In the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) T4088 1 – the guide to the T661 form used to claim the Scientific Research & Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax credit—says the following under the heading “Supporting the SR&ED Work Claimed”:
Contemporaneous documentation that is dated, signed, and specific to the work performed are the best supporting evidence that you can provide.
It’s obvious that documentation is essential to an effective SR&ED claim, but what is it exactly and how do you obtain it while performing SR&ED rather than after the fact?
What is contemporaneous documentation?
The CRA defines contemporaneous documentation as “documents generated as the SR&ED was being carried out.” This definition has two implications for innovative companies:
- Contemporaneous documentation is generated in the performance of SR&ED.
- Contemporaneous documentation is generated as a result of SR&ED.
In the eyes of the CRA, the best documentation isn’t created once the project is complete; rather, they favor businesses who have set up the necessary processes to collect the required information as it is created via the work performed.
How do I contemporaneously document my SR&ED work?
Waiting until a project is over to collect documentation—or worse, waiting until after you’ve submitted your claim—could cost you thousands if faced with a CRA review. Gathering documentation that was not generated in the performance and as a result of SR&ED is counterproductive for three reasons:
- It’s a time consuming process that could’ve been done as SR&ED was being performed.
- The risk for error is high.
- You could accidentally include irrelevant information.
To effectively collect contemporaneous documentation for your claim, enact the following action items in your company:
- Use project management software. There are many software options available to businesses who want to stay on top of their SR&ED project. Employing one of these programs will allow you to easily track SR&ED as it happens—and collect documentation in the process.
- Hold regular technical meetings. Minutes taken at technical team meetings are perfect examples of contemporaneous documentation. Hold meetings that cover the aspects of the technical narrative (uncertainties, work performed, and advancements); the notes taken will be invaluable both for filling out the T661 and documentation purposes.
- Keep logbooks that match your timesheets. While timesheets are acceptable to the CRA, they prefer if they’re accompanied by logbooks—regular summaries of the SR&ED work performed each day. The ability to not only present when SR&ED work was performed but also what was done will allow you to effectively back up your claim.
Have you been keeping proper documentation?
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- Canada Revenue Agency. (November 10, 2015.) T4088 Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) Expenditures Claim- Guide to Form T661. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/forms-publications/publications/t4088-scientific-research-experimental-development-expenditures-claim-guide-form-t661.html. ↩