In my opinion, your SRED requirements will not be well-served by putting them in the hands of one of the big accounting companies.
What bugs me the most about this topic is when I run into a non-claimer/first-time SRED claimer who declares: “Big Accounting Co X charges the most! They have the top brand name! They must be the best firm for me to trust with my SR&ED claims!
There are several reasons for this. I’ll go into three of them here.
The first and most basic problem with using a big (or any) accounting firm for your SRED is they will inevitably focus on the accounting aspects of your SRED claim. Assembling an excellent SRED claim requires laser focus on the technical aspects of the claim. The strength of your claim, and the way it is evaluated by the CRA, is determined almost entirely by the technical merit of it’s project write-ups. The accounting aspects of assembling a SRED claim are clerical in nature. If you have a regular, garden variety SRED claim, your claim will be assembled by accepting the defaults in the accounting software package used. The expertise in assembling a SRED claim resides entirely in assembling and then properly characterizing all your qualifying work. That has zero to do with accounting.
Pay for Steak. Receive Hamburger.
If you talk to a big accounting firm about taking on your SR&ED, you will be dealing with senior executives. If you are a larger customer, your accounting Partner will bring in the firm’s top SR&ED executive plus a SR&ED technical expert and a SR&ED accounting expert. This isn’t super relevant, but none of these SRED folks are on the partner track at the accounting firm. What IS relevant is that you will not see these SR&ED experts again after you sign a contract for the big accounting company to prepare your SRED. Your SRED will be prepared by an associate. Possibly a junior associate. We know the quality of this staff is poor. Why? Because boutique SRED firms compete vs accounting firms for the labour pool of competent SR&ED technical writers. We always win this fight and get our pick. Accounting companies uniformly pay poorly for SRED technical expertise. And there is limited path for advancement of SR&ED personnel in an accounting firm. Partner track? Don’t make me laugh.
So. Use a big accounting firm for your SRED? You’ll be paying for steak. But you’ll be eating hamburger.
SRED personnel turnover/merry-go-round
If you use a big accounting firm for your SRED, expect to break in a new technical lead every year or two. SR&ED technical personnel don’t stick around in accounting companies. Poor pay. Limited advancement. No management focus in the firm on the SRED practice.
Of course the quality of your claim suffers as you train a new SR&ED tech on your unique environment. There’s no synergy or memory to draw on your past claim history. Your claim takes longer than it should to prepare as you try to bring junior, new staff up to speed.
So there’s three reasons why you shouldn’t use a big accounting firm for your SR&ED. No technical focus. Pay too much for mediocre quality. Meet (and train!) new people!
Cost targets, by themselves, are considered to be a business or sales related objective so they are not SRED. However, a cost target may lead to a technological uncertainty regarding how to achieve it. Resolving this uncertainty is SR&ED. This principle applies even when there is a known, more expensive, process able to meet the objective.
Here’s an example.
You want to develop a module for an energy efficient home which converts carbon monoxide to harmless carbon dioxide at ambient temperatures. There is an existing proven process to achieve this using a tin oxide and platinum process. The cost of the proven module is so high that it is price prohibitive to be used in a mass market, residential application such as yours. There are other proven methods to convert CO to CO2 but all require elevated temperatures (ie external heaters) to function properly. This constraint rules out their use in your intended application.
It is technologically unknown how to develop an inexpensive module that will convert carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide at room temperature. Thus your investigation to achieve this goal will be SR&ED eligible.
System uncertainty leads to technological uncertainty
System uncertainty occurs when a number of well known components are integrated into a system. There may be unpredictable interactions between the subsystems. It may be difficult to predict how the integrated system will perform due to unforeseeable adverse interactions. It will likely be necessary to change some of the underlying subsystems in order to achieve a stable, working overall system.
Attempting to resolve these unpredictable interactions and produce a working overall system can lead to technological advances, thus the work performed will likely be SRED eligible.
Determining the extent of claimable SR&ED work
Sometimes it can be difficult to break out SRED work from routine work performed. This problem comes up a lot in shop floor SRED, where your experimental SRED work can occur mixed in to normal production activities. The principle of claiming SRED work is that it is commensurate with the needs of, and directly in support of, the experimental work. Here’s an example.
