Federal Budget 11 May 2021 – R&D Tax Incentive Update

May 12th, 2021

For multiple years leading into the prior federal budget in 2020, the Government attempted to pass controversial measures aimed at reducing the cost of the R&D Tax Incentive, which had stalled in the senate and were not legislated.
 
When the October 2020 Federal Budget (delayed due to COVID) was handed down, business was pleasantly surprised. The Government had pivoted away from proposed cuts, and made the R&D Tax Incentive a centrepiece tool of job creation and investment, by proposing changes with additional benefits to the programme not previously anticipated.
 
These reforms, commencing FY22, were widely welcomed by industry and subsequently passed as law within TREASURY LAWS AMENDMENT (A TAX PLAN FOR THE COVID-19 ECONOMIC RECOVERY) BILL 2020.
 
Leading into the May 2021 budget, there was not anticipated to be further changes proposed to the R&D Tax Incentive, since the previously announced changes for FY22 had only recently been legislated, and are not yet even effective.
 
Based on a preliminary review of the 2021 budget material, there does not seem to be any direct changes proposed to the mechanics of the R&D Tax Incentive.

Some measures that may indirectly impact on R&D Claimants or future claims include the following:
  • Patent Box Initiative:
    • Australian medical and biotech companies are offered concessional rates of income tax for profits on patented technology arising from R&D Activity undertaken in Australia;
  • Extension of Temporary Full Expensing Provisions:
    • Measures that were intended to cease June 2022, have been extended until June 2023, potentially allowing companies to include the cost of R&D assets in their qualifying R&D Expenditure;
  • Administrative Review:
    • Within the budget supporting material it was noted that the Government has asked the Board of Taxation to review the administrative framework of the R&D Tax Incentive before the end of 2021.
The Government should again be commended for its R&D Tax Incentive measures enacted from the previous budget. It is however hoped that the board of taxation review does not propose any future adverse changes to the R&D Tax Incentive, and all stakeholders are likely yearning for a period of stability in the programme.
 
Stability to the R&D Tax Incentive is long overdue, noting that:
  • The past 5 years has already been a tumultuous period in the history of the R&D Tax Incentive with many actual and proposed changes in law and administrative operation of the programme;
  • Companies will already be adapting to changes in FY22 arising from the measures announced in the previous 2020 budget, including the intensity threshold and clawback issues;
  • New administrative and reporting requirements for FY21 (specifically, changes to the registration application process) had recently been announced in the week leading up to the 2021 budget.

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