SR&ED and the Press
The press has not always been kind to the SR&ED program. Since it is a government program distributing billions of taxpayer dollars, the media is quick to point out any problems that the program may have. On the other hand, there are also occasional glowing reports, that overstate the broadness of the SR&ED program and the ease of qualifying. SR&ED in the media is a polarizing topic. We’ve added 18 new article summaries and links to our SR&ED in the Media page, letting you see at a glance changing media perceptions of the program from 1994 to today.
Not all press coverage is excessively negative, it can go the other way as well. Some articles, such as this one, by the Globe and Mail, and this one, by the Wall Street Journal, paint an extremely rosy picture of the program, glossing over the strict application requirements and the work involved in making the application itself.
It is important not to take the experience of one journalist or startup founder as the experience of all who apply for SR&ED tax credits. From reading the above articles, it’s easy to get the idea of the application process as a mere formality, while in fact, the best technique is to incorporate SR&ED awareness into your entire workflow, to avoid being refused, or caught in a review without proper documentation.
There have been a lot of articles deriding the SR&ED program – most particularly by the Globe and Mail, in 1994 (when the regulations involving time limits changed and companies rushed to submit applications for past years) and again between the years 2011-2013 (a time of dramatic policy changes to the program).
Criticisms of the SR&ED program take a number of forms. Some argue against the program by declaring it too easy to defraud taxpayers through dubious research claims. Other criticisms are the opposite, saying that the CRA review system is so opaque and unreliable that legitimate research projects are often disallowed. Others take a theoretical approach, arguing that indirect funding programs (tax credits) are inherently ineffective compared to direct funding in the form of grants.
Taking a Balanced View on SR&ED in the media
It is understandable that media articles on the topic would vary between strong support and strong condemnation. Generally speaking, the articles are from the point of view of a single journalist or guest writer, and in the case of a polarizing program involving billions of dollars, it makes sense that these perspectives would have a certain tilt. Also – a dry academic article, discussing at length in statistical terms the benefits and downfalls of the program, would not sell a lot of newspapers.
How to get through the skew? Read widely. It is important not to take a single article as gospel on the topic, because the SR&ED program is so large and complex that it could not possibly be summarized in a brief newspaper article. Also, take note of other articles on the topic by the same publication. If the same newspaper has a running “beat” criticizing the SR&ED program, it is possible that this is an editorial stance they have taken. This does not discount the ideas, facts, or interviews presented in the article, but it does change the way the facts might end up being interpreted.