You make field hockey sticks. You want to integrate a new production process using advanced laser measuring to improve accuracy in a key step to size lumber down to the rough stick size and shape. The new process will replace two pieces of machinery with a single workstation. You calculate that a test run of 500 sticks using the new process will be sufficient to perform a statistical analysis to determine whether the new setup can meet or exceed the accuracy of your current manufacturing process.
The week of the scheduled testing, you end up producing 2000 stick blanks using the new process to make up for a production shortfall due to a maintenance window in your conventional production process. For SRED purposes, you only consider the costs associated with producing the first 500 sticks using the new, integrated production process.
It can be tricky to figure out whether a particular job or project constitutes SRED work. Given the complexity of the topic, looking at examples of SRED work, and other cases which don’t meet the standard of SRED work, can be very helpful. It turns out the government has given us several SRED and non-SRED examples in this long article, Eligibility of Work for SR&ED Investment Tax Credits Policy. We summarize the examples and key takeaways here.
You use current technology to extract oil from oilseeds. The by-product after removing the oil is flour and seed coats with some trapped oil, called meal. You’d like to develop a process to extract the flour from the seeds and oil to produce a product suitable for humans to consume. One obstacle is that high temperature extraction methods harm the nutritional value and appearance of the flour. Separating the seeds and flour is difficult because the seed coats and the flour have similar physical properties and because the two are bonded together.
After due diligence, you develop a hypothesis that you can separate the flour from the seeds at low temperature using a process called ultrasonic maceration. You further think that the oil can be removed by a simultaneous solvent extraction process. Last, you believe that these separations can be achieved in a continuous process vs current meal processing which is all batch-based.
Technological uncertainty arose because of the limitations of current technology. You could not use the current technology to develop a large-scale, continuous process to separate the seed coats from the protein-rich flour at a low temperature. There was technological uncertainty because you did not know whether you could achieve a specific result or objective or how to achieve it based on generally available scientific or technological knowledge or experience.
Technical (not SRED) vs Technological (SRED)
You are a chemical company developing a new process for a chemical product. A number of the pumps used in the process began to corrode after only 6 months despite having a rated 10 year life. You start an analysis to gigure out what is going wrong. You discover that periodically the pumps are coming into contact with a highly corrosive liquid. You work backwards/upstream and find that a filter fails under certain high temperature conditions which allows the corrosive material into the system. You work out a fix for the filters and then no more corrosive materials in the process flow. Problem solved, no more corroding pumps.
The problem with the pumps in the new process was technical and not technological. You resolved the technical problem—corroding pumps—by identifying the true source of the problem and fixing it with an existing solution. There is no SR&ED here.
You are the pump supplier. The pumps are designed to work in corrosive environments. Pumps start to fail after 6 months vs their rated 10 year lifespan.
You investigate and find that the main shaft seal is leaking, causing corrosive fluid to leak into the pump, destroying it. You replace the main seal and put the pump back into service. It fails again in 6 months.
You investigated further and found that the temperature of the shafts of the pumps was above the maximum recommended operating temperature of the seal material. This problem caused seal and ultimately pump failure.
Once you discovered the cause of the problem, you started working on understanding the relationship between the sealing material and the seal profiles in a high-temperature, corrosive environment. You wanted to figure out the most suitable seal profile and seal material to achieve a 10-year lifespan. The manufacturers had data on the behaviour and physical properties of the seal materials at much lower temperature ranges, but there was no information or data on their corrosion resistance and physical properties at higher temperatures and in that specific type of environment. Nor was there any information on the profile that would be suitable for the high-temperature, corrosive environment the pumps were going to be used in.
This scenario describes a technological uncertainty, which means your investigation and remedial work are SR&ED.
R&D capabilities definition. R&D capabilities is defined as the ability to restructure current knowledge and produce new knowledge. It also has been determined as a prime competence to differentiate between successful and unsuccessful firm performance.
The R&D capabilities of firms are assessed using either input-output models or process models. It is thought that as firms perform more internal R&D, their ability to absorb knowledge from these R&D activities should increase. If this assumption is correct, then the efficiency of R&D should increase as the intensity of a firm’s R&D increases. These results are theoretical. Measuring R&D efficiency for a firm is very difficult.
