12/05/2018 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/06/2018 00:10
(SR&ED) Tax Incentive Program Update (Dec. 2018): Can management changes alone help or will systemic and structural issues prevail?
Contact: Russ Roberts, Senior Vice President, Tax, Finance & Advocacy, CATAAlliance (email: [email protected])
Changes at the CRA
Jason Charron is the new Director General of the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Directorate (SR&ED), viewed as an outsider to the CRA, a CPA/MBA, previously the Executive Director of IRAP at the NRC. Most recently, he was Executive Director Transformation, Comptroller General's Office, Treasury Board Secretariat. Mr. Charron has the background needed to assist the Government to understand the challenges the current SR&ED program presents and to determine how the program can be improved.
Mr. Charron has been with the CRA since May and has contributed to the Directorate's recently completed initiative to clarify what's eligible for SR&ED in the ICT sector.
The SR&ED Directorate has been putting on technical workshops in the ICT sector across the country, this fall, including, SR&ED national industry engagement technical workshops in the ICT sector.
Below are links provided by the CRA to background information includng a transcript and recording on the Eligibility of work specifically focused on the ICT sector from a previous webinar.
The CRA's current workshops are aimed at two target audiences: ICT executives wanting to understand the key elements of SR&ED, and those actually involved in developing the claims and supporting them when audits occur.
Some takeaways from the session I attended for executives in Ottawa in Novemberwere that claimants are encouraged to use two 'new' claiming practices that could provide increased certainty about a company's claims. Both seem to be modifications of approaches of historically well received claiming practices.
Both approaches encourage contemporaneous development of support and the up-front identification of SR&ED projects. The CRA seemed to be discouraging retrospective claiming practices that identify after-the-fact potential SR&ED projects and then try to develop the support.
The explanation of eligibility presented in the slides and supporting material that they have posted was useful; and consistent with the CRA's current public policy - although, in my experience, not necessarily totally consistent with the interpretation of the law over the years. In my opinion, the explanation seems relatively clearly expressed.
However, the actual discussions of eligibility that occurred in the workshop session suggested that there is a great deal of confusion amongst all parties, including the presenters, about the terms: 'innovation', 'technological innovation', and 'technological advancement' (i.e., the crux of the issue about what is SR&ED). The distinction between 'technological risk' and 'technological uncertainty' was particularly unclear - the terms perhaps being used interchangeably.
After listening to this session, one has to ask whether innovation in the ICT sector was really supported by SR&ED incentives. There was either a lot of confusion amongst the parties or disagreement.
At this point, from the discussion, it was unclear where all this was headed and how much of the innovative work of the ICT sector is supported. As the Government's review of the SR&ED program (understood to be led by Finance) continues, we would hope to see some clear answers.
Clearly, management at the CRA is showing initiative. However, it is unlikely that the introduction of a new Director General alone can address the community's concerns about the structural and management challenges associated with the program ( i.e., the fundamental interpretive issues caused by Finance's conflicted legislation; and, more generally, the CRA's broad spread structural and managerial issues that have impacted its management of tax benefits).
While not looking at the SR&ED program, the 2018 Fall Reports of the Auditor General of Canada (Report 7, 'Compliance Activities - Canada Revenue Agency') highlights the difficulty that the CRA is having in managing tax programs fairly and consistently.
Recent CBC reports have also highlighted the CRA's managerial issues. For example, see: https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/cra-revenue-clawback-benefit-reviews-1.4883126
You can argue that structural issues like these are simply common to many large organizations, both in the private and public sectors. Issues of managing large, decentralized organizations are well known. Are we not back to whether the CRA is the right organization to manage the SR&ED incentives, given the CRA's well documented systemic problems?
CATA's position is that the CRA is not the right organization.
For attendees of the CRA'S SR&ED national industry engagement technical workshops in the ICT sector (referred to above), please help us by completing a short Survey on the Workshops by going to this URL: https://goo.gl/forms/vYqYfyLqe3B7suI02
We want to understand your evaluation of these important ICT focused SR&ED technical workshops.
For the CRA's most recent explanation of their generic SR&ED policy, see: Eligibility of Work for SR&ED Investment Tax Credits Policy
CATA Call for Action
John Reid and I have led a multi discipline team to create 5 public policy recommendations for all political parties. To help advance this advocacy, we have created a Petition that we now ask you to sign and share with your peers: please go to: https://tinyurl.com/yc5v72cm Here are 5 recommendations:
Adopting these recommendations will bring us much closer to having a system of innovation in which government, universities and the private sector work more closely together to move from invention to commercially viable solutions. This will not only create jobs, retain our talent in Canada, but also provide more solid returns to Canadians.
Thank you for signing the E-Petition.
The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATAAlliance), Canada's One Voice for Innovation Lobby Group, crowdsources ideas and guidance from thousands of opt in members in moderated social networks in Canada and key global markets. Supported by evidence-based research, CATAAlliance then mobilizes the community behind public policy recommendations designed to boost Canada's innovation and competitiveness success.
Call to Action!