R&D Tax Credits Explained with Examples

R And D Tax Credits Example

The Benefits of R&D Tax Credits for Your Business

R&D tax credits example: Creating software, improving products, reducing noise, enhancing dispatch technology.

If you’re intrigued by how research and development (R&D) tax credits can benefit your business, you’re in the right place. R&D tax credits are financial incentives that can significantly reduce your federal tax liability by offsetting expenses incurred during the development or improvement of products, processes, or services.

Here’s a quick overview of what qualifies:

  • Developing new software or products
  • Improving existing products
  • Experimenting with new technology
  • Enhancing production processes or systems

These activities can yield substantial tax savings, improving cash flow, and fueling further innovation. To make the most of these credits, understand what qualifies and how to claim them effectively.

My name is Philip Wentworth, Jr., co-founder of Rockerbox. With over two decades of experience helping small businesses navigate tax credit programs, I specialize in simplifying complexities around r and d tax credits example.

Stay with us as we delve deeper into how you can leverage R&D tax credits to boost your business.

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What is the R&D Tax Credit?

The Research and Development (R&D) tax credit is a powerful incentive for businesses engaged in innovation. Defined under IRS Section 41 of the Internal Revenue Code, this credit offers a dollar-for-dollar reduction of a company’s tax bill. It applies to qualified domestic expenses related to the design, development, or improvement of products, processes, techniques, formulas, or software.

Why It Matters

The R&D tax credit is not just for large corporations. Thanks to the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015, even small and midsize businesses can benefit. The PATH Act made the R&D tax credit permanent, offering more companies the chance to offset their tax liabilities year after year.

Qualified Domestic Expenses

To qualify for the R&D tax credit, your expenses must be domestic and related to:

  • Developing new products, processes, or software
  • Improving existing products or processes
  • Conducting technical experimentation to achieve the best design

Dollar-for-Dollar Reduction

Unlike other tax deductions that reduce taxable income, the R&D tax credit directly reduces the amount of tax owed. For example, if you spend $100,000 on qualified research activities, you might reduce your tax bill by $13,000, thanks to the approximate 13% return on qualifying expenses.

The PATH Act of 2015

The PATH Act was a game-changer for businesses engaged in R&D. It not only made the credit permanent but also introduced new benefits, especially for startups and small businesses. One notable change is the ability to offset payroll taxes with R&D credits, which became even more beneficial starting January 1, 2023, when the maximum R&D tax credit for payroll tax doubled from $250,000 to $500,000.

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Real-World Example

Consider a small tech startup developing a new software platform. They spend $200,000 on research and development, including wages for developers, software licenses, and prototype testing. By leveraging the R&D tax credit, they can reduce their tax liability by approximately $26,000. This significant saving can be reinvested into the business, fueling further innovation and growth.

Leveraging Rockerbox’s proprietary technology can automate tax credit programs, potentially improving cash flow by up to 40%.

Next, we’ll dive into who qualifies for the R&D tax credit and the types of activities that meet the IRS’s criteria.

Who Qualifies for the R&D Tax Credit?

Qualified Research and Development Activities

Any business that develops or improves products, processes, software, formulas, techniques, or inventions may qualify for the R&D tax credit. The key is that these activities must involve technical experimentation to determine the best design.

Here are some examples of qualified R&D activities:

  • Developing products: This includes creating new products or improving existing ones.
  • Improving functionality: Enhancing the quality, reliability, or performance of a product.
  • Testing prototypes: Building and testing models to refine designs.
  • Developing manufacturing processes: Creating new ways to mass-produce products more efficiently.
  • Software development: Building new software or improving existing applications.

The IRS Four-Part Test

The IRS uses a four-part test to determine if an activity qualifies for the R&D tax credit. Let’s break it down:

  1. Creation or Improvement: The activity must aim to develop or improve a product, process, or software. This means it should enhance functionality, quality, reliability, or performance.

  2. Technological Nature: The development must be based on hard sciences like engineering, physics, chemistry, or computer science. For instance, a company developing new encryption methods to enhance data security would qualify.

  3. Uncertainty: There must be uncertainty about the method, approach, or outcome of the development. This means that at the start, you didn’t know if the project would succeed or how to achieve your goals.