The SR&ED program in Canada is an incentive program designed to encourage companies to increase their R&D inputs. Currently the SR&ED program will return credits to small business corporations of up to 70% based on salary inputs. Lower percentage credits are returned to firms based on other R&D inputs, namely materials used in experimental work and subcontractors employed. These generous tax incentives show that the Government of Canada believes that Canadian firms’ R&D capabilities can be positively impacted by significantly increasing R&D inputs.
The SR&ED Program also takes a firm’s R&D capabilities into account when determining whether work performed meets the standard of qualifying work for SR&ED credits. The firm’s R&D capabilities are summarized as its scientific or technological knowledge base. Firms with more advanced R&D capabilities have higher hurdles for what constitutes a technological unknown and also what differentiates experimental work from routine work.
Incentive funding delivered under the SR&ED Program is is not earmarked or constrained as to its use within the firm. The government must believe that most firms will see increased spending on R&D capabilities as thee most advantageous use of the funds.
“Process” R&D can be distinguished from “product” R&D based on the target of the work performed and the end goal which is hoped to be achieved. “Process” R&D concerns new or improved systems, tools, algorithms, workflows or methodologies, as opposed to “product” R&D which concerns itself with new or improved widgets, physical goods or software.
Some R&D involves new and improved processes and also enabling hardware, devices and software. In these cases, it is often not possible to draw a clear distinction between pure “process” and pure “product” engineering.
Certain industries and disciplines are well known for engaging mostly in process R&D. Manufacturing is a good example. Inventing and optimizing robotic cells, manufacturing lines, workstations, paint lines, welding rigs, etc all involve mostly process R&D. Engineering is another discipline where there is a high focus on process R&D. Enhancing techniques in analysis tools like FEA (finite element analysis), CFD (computational fluid dynamics and CAD/CAM are all process-related areas for advancement.
SR&ED as we know is a subset of R&D. It is the part of R&D which is concerned with resolving technological unknowns and obstacles via experimentation. A key definition of SR&ED incorporates process R&D. See here:
“experimental development, namely, work undertaken for the purpose of achieving technological advancement for the purpose of creating new, or improving existing, materials, devices, products or processes, including incremental improvements thereto”
To qualify as SR&ED, you don’t necessarily need to invent an entirely new process. Improvements to existing processes can also be SRED as long as you faced technological obstacles while attempting the process improvements.
Contract R&D has three different common usages and definitions under the SR&ED Program.
Most commonly contract R&D refers to contract expenditures which you make to other firms for SR&ED work performed on your behalf. These are often referred to as subcontract payments.
To be valid for SR&ED purposes, contract expenditures must be made to Canadian firms for work which is entirely carried out in Canada. As a second requirement, contract payments must be made to other firms which are at at length to your firm. That is, contract payments made to associated and otherwise related forms can’t be counted toward SRED expenditures.
Since 2012, only 80% of valid contract invoice amounts (always net of HST) are included in your claim as contract expenditures.
The second definition for contract r&d is related to the above usage. If you have contract employees who carry out SR&ED work for your firm, this work also counts as valid R&D work, as long as the staff member s are Canadians with a valid SIN.
The third and final common usage of contract R&D with respect to SR&ED are contract payments made to you to perform SRED work on behalf of other firms. This is a complex area of SR&ED but in general these payments must be enumerated and then subtracted from any related SRED expenditures for the same project work. Contract payments are project specific. This means that contract payments will only reduce sred expenditures down to zero for specific projects. Here is a simplified example of this principle. Say you have three sred projects, A,B and C. You receive contract payments from a Canadian firm for Project C only. If your contract payments exceed your SRED expenditures for Project C, the excess contract payments do not reduce your SRED expenditures for Projects A and B.
Learn more about subcontracts and other SRED expenditure types here.
Back in 2008, the CRA published an excellent overview of the SR&ED program:
“Support for your R&D in Canada – Overview of the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) Tax Incentive Program”
A lot has changed with SRED since 2008. That document is not available anymore from the government online as parts of it are outdated.
We reproduce the document below with updates to make it current. We’ve crossed out outdated material (outdated material) and added in correct current information. In some places, we’ve just provided the updated material where cross-outs were too extensive. Last, we’ve include some g6 commentary.
