What's Eligible for the R&D Tax Incentive?

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Australia’s Research and Development (R&D) Tax Incentive provides significant benefits for businesses undertaking R&D activities. The program, jointly administered by AusIndustry and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), encourages companies to innovate by providing tax offsets for eligible R&D expenses. However, understanding the specifics of eligibility can be daunting. This article aims to provide clarity on the matter.


What are the core components of the R&D Tax Incentive?

The R&D Tax Incentive is predicated on three primary components: the tax offset, the expenses, and the activities. Understanding these aspects is essential for any business considering this opportunity. 


Tax offset

The tax offset is the financial benefit that companies receive from the government. This benefit may manifest as cash back or a reduction in tax liability, contingent on the size of your company and whether it's operating at a profit or loss. It's important to note that if you're receiving cash back, it does use up your tax losses.



The R&D Tax Incentive allows companies to claim the expenses incurred on eligible R&D activities. However, it's crucial to remember that only tax-deductible expenses can be claimed. For instance, if an individual is not incurring any cost for their time spent on R&D, their time cannot be claimed as an expense. Other expenses, such as those related to connected entities, aggregate turnover, and associates, are also relevant, and it's advisable to get a thorough understanding of these from a tax professional.



The most critical aspect of the R&D Tax Incentive is the activities undertaken by the company. The incentive differentiates between 'Core' and 'Supporting' R&D activities.

'Core' activities refer to experimental activities that are conducted for the purpose of generating new knowledge with a high level of technical risk. This means that the outcome of these activities cannot be known or determined in advance.


'Supporting' activities, on the other hand, are directly related to core activities. They can be claimed if they are necessary for conducting the core R&D activities.


Understanding Core R&D Activities

A Core activity must meet three criteria: unknown outcome, systematic experimentation, and new knowledge.


Unknown Outcome

The unknown outcome, or technical uncertainty, implies that when you begin an activity, a competent professional in the field cannot predict how to solve the problem based on their experience and available knowledge. This uncertainty necessitates experimentation to determine the solution. If there is no uncertainty and the solution can be reached through existing patterns or methods, the activity is not considered core R&D.


Systematic Experimentation

Systematic experimentation involves formulating and testing hypotheses to solve the technical problem. This process entails developing and testing potential solutions, analysing results, and refining the solution based on these results. It's a cyclical process that continues until a conclusion is reached.


New Knowledge

The process of systematic experimentation should result in new knowledge. The new knowledge should represent an advancement in science or technology, and not in fields such as social sciences, arts, or business. This knowledge generally takes the form of a new or improved product, process, or service.


Understanding Supporting R&D Activities

Supporting R&D activities are those that directly facilitate the core R&D activities. Whether an activity qualifies as supporting depends on the context. If the core activity cannot be executed without it, then it is a supporting activity. However, activities that merely relate to the same project but are not necessary for the core activity do not qualify as supporting activities.


Final Thoughts

Eligibility for the R&D Tax Incentive in Australia depends on meeting specific criteria for the tax offset, expenses, and activities. By understanding these requirements and keeping detailed records, businesses can greatly benefit from the incentive. Always remember to consult with a tax professional to ensure your activities qualify for the R&D Tax Incentive and to maximise your benefit. Check your eligibility or get in touch with one of the team today to start unlocking the potential of this incentive for your business.