  4. Experimental Process: The activity must involve a process of experimentation. This could be evaluating different design alternatives or using a systematic trial-and-error approach to overcome technical challenges.

Examples of Qualified Activities

  • Technology and Software Development: Developing new software platforms, improving existing software, and enhancing data security.
  • Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals: Drug development, creating medical devices, and conducting clinical trials.
  • Manufacturing and Engineering: Developing new products, improving manufacturing techniques, and enhancing material science.
  • Energy and Environmental Technologies: Working on renewable energy solutions, sustainable building materials, and smart grid technology.

By understanding these criteria and examples, businesses can better identify and document their qualifying R&D activities, making it easier to claim the tax credit.

Next, we’ll explore how to calculate the R&D tax credit using different methods.

Examples of R&D Tax Credits

Technology and Software Development

In the tech world, R&D tax credits are a big deal. They help companies get money back for creating new software or improving existing ones. Here are some examples:

  • Developing new software platforms: If a company builds a brand-new software platform with unique features, that counts. Think of it like creating a new app that solves a problem in a better way.

  • Improving existing software: Enhancements like making software faster, more secure, or user-friendly qualify too. For instance, a company that makes its app load quicker or adds better security features can claim these credits.

  • Data security innovations: With cyber threats on the rise, companies working on advanced encryption techniques or new ways to prevent breaches can benefit. These innovations are crucial and qualify for R&D credits.

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML): Developing AI and ML algorithms to automate tasks or analyze data is another area. Projects that make machines smarter and more efficient can get these tax breaks.

  • Cloud computing and infrastructure: Research to improve cloud services, like making them more scalable or secure, also qualifies. Innovations in serverless computing or database management are good examples.

  • Blockchain technology: Projects that develop or improve blockchain applications, such as creating new cryptocurrencies or enhancing smart contracts, can claim R&D tax credits.

Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals

The healthcare and pharmaceutical industries are heavy hitters when it comes to R&D tax credits. Here are some examples:

  • Drug development: Creating new medications involves extensive research, from lab tests to clinical trials. Even if the drug never hits the market, the research still qualifies.

  • Medical devices: Companies developing new devices, like health monitoring wearables or advanced surgical tools, can claim these credits.

  • Healthcare technology: Developing new telehealth systems or electronic health records that improve patient care qualifies. These innovations help streamline healthcare services.

  • Biotechnology research: Research in gene therapy or genetic engineering is another area. Projects aimed at curing diseases or understanding genetic functions can benefit.

  • Clinical trials: Conducting trials to test new treatments involves a lot of problem-solving. This research is crucial and qualifies for R&D credits.

  • Pharmacogenomics: Studying how genes affect drug responses is cutting-edge. Projects in this area aim to personalize medicine and can claim R&D tax credits.

Manufacturing and Engineering

Manufacturing and engineering firms can also take advantage of R&D tax credits. Here’s how:

  • Product development: Creating new or improved products that are more durable or cost-effective qualifies. This could be anything from consumer electronics to industrial machinery.

  • Advanced manufacturing techniques: Research into more efficient or safer manufacturing processes, like automation or robotics, can claim these credits.

  • Material science: Developing new materials or improving existing ones, such as stronger metals or sustainable plastics, qualifies. These advancements lead to better products and processes.

  • Quality improvement: Efforts to enhance product quality, like reducing defects, often involve systematic research. These activities can claim R&D tax credits.

  • Supply chain innovation: Optimizing the supply chain through better logistics or inventory control also qualifies. Innovations here can reduce costs and improve delivery times.

  • Energy efficiency and sustainability: Projects aimed at making manufacturing processes more energy-efficient or reducing environmental impact qualify. This includes developing new recycling methods or integrating renewable energy.

Energy and Environmental Technologies

The energy and environmental tech fields are buzzing with innovation, and R&D tax credits help fuel this. Here are some examples:

  • Renewable energy development: Research to improve solar panels, wind turbines, or hydroelectric systems qualifies. The goal is to make clean energy more efficient and affordable.

  • Energy storage solutions: Advancements in batteries and other storage technologies are crucial. Projects that extend battery life or increase capacity can claim these credits.

