What Are Qualifying Research Activities for R&D Tax Credit?

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R&D tax credits are designed to encourage businesses to pursue research activities. But what are qualifying research activities for R&D tax credits?

With careful planning and consideration, companies may find themselves eligible for thousands of dollars in potential savings with qualified research activities.

In this blog post, we will provide an overview of the R&D Tax Credit. Learn what are qualifying research activities for R&D tax credits as well as common mistakes that should be avoided when claiming them.

Table of Contents

What is the R&D Tax Credit?

The R&D tax credit provides a financial incentive for businesses to invest in research activities that can lead to technological advancements and economic growth. Qualifying activities include developing prototypes, conducting experiments, testing products or services, and improving existing technologies. The credit also covers certain costs associated with researching new markets or materials as well as employee wages related to qualifying projects.

Who Qualifies for the R&D Tax Credit?

To qualify for the R&D tax credit, businesses must be engaged in an activity intended to:

  • Create a new product or process.
  • Improve upon an existing product or process.
  • Make significant improvements in performance.
  • Reduce costs.
  • Increase efficiency.
  • Develop more reliable products.
  • Expand into new markets.
  • Discover new uses for existing products.

Businesses must also have incurred eligible expenses during the current year’s tax period and have not previously claimed any credits related to those same expenses on prior returns.

Benefits of the R&D Tax Credit

Claiming the R&D tax credit can provide substantial savings on taxes owed by allowing companies to deduct up to 20% of their eligible research expenditures from their taxable income each year. This benefit is especially helpful for small-to-medium-sized enterprises that may not have access to capital.

Additionally, claiming this credit may allow companies access to additional funding through state grants and other incentives offered by local governments looking to promote innovation within specific industries.

Key Takeaway: The R&D tax credit is a federal incentive designed to encourage businesses to invest in research activities that can lead to technological advancements and economic growth. Companies can deduct up to 20% of their qualified research expenses from their taxable income each year as well as access additional funding through state grants and other incentives offered by local governments.

Qualifying Research Activities for the R&D Tax Credit

To qualify for the R&D tax credit, companies must engage in activities that meet certain criteria. This section outlines what constitutes a qualifying research activity, including definitions, examples, and documentation requirements.

Definition of Qualifying Research Activities

Qualifying research activities are defined as “systematic investigation or search designed to develop or improve products, processes or techniques” according to Internal Revenue Code Section 41(d).

In order to be eligible for the credit, these activities must also involve experimentation with one or more alternatives and have technological uncertainty at the beginning of the project.

Examples of Qualifying Research Activities

  • Designing new products.
  • Improving existing products.
  • Developing new processes.
  • Testing prototypes.
  • Conducting scientific experiments.
  • Researching materials used in production.
  • Creating software applications and algorithms.
  • Conducting market studies on potential customers’ needs and preferences.

Companies claiming the R&D tax credit must provide adequate documentation to demonstrate that their projects meet all eligibility requirements. This documentation should include detailed descriptions of each project’s objectives and methodology, as well as records showing expenses such as R&D salaries, equipment, software, supplies, and subcontractor costs

How to Claim the R&D Tax Credit

Once you have calculated your total eligible expenditures for the year, you can begin filing your claim with the IRS using Form 6765. This form requires information about your company’s taxable income and its qualified research expenses from that same year.

After submitting this form along with supporting documentation such as invoices or receipts for any purchased materials or services related to qualifying activities, you will receive confirmation from the IRS regarding your eligibility for claiming this tax credit.

What Does Not Qualify as a Research Expenditure?

Research expenditures are costs incurred in the process of conducting research and development. They can include a variety of activities, such as laboratory testing, engineering design, prototyping, and product development.

However, there are certain expenses that do not qualify as research expenditures.

The first expense that does not qualify is advertising or marketing costs associated with promoting a product or service. Advertising campaigns are designed to generate sales rather than advance knowledge through experimentation or exploration. Therefore, these costs cannot be classified as research expenses for tax purposes.

Another type of cost that does not qualify is general overhead expenses related to running an organization’s day-to-day operations. These types of expenses may include administrative salaries and office supplies but they do not directly contribute to the advancement of knowledge through experimentation or exploration so they cannot be considered research expenditures either.

In addition to advertising and overhead costs, any fees paid for legal services also do not qualify as research expenditures since these fees typically relate more closely to protecting intellectual property rights rather than advancing knowledge through experimentation or exploration.

Similarly, any travel expenses incurred while attending conferences unrelated to R&D efforts would also be excluded since they do not directly contribute towards advancing knowledge in the field being researched.

Finally, salary payments made directly to employees who are involved in researching new products would generally only partially qualify as a valid expenditure depending on how much time was spent actually working on R&D projects.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Claiming the R&D Tax Credit

Claiming the R&D tax credit can be a great way to reduce costs for research and development teams, but there are common mistakes that should be avoided in order to maximize savings.

Not keeping adequate records and documentation is one of the most common errors when claiming a tax credit. All qualifying activities must be documented properly in order to receive the full benefit of the tax credit. This includes tracking all expenses related to research activities such as employee wages, materials, supplies, contract research services, etc.

Another mistake is not understanding what constitutes an eligible expenditure or qualifying activity for purposes of claiming the R&D tax credit. Eligible expenditures include any costs associated with developing new products or processes including researching existing technologies and improving upon them.

Qualifying activities must meet certain criteria set by government regulations which include experimentation, the process of trial and error, the elimination of uncertainty, technological advancement, and/or improvement on existing technology or processes.

Finally, making a mistake in understanding how much you can claim under this program is common. The amount you can claim depends on your company’s size and other factors such as gross receipts over $5 million per year or less than $50 million per year (for small businesses). Knowing these limits before submitting your application is important to ensure that you don’t miss out on potential savings opportunities due to incorrect calculations or incomplete information.

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Resources for Further Information on the R&D Tax Credit

To ensure that companies are able to take full advantage of this credit, it’s important to understand the requirements and available resources.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides detailed information about the R&D tax credit, including eligibility criteria, qualifying activities, and how to calculate eligible expenditures. Companies can also find guidance from their state government regarding any additional credits or incentives they may be eligible for.

Professional services providers specializing in tax credits can help companies identify which expenses qualify as research costs under IRS guidelines. They can also provide assistance with filing claims and ensuring that all documentation meets IRS standards so that companies receive maximum benefit from their investment in research activities.

Additionally, these firms often have extensive experience helping clients maximize their potential savings through other applicable tax credits such as those related to energy efficiency or employee training programs.


The R&D tax credit is a valuable tool for companies looking to invest in research and development activities. If your research and development process falls under what are qualifying research activities for R&D tax credit, then you should take advantage of this incentive.

For more information on qualifying research activities for the R&D tax credit, be sure to consult resources such as those provided by the IRS or other organizations specializing in providing guidance on these matters.

Are you looking for ways to get the most out of your R&D and innovation teams? With Cypris, you can easily qualify research activities for tax credits. Our platform centralizes all the data sources needed into one easy-to-use platform.

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