What is the SR&ED program?
The Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax incentive program is the largest single source of federal government support designed to encourage research and development (R&D) in Canada. Each year, the SR&ED program provides over $4 $3 billion in investment tax credits (ITCs) to over 18,000 20,000 claimants. 75% of claimants under the program are small businesses, which the CRA calls CCPCs (Canadian-Controlled Private Corporations.
Each province has a tandem program which provides some amount of funding under the program. The program is administered centrally by the CRA, regardless of the province where you are claiming. In Ontario, federal ITCs are topped up by the Ontario Innovation Tax Credit (OITC) currently at 8% for CCPCs, and the non-refundable Ontario Research and Development Tax Credit (ORDTC) at 3.5%. See this post for background on refundable vs non-refundable credits
What is the objective of the SR&ED program?
The objective of the SR&ED program is to deliver SR&ED tax incentives in a timely, consistent and predictable manner, while encouraging businesses to prepare their claims in compliance with tax laws, policies and procedures.
Historically the Program seeks to make Canadian businesses operating in fields of technology more competitive vs foreign companies by providing very generous, broad-based tax incentives. There is no comparable widely available R&D tax incentive program in the USA. SRED provides a large incentive for US and other foreign firms to locate engineering and scientific resources and technology centres of excellence in Canada.
How can the SR&ED program benefit my company?
The SR&ED program can provide financial incentives by helping to:
fund the scientific and technological advances that keep your company competitive and
better position your company for future SR&ED projects.
ITC and OITC SRED credits for CCPC’s in Ontario are fully refundable. This means they come to you as a cheque or direct deposit assuming you are current on your tax balances. The small Ontario ORDTC is a non-refundable credit. This means that these credits are used to pay off Ontario tax balances. This happens automatically if there are ON taxes owed in the year the SRED is awarded. Surplus ORDTC credits may be carried back three years and cashed or they are put on the company’s account and carried forward up to 20 years to pay future tax balances.
All SRED credits for large/pub;ic/foreign companies are non-refundable.
What businesses are eligible?
The SR&ED program is available to any business operating and carrying out R&D in Canada. A portion of the expenditures for SR&ED performed outside Canada are also permitted as long as the work is performed by Canadian residents.
SRED is not available to government organizations like municipalities, commissions, academic institutions or charities.
Any business that is involved in basic or applied research, or in advancing technology in order to improve or develop new materials, devices, products or processes may be eligible under the SR&ED program.
The businesses that are eligible under the SR&ED program fall into three groups:
Canadian-controlled private corporations;
Other corporations; and
Proprietorships (individuals), partnerships and trusts.
If you are a CCPC, you may receive a refundable investment tax credit (ITC) on your qualified SR&ED expenditures. You must first apply these ITCs against taxes payable in the year of the claim. The balance will be refunded.
The rate of refundability is based on your taxable income and taxable capital in the previous year and an expenditure limit. The table in the section “What are the SR&ED Investment Tax Credit Rates” provides further information.
2. Other corporations
For other corporations, the ITC is 20% 15% of qualified current and capital SR&ED expenditures. The ITC may be applied to taxes payable and is not refundable.
3. Proprietorships, partnerships and trusts
For proprietorships, partnerships and trusts, the ITC rate is 20% 15% of qualified current and capital SR&ED expenditures. After applying the ITCs against taxes payable, you may receive a cash refund on 40% of the balance of the ITCs earned in the tax year.
In practice, it is very difficult to claim SRED for proprietorships. The SRED claim is made on the person’s personal income tax return so that person’s wages or salary are not eligible for SRED credits. <
What is “SR&ED”?
The definition of “scientific research and experimental development” given in subsection 248(1) of the Income Tax Act can be summarized as:
…systematic investigation or search carried out in a field of science or technology by means of experiment or analysis . . . to advance scientific knowledge or to achieve technological advancement.
The work must fall into one of the following categories:
Experimental development – This is the work done to achieve technological advancement for the purpose of creating new, or improving existing, materials, devices, products or processes.
Applied research – This is work done to advance scientific knowledge with a specific practical application in view.
