Watch out...There's changes coming to the R&D Scheme

4 February 2021

From 1st April 2021 there will be changes to the R&D tax credit regime for SMEs. These changes have been designed to reduce fraud and abuse and will take the form of a ‘cap’ on the value of the tax credit which can be claimed.

Note: The cap will apply to accounting periods which begin before, and end on or after, 1st April 2021. Where an accounting period spans 1st April 2021 then any claims will need to be split between to the pre and post cap rules.


  • Under the new rules, the amount of payable R&D tax credit an SME can claim’s limited to £20,000 plus 300% of its total PAYE and National Insurance contributions (NICs) liability for the period.
  • Companies claiming below £20,000 will be unaffected, this is to ensure small businesses who truly need funding aren’t restricted.

When calculating the cap, businesses will be able to include related party PAYE & NIC liabilities attributable to the R&D project.

There’s provision to prevent any PAYE or NIC liabilities counting towards more than one company’s cap, which is so-called ‘double counting’.


There’s good news however! A company’s exempt from the cap if it meets these two key tests;

  1. Its employees are creating, preparing to create or managing intellectual property (IP).


2. Less than 15 % of its R&D qualifying expenditure’s spent with connected persons.

These tests are designed to exempt those with low PAYE and NIC, but are nevertheless engaged in genuine and substantial R&D.

How will it work?

Sometimes new legislation can be a bit technical, so here’s a brief example of what these changes will mean;

ABC Limited has a tax adjusted loss, before any claim for R&D tax credits, for the year ended 31st March of £100,000. In the year, their qualifying R&D expenditure’s £100,000 (Uplifted to £130,000 for tax adjustment purposes). They don’t meet the criteria of the cap exemption tests.

Prior to 1st April 2021, the tax credit they could claim would have been:

(£100,000 + £130,000) = £230,000 x 14.5% = £33,350

After 1st April 2021, we need to take account of the total PAYE & NI liability for the claim period.

For this example, the total PAYE & NI liability for the period’s £4,000. This would mean the maximum tax credit claimable would be:

£20,000 + (£4,000 x 300%) = £32,000


Now more than ever, it’s time to make the most of your product developments, and claim back your R&D tax credits, before the amount claimable changes on 1st April 2021. Email our team today, for more information on the changes to the SME scheme, or give us a call on 01904 211637.