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Wellsons Financial Group LLC

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Research and Development Tax Credit

This guide helps businesses understand and claim the Research and Development (R&D) tax credit, which many businesses miss out on due to lack of awareness or knowledge of eligibility and calculation methods. It simplifies the complex process, providing step-by-step instructions.

What is the Research & Development Tax Credit?

The R&D tax credit incentivizes businesses to invest in research and development, stimulating innovation in products, processes, and software. It can reduce taxes owed or increase refunds. To qualify, businesses must incur eligible expenses in qualified research activities. Calculating the credit involves two methods: the simplified method, easier but potentially lower, and the regular method, more complex but potentially higher.

The traditional method of calculating the R&D tax credit is more intricate than the simplified approach. It involves determining a base amount linked to the company's prior four years' average annual gross receipts. The credit is then computed as 20% of the company's qualified research expenses (QREs) exceeding this base amount. However, some companies find this method unreliable and burdensome due to its reliance on a base period of expenses and gross receipts. Additionally, the base amount cannot dip below 50% of QREs for the current year, potentially reducing credits for companies with high QREs.

Traditional Method

The ASC method simplifies the R&D tax credit calculation into four steps:

  1. 1Find the average QREs over the past three years.

  2. Multiply the average by 50%.

  3. Subtract this from the current year's QREs.

  4. Multiply the result by 14%.


If no research expenses were incurred in the past three years, the credit is 6% of current year QREs.

Businesses often prefer the ASC method due to its simplicity and reduced likelihood of lowering the credit compared to the traditional method.

Alternative SimplifiedCredit (ASC) Method

Ways to Calculate
R&D Tax Credit

Which method is right for you?

If you have a history of claiming the R&D tax credit and you have the necessary data to calculate your base amount, you may want to use the traditional method. However, if you are new to the R&D tax credit or you do not have the necessary data, the ASC method is a simpler and more straightforward option.

Who can claim the R&D tax credit? 

Many businesses miss out on claiming the R&D tax credit due to perceived complexity, but it's available to any business investing in product or process development. Qualification hinges on proper documentation, including tax and payroll records, testing documentation like project records and prototypes, and reports tracking time and expenses. Establishing a documentation process early is crucial to ensure all necessary information is readily available come tax filing season.

What activities are excluded?

Not all research activities qualify for the R&D tax credit as per the IRS instructions for Form 6765. Excluded activities include research conducted after commercial production, adjustments to existing products for specific customers, copying existing products, surveys, certain internal-use software research, social sciences, humanities, arts research, and externally financed research.

What expenses can be used to calculate the R&D tax credit?

To compute the R&D tax credit, document your company's "qualified research expenses" (QREs), which include costs incurred in developing new or improved products or processes. Eligible QREs encompass salaries for employees directly involved, supplies like materials and computer rentals, and expenses for third-party contracted research activities.

What is the processing time for R&D tax credits?

The R&D tax credit must be claimed within two years of the research year; if missed, an amended tax return may be filed. Processing an R&D tax credit claim by the IRS usually takes 4-6 weeks, with an additional week for funds transfer.

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