Our client, an internationally accoladed innovator, at the forefront of AR/VR technology, received the dreaded, templated “we’re coming for you” letter in the post, signed by none other than the now well-known ‘R&D Tax Credits Compliance Team’.
We had 110% confidence in the validity of this claim and welcomed the check with open arms. However, after our diligent, detailed and time-consuming responses (in excess of 35 pages of the main response and 6 supporting documents) to the first and second letters falling on - what is nowadays a regular occurrence - deaf ears, both our client and ourselves started feeling largely disheartened and worried if and when this will be resolved.
The client have been claiming Tax Relief for many years and are currently still very much deep in the R&D phase of their solution. Despite enjoying a blue-chip customer base, the monies thrown towards R&D and product development still far outweigh the revenue generated. Therefore, the annual cash injection resulting from R&D claims has been monumental in being able to continue to grow, innovate and create jobs in the UK, meaning that a lot was at stake depending on the result of this enquiry.
The third letter came, a pre-notification that the claim is to be entirely removed from the tax return and penalties will be considered due to the HMRC worker’s rudimentary Google search finding other solutions that do exactly the same. Well, it featured a bit more than that, including hits like: “If Para. 3 is not met, the rest of the Guidelines become moot”; “We have been unable to find the information and guidance found by the previous caseworker” and more.
We got…hmm…”shocked”, ”frustrated”, “Pencilled off” - to quote the Director of the business: “Not good news, I’ve lost the will to live…”
With that, we decided to directly challenge the competency, diligence and professional standards of the compliance worker(s)’ review and decision, focusing heavily on the legislative element to refute their views.
For context, due to the current state of affairs at HMRC, at this point, we were already gearing ourselves up for the potential next stages of the enquiry process – Alternative Dispute Resolution (i.e. mediation) and First Tier Tribunal. The plan and hope being that if and once this reaches someone impartial, the letter of the law would finally prevail.
Anyway - a good month or so after submitting it, this is the result of our 3rd response;
For those familiar - could this be due to the difference between ISBC and WMBC - did the strong wording result in an experienced R&D inspector being pulled in to help get them out of this mess?
[For those unfamiliar – with R&D being a highly complex area of taxation, HMRC officers dealing with R&D Tax Relief need a decent degree of technical training and had been predominantly based within the Wealthy and Mid-Sized Business Compliance (WMBC), whereas the newly formed R&D Tax Credits Compliance Team is based within Individuals and Small Business Compliance (ISBC).]
We will never know - but the good, encouraging news is that this definitely offers a glimmer of hope that there are experienced R&D Inspectors out there who understand the meaning of the Guidelines as intended for tax purposes and can recognise and validate genuine, compliant R&D claims.
If anyone you know is facing a similar, disheartening feeling, ready to give up on their Valid R&D claim simply to avoid the hassle, DON’T - keep knocking at that door and trust that sooner or later, the right person will answer. If you need help, our team love a good challenge and are happy to do the knocking for you.
*Update: Whilst drafting this article, we have also received responses for 2 of our formal Appeal letters submitted in June/July, with HMRC's decision now being overturned. Hopefully, these are good signs that the monumental backlash HMRC has received recently, has meant things are taking a turn back in the right direction...time will tell but the hopes are high.
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