Basic research – This is work done to advance scientific knowledge without a specific practical application in view.
95% of the funding distributed under the SR&ED program is awarded for experimental development work.
SR&ED can also include other work that is directly in support of the experimental development, applied research or basic research. This support work includes only the following eight specific types:
In plain English, this means that SRED occurs from the time you start experimenting to resolve technological obstacles until you resolve the obstacles and unknowns or you abandon experimentation. You claim not just for the direct experimental work, but also the support activities which are reasonable and necessary to carry out the experimental work. Tak e an example of a winery which is conducting experiments to produce a sparkling wine with a new type of grape. The SRED work claimed would include the field work necessary to produce a minimum feasible batch of grapes to process and bottle to determine the outcome of the experiment.
What is not “SR&ED”?
Certain work is not eligible for benefits under the SR&ED program, including:
market research or sales promotion;
quality control or routine testing of materials, devices, products or processes;
research in social sciences or the humanities;
prospecting, exploring or drilling for, or producing minerals, petroleum or natural gas;
commercial production of a new or improved material, device or product, or the commercial use of a new or improved process;
style changes; and
routine data collection.
What are the eligibility requirements?
For any R&D work to be eligible for SR&ED:
The work must be a systematic investigation or search carried out by means of experiment or analysis;
This would include identifying the obstacle, formulating an objective, developing a plan of action including the method of experimentation or analysis and testing the hypothesis.
The work must be carried out in a field of science or technology that is not excluded by the legislated definition of SR&ED;
Excluded work is described under the heading “What is not SR&ED?”
The work must be undertaken either:
For the purpose of achieving technological advancement. The work must attempt to increase the technology base or level from where it was at the beginning of the systematic investigation or search. The technology base or level includes all the technological resources within the business and all the knowledge on the technology that is reasonably available in the public domain.
For advancing scientific knowledge. A systematic investigation or search must be carried out with the aim of generating new scientific information or understanding of scientific relations.
Note A project does not have to succeed to qualify for the SR&ED tax credit. To help you determine if your R&D work meets SR&ED requirements, the CRA has developed an online tool: SR&ED Self-Assessment and Learning Tool SALT.
What expenditures can I claim?
You may claim many of the expenditures incurred for SR&ED during your fiscal year. These expenditures may include:
Salaries and wages*;
Lease costs of equipment;
Third-party payments; and
*Note A portion of salaries and wages for SR&ED performed outside of Canada are now permitted as long as the work is performed by Canadian staff travelling outside Canada for collaboration.
Capital and lease costs were never widely claimed due to restrictive eligibility rules. Several years ago, the CRA made these expenditures fully ineligible for SRED.
How do I determine my SR&ED expenditures?
In determining your SR&ED expenditures, you must choose one of the following two methods:
1. Traditional Method
The traditional method involves claiming all of the SR&ED expenditures you incurred during the year. You must specifically identify your overhead costs.
2. Proxy Method
The proxy method involves calculating a substitute amount for overhead expenditures using a formula, rather than specifically identifying and allocating these expenditures as you would with the traditional method.
Almost all SRED claims are prepared using the Proxy method. Qualifying labour expense is marked up by a 55% uplift factor to account for overhead automatically. This is a generous allocation and only in unusual circumstances is it financially advantageous for a company to calculate and apply traditional overhead amounts. The one common circumstance for companies to claim using the traditional method are companies which have zero qualifying payroll to claim. In this case, the proxy amount will also be zero, so any claimable overhead is a net positive.
What are the SR&ED investment tax credit rates?
The investment tax credit (ITC) rates and the percentage that you can have refunded or credited vary according to the way your business is structured. The following table outlines the ITCs and the refundable rates that apply to qualified SR&ED expenditures. Most businesses are Canadian-controlled private corporations (CCPCs) with taxable income of less than $400,000 $500,000.
Unused ITCs may be carried back three years or carried forward 20 years.
The chart above has been updated to remove capital as a claimable sred expense and to reduce the ITC rates for other corporations etc from 20% to 15%.
How do I make a claim?