  • Environmental cleanup tech: Developing new water purifiers or air pollution controls qualifies. Both new tech and major improvements to existing systems count.

  • Sustainable building materials: Research into eco-friendly insulation or energy-efficient windows qualifies. Making buildings greener is a big focus.

  • Smart grid technology: Innovations that improve the reliability and efficiency of electrical grids qualify. Integrating renewables into the grid is a key part of this.

  • Carbon capture and reduction: Developing tech to capture carbon emissions or reduce greenhouse gases is vital. These projects are crucial for fighting climate change and qualify for R&D tax credits.

Next, we’ll explore how to calculate the R&D tax credit using different methods.

How to Calculate the R&D Tax Credit

Alternative Simplified Credit Method

Calculating the R&D tax credit can seem tricky, but breaking it down helps. Let’s look at two ways to do it: the Traditional Method and the Alternative Simplified Credit (ASC) Method.

Traditional Method

The Traditional Method is like digging into your past. Here’s how it works:

  1. Identify Your Base Amount: This is a bit complicated. The base amount is the product of a fixed-base percentage and the average annual gross receipts for the prior four tax years. The fixed-base percentage is determined by your historical R&D expenses and sales, capped at 16%.
  2. Calculate the Credit: The credit is 20% of your current year’s qualified research expenses (QREs) over the base amount.

This method is great if you have detailed historical data and have been doing R&D for a long time.

Alternative Simplified Credit (ASC) Method

The ASC Method is simpler and works well for newer companies or those without detailed records. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Calculate Your Average QREs: Add up your qualified research expenses for the past three years and divide by three. This gives you the average QREs.

Example: If your QREs for the past three years are $40,000, $50,000, and $55,000, then the average QREs would be:
\frac{40,000 + 50,000 + 55,000}{3} = 48,333

  1. Multiply by 50%: Take 50% of your average QREs to find your base amount.

48,333 \times 0.50 = 24,167

  1. Subtract From Current Year QREs: Subtract this base amount from your current year’s QREs. Let’s say your current year’s QREs are $70,000:

70,000 – 24,167 = 45,833

  1. Multiply by 14%: Finally, multiply this result by 14% to find your credit:

45,833 \times 0.14 = 6,417

If you had no research expenses in the previous three years, you can simply take 6% of your current year’s QREs.

Example: A to Z Construction

Let’s use a real-world example. A to Z Construction had QREs of $70,000 in 2023. For the past three years, their QREs were $40,000, $50,000, and $55,000:

  • Average QREs: $48,333
  • Base Amount (50%): $24,167
  • Current Year QREs: $70,000
  • Subtract Base Amount: $70,000 – $24,167 = $45,833
  • Multiply by 14%: $45,833 × 0.14 = $6,417

So, A to Z Construction’s R&D tax credit for 2023 would be $6,417 using the ASC method.

By leveraging Rockerbox’s proprietary technology, businesses can automate these calculations and improve cash flow by up to 40%.

Next, we’ll guide you on how to claim the R&D tax credit.

How to Claim the R&D Tax Credit

Documentation Requirements

Claiming the R&D tax credit involves several steps, and having the right documentation is crucial. Let’s break down what you need and how to get it ready.

IRS Form 6765

First, you’ll need to fill out IRS Form 6765. This form is used to calculate and claim the credit for increasing research activities. It has different sections for various types of credits:

  • Section A: For the regular credit.
  • Section B: For the alternative simplified credit (ASC).
  • Section D: For qualified small businesses aiming to offset payroll taxes.

Make sure to complete the correct section based on your business’s situation.

Financial Records

Accurate financial records are essential. Here are some key documents you’ll need:

  • Employee Form W2s: These show wages paid to employees involved in R&D.
  • Payroll Registers: Detailed payroll records help prove the time and money spent on R&D activities.
  • Time Tracking Data: Logs of hours spent on R&D projects by employees.
  • Orders/Invoices/Receipts: Proof of purchases for supplies and materials used in R&D.

Technical Documents

In addition to financial records, you’ll need technical documentation to support your R&D activities. These include:

  • Technical Design Requirements: Specifications and requirements documents that outline your R&D projects.
  • Prototype Documents: Blueprints, sketches, or models used to develop new products or processes.
  • Test Plans and Results: Documentation of experiments, including plans, methods, and outcomes.

