How Startups Benefit from the IRS Seed Stage

tax credit

Every year, the United States Government gives billions of dollars to innovative companies and businesses for creating or improving current technologies, processes, materials, and products. These incentives are provided by the U.S. Research & Experimentation Tax Credit program or R&D tax credit for short

You may wonder why the government is willing to provide these incentives. However, when you think about it, you will realize there are all types of variables to building a successful startup. It probably seems impossible to get ahead without reducing or increasing your costs. As a founder, you must leverage and test different strategies to increase your bottom line and maintain your business. 

The chances are that taxes are the last thing you’ll think of as a financial savings strategy, and taking time to familiarize yourself with government incentive programs is probably one of the last things to cross your mind. 

Don’t worry; you aren’t alone if this is the case. Around 80% of startups are unaware they are eligible for government-sponsored tax credits or don’t have easy access to them. However, knowing what the credits are and how to utilize them can help your business save thousands of dollars per year. Even better, it’s not just for large businesses.

Related: Business Startup Costs and Tax Deductions

Understanding the Research and Development Tax Credit Program 

The R&D tax credit program stimulates economic growth by encouraging companies to invest in new technologies, innovation, and research.

This program was originally introduced in 1981 and was regularly renewed in the following decades. The PATH Act was signed by President Barack Obama in 2015, which extended the R&D tax credit permanently. This Act also expanded several of the provisions.

Starting in 2016, the R&D tax credit was used to help offset alternative minimum tax, and startup businesses could use this credit against payroll taxes. Additional changes were made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which became effective in 2022. 

Tax credits allow you (the taxpayer), which may be a business, to offset the value of the credit against your tax liability. Based on information from the IRS, the R&D tax credit is used for expenses paid or incurred for any qualified research

Do you want to learn more about business tax credits? If so, be sure to contact us today

What Startup or Small Businesses Qualify? 

Certain criteria must be met to qualify for the R&D tax credit. These criteria include:

  • Businesses that have gross receipts of $5 million or under for the tax year
  • Total gross receipts for five years or fewer
  • Is not tax-exempt based on section 501

If you meet these criteria, then you may be able to take advantage of the R&D tax credit. 

It’s also worth noting that the R&D credit isn’t just for heavy research businesses. It’s best to look at the innovative activities on a higher level since this program is rather robust. Businesses in several industries can claim this credit, including those in:

  • Cryptocurrency
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Textiles
  • Consumer packaged goods
  • Virtual Reality
  • Agriculture
  • Aerospace
  • SaaS and Software
  • Oil and Gas
  • Manufacturing

Also, when trying to determine if your business qualifies, ask yourself:

Does your business make something? 

If your business is improving on or developing technology or products, you will likely be due money back from the IRS. 

Does your product change as time passes?

Most businesses aren’t making the same product, the exact same way, year after year. This means if your business invests resources to make its own processes, software, or products cheaper, quicker, greener, or cleaner, you probably qualify for this credit. 

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Benefits of the R&D Tax Credit

Providing startup businesses with tax credits for research and development helps the entire economy because it helps to increase innovation

Some of the specific ways that businesses can benefit from this tax credit include:

  • Receive a reduction in state and federal tax liabilities for the current year and future years
  • Increase the businesses cash flow and market value
  • Reduces your businesses tax rate
  • Allows your business to retain more of its profits
  • Use the credit against payroll tax

Related: R&D Tax Credit Guide 

How to Use the R&D Tax Credit to Offset Your Payroll Taxes

With the R&D tax credit, there’s a payroll tax credit election. This is offered to qualified small businesses that and the research credit is a set amount. According to the existing parameters, it cannot exceed $250K per year. This credit can be used against the business’s share of Social Security liability.  

What Activities Help a Business Qualify for This Tax Credit?

A simple way to determine if your business qualifies for the R&D Tax credit is by considering the “four-part test.” This includes:

  1. Qualified purpose. The activity’s purpose is to improve the quality, functionality, reliability, or performance of an invention, formula, technique, product, software, or process that will be used in the business or offered for a license, lease, or sale. 
  2. Technological uncertainty. Uncertainty is encountered regarding whether it can or how it should develop the component or the proper design of the component. 
  3. Process of experimentation. To help eliminate uncertainty, alternatives are evaluated by way of systematic trial and error, simulation, modeling, or another method. 
  4. Technological in nature. The failure or success of the evaluative process is determined by principles of “hard” science rather than social sciences or economics. 

There’s a common misconception that you must achieve some type of major scientific breakthrough or conduct pioneering or revolutionary research to qualify. However, this isn’t the case. As a result, your business may qualify, and you don’t even realize it. 

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IRS Seed Stage Final Thoughts

While it may not seem like it at times, the government has programs to help new startup companies with innovative ideas. If you are unsure if you qualify for the R&D Tax Credit, review the information here or talk to your accountant. You can also learn more by working with professionals in the industry. 

Are you ready to see if you qualify for the R&D tax credit? If so, let Taxrobot help. Talk to an expert today to learn more. 

Related: Qualified Research Expenses

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