To make an SR&ED claim you must file an income tax return along with the following prescribed forms:
The “meat” of the SRED claim is Part 2 of the T661. This is the project description. You fill out a Part 2 project description for every SRED project you are claiming in the year. The 661 form can be a bit confusing. If you are claiming only one project the form is straightforward. If you are claiming multiple projects, you include in your claim package one T661 form composed of parts 1 and parts 3 to 10. Then you include as many filled T661 Pt 2 forms for the number of projects you are claiming.
You also file forms to apply for the provincial component of your SRED credits. For Ontario, these forms are:
Finally, you will file a Schedule 1 or an amended Schedule 1 from the fiscal year’s T2 for which you are applying for SRED. This Schdule 1 will incorporate SRED entries for liness 118, 411 and possibly line 605:
There are two ways to file SRED claims. The first and preferred way is to file SRED as part of your regular annual T2 filing. Forfirst time filers and procrastinators, it is also possible to file a SRED claim as an amendment to your already processed T2 filing, as long as you are still within the SRED reporting deadline window.
To apply for SR&ED tax incentives, you must file the applicable prescribed forms by your reporting deadline. The reporting deadline for corporations is 18 months (individuals have 17.5 months) from the end of the tax year in which you incurred the expenditures.
This deadline is fixed (except for the COVID allowance noted below). If you don’t file a complete and correct SRED claim by the deadline, you lose all ability to claim for that fiscal year. Claims submitted late are not processed, no exceptions.
Some claim deadlines have been extended due COVID-19. See this g6 post for detail.
What happens after I send in my claim?
When you send in your claim, the CRA will determine if it can be processed as filed without further review. If we can process your claim as filed, we will reduce your taxes payable or, if applicable, issue a cheque to you. If we cannot process your claim as filed, we may contact you to request more information or to discuss the review of your claim.
The following chart illustrates how we process SR&ED claims:
Claims for first time claimants are handled differently. The CRA announced a policy several years ago to review all first time SRED claims. The workload to review all first time claims by the CRA is too large. Therefore a proportion of first time claims are diverted and handled under a program called the First Time Claimant Advisory Service, FTCAS. You want your first time claim to be handled in this manner. The CRA will still visit you to deliver a SRED training session but your SRED claim will be accepted as filed as part of the FTCAS process. See this post for details on FTCAS.
How long will it take to process my claim?
Here’s the old chart for service standards and goals for processing your SR&ED claim:
Service standards have been moving around for SRED. There’s no standard published currently for non-refundable SRED claims (ie large/public/foreign corporations). We believe these claims’ standards remain unchanged at 365 days.
CCPC service standards were simplified and improved as of early 2018 for CCPC’s. Refundable claims now fall under the following service standard:
All claims which have been accepted as filed will be processed within 60 calendar days of the date we receive a complete claim.
Refundable claims selected for review/audit will be completed within 180 calendar days of the date we receive a complete claim.
The CRA is committed to meeting these service standards 90% of the time.
What happens during the review process?
Businesses claiming the SR&ED credit are subject to technical and financial reviews by the CRA to ensure that all eligibility and compliance requirements, as set out in the Income Tax Act, are met.
If the CRA cannot process your SR&ED claim as filed, we may contact or visit you to review information relating to your claim.
The CRA’s technical and financial review staff works as a team to ensure that you get the SR&ED credits to which you are entitled.
The technical reviewer evaluates the work to determine whether it meets the SR&ED eligibility criteria. The financial reviewer looks at the costs associated with your projects to ensure they are eligible SR&ED expenditures. These reviews may involve a site visit to review your documentation, talk to your technical staff who were involved in the SR&ED work, and talk to your financial staff who understand the expenditures being claimed.
All information provided to the CRA technical and financial review staff is held in strictest confidence. Legislative provisions and stringent rules protect the confidentiality of all claimants’ records.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, all CRA reviews were carried out in-person.
What do the reviewers need from me?
To expedite your claim and deliver your tax credits in a timely manner, it helps if you:
identify a technical contact person in your company who was involved in the SR&ED work;
identify a financial contact person in your company who understands the expenditures being claimed;
contact the CRA’s technical and financial reviewers if you need to clarify information requested;
maintain the technical and financial documents needed to substantiate the claim and make them available if requested; and
respond in a timely manner to CRA requests for more information.