Keeping Detailed Records

The IRS operates on a “trust, but verify” basis. This means that while they trust your claims, they will verify them if audited. Keeping detailed and organized records is crucial to substantiate your R&D tax credit claims.


Imagine a tech startup developing a new software platform. They would need to keep:

  • Payroll records for developers.
  • Invoices for software tools and cloud services.
  • Blueprints and technical specs for the software design.
  • Testing logs showing the trial and error process.

By keeping these documents, the startup can provide solid evidence of their R&D activities.

Leveraging Rockerbox’s proprietary technology can automate these documentation processes, making it easier to comply with IRS requirements and improve cash flow by up to 40%.

Next, we’ll dive into frequently asked questions about R&D tax credits.

Frequently Asked Questions about R&D Tax Credits

What qualifies for R&D tax credits?

To qualify for R&D tax credits, your expenses must meet specific criteria. Here are the main categories:

  • Staff salaries: Wages paid to employees directly involved in R&D activities, including those who supervise or support the projects.
  • Employer’s NIC and pension contributions: National Insurance Contributions (NIC) and pension contributions for R&D employees.
  • Reimbursed expenses: Costs reimbursed to employees for materials or supplies used in R&D.
  • Subcontractors and freelancers: Payments to third-party contractors or freelancers for R&D work. Only 65% of these payments are eligible for the credit.
  • Materials and consumables: Supplies that are used up during the R&D process, like chemicals, prototypes, and software licenses.

Certain expenses are excluded, such as general administrative costs, capital expenditures, and research after commercial production.

How to calculate R&D tax credit?

Calculating the R&D tax credit can seem complex, but we’ll break it down step by step using the Alternative Simplified Credit method:

  1. Identify and calculate average QREs: Calculate your business’s Qualified Research Expenses (QREs) for the past three years.
  2. Multiply by 50%: Take the average of these three totals and multiply by 50% to get your credit base.
  3. Subtract half of the three-year average: Subtract this credit base from your current year’s total QREs.
  4. Multiply by 14%: Multiply the result by 14% to determine your R&D tax credit.

For new businesses without three years of expenses, simply multiply the current year’s QREs by 6%.

What is an example of R&D?

Let’s look at an example in the pharmaceutical industry:

A pharmaceutical company is testing a new drug to treat a specific disease. The process involves several stages:

  • Research for effectiveness and safety: Conducting lab tests and clinical trials to ensure the drug is effective and safe for patients.
  • Plan for mass production and marketing: Developing a plan for large-scale production and strategizing how to market the new drug.

All expenses related to these activities, such as staff salaries, lab supplies, and third-party testing services, would qualify for the R&D tax credit.

By leveraging Rockerbox’s proprietary technology, you can automate these processes, ensuring compliance and potentially improving your cash flow by up to 40%.

Next, we’ll explore more examples of how different industries can benefit from R&D tax credits.


Navigating the R&D tax credit landscape can be challenging, but it’s worth the effort. These credits are more than just a tax incentive—they’re a powerful tool to fuel innovation and growth.

At Rockerbox, we specialize in simplifying this complex process. By leveraging our proprietary technology, we can automate your tax credit programs, ensuring you don’t miss out on valuable opportunities. This automation can improve your cash flow by up to 40%, allowing you to reinvest in your business and drive further innovation.

Why Choose Rockerbox?

  • Expert Guidance: Our team of experts will guide you through the entire R&D tax credit process, from identifying qualifying activities to filing the necessary documentation.
  • Proprietary Technology: Our advanced technology streamlines the process, making it easy to claim your credits and maximize your benefits.
  • Cash Flow Optimization: By reducing your tax liabilities, you can free up resources to reinvest in your business, fueling continuous growth.

Ready to unlock the full potential of your R&D tax credits? Discover how Rockerbox can assist your business today.

In conclusion, R&D tax credits are not just about saving money—they’re about investing in the future of your business. With the right partner, you can navigate this complex landscape with ease and turn your innovative ideas into tangible assets that drive your business forward. Let Rockerbox be that partner. Together, we can help your business thrive.