R&D Cashback for loss-making SMEs

Small and medium-sized enterprises that make a loss stand to benefit from an increase in research and development tax credits

The Chancellor announced an increase in the repayable research and development (R&D) tax credit for loss-making small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from 11% to 14.5%.

Since 2011, the tax credit movement had been downwards, so this reversal is good news for loss-making SMEs. 

The R&D tax breaks have been subject to much revision in recent years. To recap, there are two distinct schemes for SMEs and large companies.

To qualify as an SME for R&D purposes, the company must not exceed the following limits:

Limits for expenditure incurred on or after 1 August 2008

Number of employees: <500


Annual turnover: <EUR100,000,000


Balance sheet total: <EUR86,000,000


Not more than 25% of the company's share capital to be owned by large enterprises


The levels of relief available for expenditure by SMEs on qualifying R&D are as follows:

  • SMEs can claim R&D tax relief for 225% of their qualifying revenue expenditure from 1 April 2012 on research and development expenditure. The relief would normally be claimed by deducting, from taxable profits in the company’s corporation tax computation, an additional amount equal to 125% (or 100% prior to 1 April 2012) of the R&D expenditure.

  • Relief at 225% of the expenditure gives companies liable to pay the small profits rate of 20% a tax saving equal to 45% of the R&D expenditure.

  • Where a company has a surrenderable trading loss, it may surrender the R&D tax relief (or the unrelieved loss if lower) in exchange for a tax credit equal to 11% of the surrendered amount. From 1 April 2014, this will be increased to 14.5% with effect from 1 April 2014. 


The way that the tax credit relief operates is best given by example:

SME Ltd has the following results for the year ending 31 March 2015: 

Trading loss                                £200,000

Qualifying R&D expenditure      £60,000

The surrenderable loss is the lower of:

  • £200,000 and

  • £60,000 x 225% = £135,000. 

The repayable tax credit is therefore £135,000 x 14.5% =£19,575.

The trading loss of the company to carry forward is £200,000 -£135,000.