In order to support your SR&ED claim, it is important to maintain evidence that substantiates the SR&ED work performed and expenditures incurred. If your SR&ED claim is selected for review, you will be asked during the review process to provide this evidence. Generally, the best evidence is that which was generated as the SR&ED was being carried out. The CRA calls this evidence “contemporaneous”.
Examples of technical and financial supporting evidence that could be kept are:
Project planning documents
Documents on design of experiments
Design documents and technical drawings
Project records, laboratory notebooks
Design, system architecture and source code (software development)
Records of trial runs
Project progress reports
Minutes of project meetings
Test protocols, data, results, analysis and conclusions
Final project report or professional publications
Scrap, scrap records
Contracts, lease agreements
Records of resources allocated to the project, time sheets, activity records, payroll records
Purchase invoices and proof of payment
The best documentation is dated and was generated as the work was being carried out, ie contemporaneously.
What can I do if I have concerns?
If you have concerns during the review process or once the claim has been processed, refer to
The SR&ED program offers several free services that can help you take full advantage of the benefits offered. These services have been changed over the years in an attempt to increase their popularity. These services include:
First-Time Claimant Service; First Time Claimant Advisory Service
Preclaim Project Review (PCPR) Service; Pre Claim Consultation
Account Executive (AE) Service; and
Public Information and Industry-Specific Seminars.
First Time Claimant Advisory Service – FTCAS
This program doesn’t really fit with the other services and seminars listed here as it is a mandatory service. First time claimants who are selected for this service avoid full reviews for their first claim. This diversion from a full review is beneficial and sought after. See this g6 post with an overview of the important FTCAS program.
Pre Claim Consultation
A pre-claim consultation will tell you if there is scientific research and experimental development (SR&ED) work in any of your projects before you send an SR&ED claim.
For a pre-claim consultation, you must meet the basic requirements for claiming SR&ED tax incentives, and the projects for which you are requesting a consultation must meet the following requirements:
be completed or in progress
were not already reviewed and given an eligibility determination
do not involve an issue that is under notice of objection or in litigation
The pre-claim consultation can only be requested for a maximum of three (3) projects per tax year.
In addition, the date of your request for a consultation must be no later than four months after the end of the tax year in which you did your work.
Based on the information you provide for the consultation, SR&ED reviewers will:
identify the research and development work that qualifies as SR&ED
provide advice on the supporting documents you need to keep
answer your questions, and offer advice and recommendations
provide a decision in a written report, which will identify the work that qualifies for SR&ED tax incentives. The decision will correspond to Step 1 of the Eligibility of Work for SR&ED Investment Tax Credit Policy. The report will not include decisions on the extent of eligible work or the allowable expenditures.
To ask for a pre-claim consultation, you have to complete and send an online pre-claim consultation request form. After you send your completed form, a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) officer will call you to ask for more information to help the CRA decide if you qualify for a consultation.
In your pre-claim consultation request and during your conversation with the officer, give the same contact and business information. Also, have your business and project information on hand to respond to the officer’s questions.
If you have questions about the Pre-Claim Consultation, get in touch with your local SR&ED contact.
Public Information and Industry-Specific Seminars
The SR&ED program offers, across the country, free public general information seminars as well as seminars on SR&ED issues specific to a sector or industry. The availability and frequency of seminars has declined as they are slowly being replaced by webinars.
Public general information seminars provide a general overview of the SR&ED program, covering the following: eligibility criteria, qualifying expenditures, how to prepare and file an SR&ED claim and supporting documentation. These seminars are intended for claimants who are new to the program or are planning on filing a claim, and are suitable for an audience of both technical and financial staff.
Seminars on SR&ED issues specific to a sector or industry are specialized workshops for SR&ED stakeholders involved in a specific sector or industry, and include presentations, a panel discussion and a case study or examples. The focus is on issues affecting SR&ED claims in a specific sector or industry. These workshops are intended for an audience familiar with the SR&ED program. It is recommended that you first attend an SR&ED public general information seminar.
To view the current seminars in your area please go here.
Who can I contact to get more information? SRED offices and phone numbers
SRED is now administered out of 6 offices across Canada. You can phone your local office for more information about the SRED program. You can also call your SRED office if your submitted SRED claim is still in progress after the applicable service standard has been exceeded.
