Chancellor expands R&D tax relief to cloud computing and storage

In his 2022 Spring Statement, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has expanded the government’s research and development (R&D) tax relief scheme in a bid to improve innovation and productivity in the UK.

Sunak announced that, from April 2023, all cloud computing costs associated with R&D, including storage, will now qualify for tax relief.

The move is the latest step in a reform plan announced in the October 2021 Budget. According to HM Treasury figures, UK companies claimed tax relief on £ 47.5bn of R&D expenditure in 2019 – although the Office for National Statistics estimates that UK businesses only carried out £ 25.9bn of privately funded R&D.

“This will allow companies to claim for costs related to the storage of vital data, supporting data-heavy research such as genomic sequencing,” said HM Treasury documentation released alongside the Spring Statement.

The definition of R&D for tax reliefs will also be expanded to include pure mathematics as a qualifying cost.

“This reform will support nascent sectors where the UK has a comparative advantage, such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing and robotics, while also supporting strong sectors such as manufacturing and design,” said the Treasury documentation.

Sunak said UK business R&D investment is less than half of the OECD average as a percentage of GDP. The new reliefs aim to “deliver better value for money for the taxpayer while being more generous where they can make the most difference”, said a Treasury statement.

The R&D tax reforms follow other measures previously introduced by the government to support innovation and investment in technology.

In the March 2021 Budget, Sunak launched a program called Help to Grow: Digital to support 100,000 SMEs to become more productive and profitable by adopting productivity-enhancing software, offering a 50% discount on the cost of such tools, worth up to £ 5,000 .

The first phase of the Help to Grow scheme kicked off in July 2021, targeting suppliers within the e-commerce, accountancy and customer relationship management software markets to sign up as approved providers.

In the Spring Statement, Sunak also announced a new Cabinet committee on efficiency and value for money, which he will chair, to cut £ 5.5bn worth of cross-Whitehall waste – an initiative likely to include digital projects. Any savings will be used to fund public services, he said.

The tax relief measures are aimed primarily at helping SMEs to grow. However, Paul Christensen, CEO at Previse, a fintech provider likely to be the sort of company Sunak hopes to benefit, said the government needs to introduce more relevant measures to the challenges faced by firms such as his.

“Simply saying that the UK is a global technology hub doesn’t make it one,” said Christensen.

“The low uptake of blanket measures such as Help to Grow: Digital suggests that the government’s‘ one-size-fits-all ’approach to recovery loans will not be enough to drive economic growth. Traditional finance for SMEs is clunky, difficult to obtain and expensive when it can be accessed.

“Using technology to modernize B2B commerce and provide firms with flexible and embedded financing could go a long way in ensuring that SMEs aren’t left behind as the economy seeks to level up.”

Leave a Comment