or process alternatives; launch activities involving a new component or process; or design time, tool design and testing, prototype building, and similar activities. Also:

  • Engineering efforts to develop new plant processes or technical redesign of an existing plant layout that result in substantial production gains;
  • Efforts to solve production problems where there was uncertainty as to the best solution; and
  • Design and testing involved in improving the configuration or altering the composition of an existing product or process to increase efficiency or decrease cost.

Some activities do not qualify for the R&D credit, including funded research (for example, funded by a government grant), ordinary testing and inspection, research done outside the U.S., reverse engineering (unless such engineering involves an enhancement, in which case a percentage of your R&D costs may qualify for the credit), adaptation of an existing business component to a particular customer’s requirement or need (for example, adapting a computer program you sell to a particular customer’s requirement), or research with a non-functional focus such as improving or changing style, taste, or cosmetic changes.

Also not qualifying: research after commercial production; management studies or activities; and efficiency or consumer surveys.

Qualified costs include wages paid to employees directly involved with, in direct supervision of, and in direct support of the R&D; materials and supplies used and consumed in the process; and work performed by outside contractors in any of the four parts of the test qualify as long as you retain substantial rights in what the contractors do.

The R&D credit can apply to companies in many industries. We can help you explore the potential of the R&D credit for current and prior open tax years and talk about how your efforts to grow your business could generate cash savings on your federal (and state) tax returns. Contact us to learn more.

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The Process to Claim Your Possible R&D Tax Credit

Claim_RD_Credit_iStock_43230472-650936-edited.jpgAfter years of being temporarily extended, the Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit has been made permanent, a policy change that might suggest wider IRS acceptance of true R&D credit claims.

Improving your business often has underpinnings in potential R&D credible activities. Every company wants to grow and differentiate itself – and one of the common denominators for differentiation is improvement in technology, whether it is to create a new or improved product or process. If you rely on the hard sciences or use technology in your business to create or improve products or processes, you might be able to reduce your federal taxes by a portion of the related costs incurred.

How to See if You Qualify for the R&D Credit

First, it’s very helpful to take a critical look at activities that anyone in your company is undertaking to pursue an idea that would make a process more efficient, more streamlined, greener, and so on. Or perhaps you’re testing the feasibility of a new or improved product, looking at overhauling an outdated software, or exploring how to communicate more effectively with your client base through the internet.

Another helpful step is to identify and review those documents that address/substantiate project initiatives and their progress (or even lack of progress—setbacks can actually be a sign that you probably have some credible R&D activity). These documents can include project reports, engineer reports, data updates, feasibility studies, outside contracts, project aspiration memos, or memos that show your company had to change the course of the project or even abandon the project altogether.

From our experience, accumulating the data and information required to support R&D activities can be fairly easy using, for instance, such readily available financial data as payroll records and supply usage compilations that went into any department or project undertaken for an R&D initiative. It might also be wise to investigate the entire history of the project. It's not unusual to discover there are unclaimed R&D credits for prior years as well.

Don’t assume that your potential credit would be too small to be worth your research time.

Even if your company has only one engineer working on a project, that engineer might need two support staffers and a supervisor. (Experienced advisers can help you determine if your applying for the credit is worthwhile.)

Keep your data and documentation simple by focusing on criteria the IRS is looking for when claiming the R&D credit. If the documentation is not there, your R&D credit team can still vet those business improvement ideas for credibility and potential by talking to project leaders or those who have been involved with the ideas on improvement.

Another key to exploring and securing the R&D credit is efficiency and finding the right advisers to guide you through claiming the credit, both when filing the refund claim and in the unlikely event of an IRS audit. Our firm has had remarkable success in retaining the R&D credits claimed if initially challenged by the IRS. We do our homework up front. For example, we have conversations early on that explore succinctly our clients’ potential for claiming and supporting their R&D credible activity.

We also look at a company’s ability to actually generate cash refunds when claiming the credit. In a limited number of cases, the R&D credit may not generate a cash refund upon filing an amended return to claim such credits. In those cases we explore the amount of benefit and when it is expected to be realized before undertaking an R&D credit study. This rarely occurs and the IRS, beginning in 2016, has further expanded the group of companies eligible for receiving a cash benefit from the credit. Beginning this year, certain small businesses with annual revenues under $50 million may qualify to claim the credit against its alternative minimum tax liability. Prior to this companies paying AMT had to carry forward the credits for use in future years. In addition, certain small business with less than $5 million in gross receipts may offset payroll taxes by the R&D credit.

We can help you explore the potential of the R&D credit for current and prior open tax years and talk about how your efforts to grow your business could generate cash savings on your federal (and state) tax returns via the R&D credit. Contact our R&D credit experts today.

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The Research & Development Credit: Do Any of Your Activities Qualify?

It’s all about the science of innovation, no matter what your business does.

R&D Tax Credit - Buffalo CPA FirmThe Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit has been in the news a lot lately, especially because it was made a permanent part of the tax code in a long awaited move by Congress. Until that action, the credit was included as part of a group of provisions known as “extenders” that required frequent acts of Congress to keep them available to taxpayers. As a matter of policy this is significant and may suggest a wider acceptance by the IRS of bonafide R&D credit claims. Given this newfound reliability, it’s worth a look to see if any of your business’ activities might qualify for the credit.

In short, costs related to any activity that uses a technical discipline to improve a product or process may qualify for the R&D credit. The law requires that the taxpayer use some form of hard science principle to make throughput faster and/or more efficient and that there be some doubt as to the outcome. The credit is frequently used by taxpayers to offset the costs of research designed to improve their products or certain processes.

In many cases, architectural and engineering firms may overlook activities that could qualify for the credit and reduce their tax obligation. For instance, say a cloud services provider engages an architect and an engineer to design a more energy efficient server farm. Some of their costs related to the project, notably wages, could qualify. Also, if the architect designs and tests new floor plans and wall layouts in order to improve airflow, it may be able to claim the credit for costs related to that work.

In addition, (1) software design costs to improve or allow for third party interfacing and (2) costs associated with developing internal use business software that is highly innovative, may also be eligible for the credit.

Architectural/engineering/construction costs that should be evaluated for potential R&D credit benefits include:

  • Green building design
  • Energy efficiency innovation
  • Structural engineering
  • Experimenting with materials
  • HVAC/plumbing/electrical system design for increased efficiencies
  • High-tech equipment/manufacturing installation and design improvements

R&D Credit for Manufacturers - Buffalo CPA If your business engages in activities like these, you should discuss your eligibility for the R&D credit with a Freed Maxick professional familiar with its requirements. As long as the research is based on hard science and the outcome is not certain, you may qualify for significant tax savings.

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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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