Here are the 6 SRED offices, their phone number, and the provinces and/or cities that each office serves.
SR&ED Specified Employee definition – A specified employee is a CRA designation for an owner of a business. A person who owns 10% of a business, or greater, is a specified employee.
People employed in the business who are not dealing at arm’s length with a specified employee are themselves considered to be specified employees.
The CRA considers direct relatives to not be dealing at arms length with each other. These relatives include married spouses, common law spouses, parents, siblings and children. Spouses of children and grandchildren are generally thought to be non-arm’s length but this is a grey area. Cousins, nephews and uncles are not considered by the CRA to be direct relatives so these individuals are not considered to be specified employees if they are employed by the business and hold no ownership stake.
Other individuals can be considered to not be dealing at arm’s length with a specified employee. The most common mechanism for this to occur are people named as beneficiaries in the will of a business owner. If these beneficiaries are employed in the company, and they are nominated in a will to inherit 10% or greater of the company’s shares, then they are considered specified employees despite no current ownership.
Specified employees have both greater scrutiny and also restrictions placed on their employment income included in an SR&ED claim.
Specified employees are individually named on the T661 form in a SRED filing. Their total employment income for the year is listed, as well as the percentage of their income claimed as a SRED expense. This is the default extra scrutiny placed on specified employee wages.
There are a few restrictions placed on specified employee wages claimed in a SRED filing.
First, no specified employee can claim more than 75% of his salary for a fiscal year. It is considered that business owners have other time constraints in the day to day demands of running a business therefore claiming greater than 75% of their time on SRED is unreasonable. This 75% restriction used to be only a guideline, but it is now in the Income Tax Act as a rule.
Second, specified employees can not claim bonuses as part of their employment income eligible as a SRED expense. For regular arms-length employees, bonuses are added to their annual pay to make up their notional SRED wage claiming rate. For example, an employee with a salary of $100K per year has a calculated SRED wage claiming rate of $100K/2000 hours worked per year or $50 per hour. The same employee who is given a $20,000 Christmas bonus of $20,000 has a claiming rate of $60 per hour. A specified employee under the same set of circumstances can only claim $50 per hour as his SRED rate.
This bonus restriction also leads to other scrutiny of specified employee compensation. The CRA wants to ensure that the wage used for specified employees is composed of regular recurring wages not bonus or profit amounts. Therefore it is good practice to ensure that specified employees are paid as part of the same regular payroll system as all other employees. At a minimum, you want to ensure that owners are paid consistent amounts on a regularly recurring schedule, weekly, biweekly or monthly. Failure to do this could result in all or a portion of the owner’s wages to be excluded as valid SRED expenses by the CRA.
Here’s the third, and last, restriction placed on specified employees’ wage expenses. There are two caps placed on the maximum amount that can be claimed for SRED for a specified employee’s wages. The maximum amount that can be claimed for a specified employee for a fiscal year is 5 times the YMPE. The YMPE is the wage amount used to calculate CPP pensionable earnings. It is widely published by the government. Typically the YMPE goes up by inflation each year. The YMPE for 2019 was $57,400. So the maximum that an owner can claim as a SRED expense for 2019 is $287,000. Remember this is the SRED expense which is calculated by taking total salary and multiplying by the SRED expense percentage (max 75% for owners). Specified employee salary amounts are further constrained when calculating the proxy amount. Remember that proxy is an expense which is added to SRED claims to account for overhead expenses. Proxy is calculated as 55% of the SRED salary base. When adding up the salary base for the proxy calculation, owner salary amounts are restricted to 2.5 times that year’s YMPE amount. So let’s say a regular (very well paid) employee has a salary of $600K and his SRED claiming percentage is 60%. That employee will contribute the following to the overall SRED expenses claimed:
Salary expense = $600K x 0.6 = $360K
Proxy expense = $360K x 0.55 = $198K
Total SRED expense = $360K + $198K = $558K
Now let’s claim for the same staff member if he is a specified employee:
Salary expense pre-YMPE limit = $600K x 0.6 = $360K
5 x YMPE salary limit = 5 x $57,500 = $287,000
Salary base max for proxy calculation, 2.5 times YMPE = $143,750