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Am I Eligible for SR&ED? Easy Questions to Guide Neophytes

R&D tax credit eligibility

The sweet moment of realization — I am SR&ED eligible!

Hmm, I wonder if anyone has done this before…

This is a key question for many businesses that are interested in the SR&ED tax credit, but most articles related to this topic are unnecessarily complicated. This post outlines some simple questions that will help a SR&ED neophyte examine existing projects with an eye for recapturing expenses using the SR&ED tax incentive program.

6 Questions for SR&ED Eligibility

Can you answer yes to any of these questions? (Note: Your project’s success is not a requirement for eligibility, which is why we’ve used the term “try” below in relation to achieving goals.)

1)     Are you developing new products or processes for your business that have an element of science or technology? (Eg. recipes involve chemistry, iPhone apps involve computer science).

2)     Are you considered to be a knowledgeable authority in the specific area of science and technology, or did you engage the services of an expert?

3)     Even with pre-existing methods, processes, and information available to you, did you still have to experiment in order to try and achieve your goals?

4)     Were you unsure a) if you could achieve your goals at all, or b) if you knew the best way of achieving these goals?

5)     Did the SR&ED project require you to try several different approaches, with varying results?

6)     At the end of the project, had you advanced your organization’s understanding of the underlying science and technology?

If you answered “yes” to most of the above questions, then you owe it to your SR&ED project to learn more about the SR&ED program or even contact a qualified a professional. Many private firms offer a free consultation to determine if your work is eligible.

CRA’s Eligibility Self-Assessment Tool

To get a better sense of whether you’re SR&ED eligible, you can try out the CRA’s Eligibility Self-Assessment Tool (ESAT). It consists of a short, eight-question survey about your project. All of the questions are taken from current SR&ED policies and are fairly broad, but they are used by the government to establish SR&ED eligibility. The ESAT is primarily aimed at small- and medium-sized businesses or anyone who is using the SR&ED program for the first time. It provides an excellent starting point for newcomers, and is much more accessible than slogging through the entire SR&ED section of the Income Tax Act.

A Few Words of Caution Re: SR&ED Eligibility

Keep in mind that the ESAT often gives misleading answers. The survey demands simplistic answers, and doesn’t take into account industry-specific circumstances which can affect your claim. If you are uncertain about a project, especially if you are making your first SR&ED tax claim, consider speaking with a consultant or tax credit coach. Any reputable group will offer a free initial assessment over the phone. Based on this, you can decide if it is worth your time to prepare the full SR&ED claim.

This article is presented only for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. You should retain legal counsel if you require legal advice regarding your individual situation.

Unsure if you are SR&ED eligible? Leave a comment below, or contact us if you have immediate questions related to SR&ED eligibility.

  1. Never in a million years would I have thought that a new recipe could be SR&ED eligible based on the chemistry component….sheer genius!

    I love how you provided 6 basic questions that go a long way in determining if your project is eligible. There are just too many resources out there that complicate things and make this process more difficult then it needs to be.

    • Completely agree. I was definitely thinking of SR&ED in really narrow terms before. My eyes have been opened!

    • Yep, SR&ED lies in the most unlikely places. The important thing to note here is that innovation and uniqueness does not necessarily 100% ensure that SR&ED can be claimed for a project. It IS a good sign that you should dig a little deeper and explore the related activities and what came about becaues of your cooking class.

  2. Hi There!
    Thanks a lot for this article. It has made much more clear to me about SRED since I started questioning our project to be SRED eligible.
    Now I have a question:
    1- Can I claim SRED for 4 past years? We started the project in 2010?
    2- Do we have to incorporate our company with BC government?
    3- I have not yet payed the Engineer who realized our technology innovation, what amount would I claim? Should I submit the time he spent to work on the project? hardware parts we used?


    • Hi Nzola,

      1 – No. The limit is 18 months from you FYE.
      2 – It can be federal or provincial.
      3 – No costs = no claim. You can only submit those expenses that have been paid out.

      Good luck!

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