The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, announced a further £2.3bn in investment in R&D as well as an increase in the main R&D Tax Credit in yesterday's budget. But he has been subjected to heavy criticism for apparently only focusing on the UK's larger companies.
The main R&D Tax Credit has been increased from 11 per cent to 12 per cent.
But "what about our SMEs and Scale-ups?” asks Matt Watts, head of R&D at Smith & Williamson, the accountancy, investment management and tax group.
He added: "The R&D tax credits is a popular relief which is promoting investment and creating jobs. Why should only big business benefit when it’s our smaller businesses we need to be supporting?”
Jenny Tragner, director at R&D tax credit consultancy ForrestBrown and member of HMRC’s R&D consultative committee had similar concerns. She said: "RDEC [Research and Development Expenditure Credit ] is aimed at larger businesses, and the government had already increased the generosity of this incentive with a reduction in corporation tax from 20 per cent to 19 per cent this year. It has now gone even further and given big business an extra bonus by increasing the RDEC rate too.
“As of 1 January 2018 when the new rate is introduced, this is a 9 per cent increase in generosity. Based on the average qualifying expenditure of a large company using RDEC, this represents a £68,370 increase (£752,060 to £820,430) in the claim value.
“Given that Phillip Hammond said the 5.5 million small businesses in the UK contribute extraordinary vibrancy and resilience to our economy, and arguably are the businesses that are creating his technological revolution, we would suggest that, as a minimum, the SME R&D tax credit rate needs to be increased (to 137 per cent) just to maintain its current level of generosity.”
Meanwhile, Sancho Simmonds, scale-up lead at Smith & Williamson was worried about scale-ups, or rather lack of them in the budget. He said: "The Chancellor mentioned scale-ups just once in his speech despite pointing out how those businesses generate over 50 per cent of the jobs for the entire UK. There was a lot for very small businesses, i.e. the freezing of the VAT threshold or further analysis of business rates, however there was very little to actually explain just how the UK was going to help scale-up businesses scale.”