It is unfortunate that there wasn’t more new information introduced at the 15th annual practitioners’ conference held in Burlington on January 11, 2012. The most informative portion was at the very beginning when the new Director General of SR&ED, Ms. Susan Betts, discussed the top five SR&ED concerns from claimants and CRA. The top five concerns of claimants were as follows: 1) CRA staff (specifically RTAs) not qualified to determine eligibility of claims 2) The narrowing of eligibility criteria 3) The increased complexity of forms and processes surrounding SR&ED claims 4) The amount of supporting documents required to prove a claim 5) Lack of consistency as to claim eligibility The top five concerns of the CRA were as follows: 1) Personal attacks against CRA staff 2) Incomplete claims 3) Cost to claimants of hiring professional firms on a success fee basis 4) The increasing amount of aggressive and unfounded claims 5) Withdrawal of claims when audit requested by CRA The new Director General then provided some analysis of the two lists. She stated that she had reviewed the qualifications of the CRA staff and was confident that they were capable and qualified to determine the eligibility of claims. Ms. Betts indicated that the 2nd concern of claimants is not actually a narrowing of eligibility criteria but a clarification and definition of what is eligible. She further stated that this clarification is required in order to deal with the claimant concern of inconsistency and the CRA concerns regarding incomplete and aggressive claims. Ms. Betts noted that the SR&ED program was set up to fund claimant research and development and that, in her opinion, the money being paid to practitioners on a success fee basis was not in line with the program’s intention. Looking to the future, Ms. Betts indicated that CRA may look at third party penalties in order to deal with the concerns it has regarding incomplete, aggressive and withdrawn claims. In my opinion, if the CRA were to apply these penalties in appropriate cases it would decrease the compliance time of CRA staff and in theory decrease the time it takes for a legitimate claimant to receive their refunds. It was a surprise to many that there was little mention of the Jenkins report and no mention of the potential changes stemming from it. When we look at the facts, however, this makes sense as it is the Ministry of Finance that will make the changes. CRA will, of course, need to apply and monitor the changes but they are unlikely to know with any certainty what or when these changes will occur. At the end of the conference, the lack of new information was disappointing. However, it was nice to talk to CRA advisors and other practitioners; the majority of whom were confident in the fact that the SR&ED program was going to change. After all, Prime Minister Harper stated early on that he would take the suggestions of the Jenkins report very seriously. The only questions left now is how much the SR&ED program will change and when the changes will begin?
Joshua Smith, CA
For more information about SR&ED tax credits, contact Joshua Smith by e-mail at: [email protected] or by phone at: 613.236.9191.