R&D Tax Offsets: A Closer Look at Recent ATO Reminder


Research and development (R&D) plays a critical role in defining the landscape of industries in the domain of innovation and advancement. Recognizing the importance of R&D activities, governments throughout the world frequently offer tax breaks to encourage businesses to participate in them. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has issued a reminder on tax offsets for R&D activities, emphasising the necessity of adhering to standards and laws. This warning comes in light of the Federal Court’s ruling in T.D.S. Biz Pty Ltd v FCT. Let’s look deeper into the complexities of this reminder and the consequences it has for R&D firms.

The Research and Development Tax Incentive (R&DTI)

The research and development tax incentive (R&DTI) is a mechanism designed to foster innovation, boost competitiveness, and enhance productivity within the Australian economy. By offering tax offsets, the government aims to support eligible R&D activities and encourage companies to undertake research they might not have pursued otherwise. The R&DTI has several key objectives:

– Encouraging industries to engage in R&D endeavours that contribute to advancement.

– Facilitating smaller firms in participating in R&D activities.

– Providing businesses with streamlined and predictable support for their R&D initiatives.

Eligibility Criteria

Businesses need to meet specific eligibility criteria to claim tax offsets under the R&DTI. Key considerations include:

R&D Entity: The business must qualify as an R&D entity.

Minimum Deductions: The business should have incurred notional deductions of at least $20,000 on eligible R&D activities.

Exclusions: Certain entities, such as individuals, corporate limited partnerships, exempt entities, and most trusts, are not eligible for R&D tax offsets.

Types of Tax Offsets

For income years starting from July 1, 2021, entities engaged in R&D may qualify for two types of tax offsets:

Refundable Offset: This offset amounts to 18.5% above the company’s tax rate and is designed to provide financial support to companies investing in R&D.

Non-Refundable Offset: This offset is structured on a progressive marginal tiered R&D intensity threshold. Businesses with different levels of R&D expenditure intensity can benefit from this offset:

0 to 2% Intensity: Qualifying businesses can receive an 8.5% premium to their tax rate.

Above 2% Intensity: Companies with R&D expenditure intensity greater than 2% are eligible for a 16.5% premium to their tax rate.

The T.D.S. Biz Pty Ltd v FCT Case

In the context of these incentives, the ATO’s recent reminder gains significance. The case of T.D.S. Biz Pty Ltd v FCT sheds light on the importance of complying with the regulations surrounding R&D tax offsets. In this case, the ATO successfully argued that the taxpayer’s R&D activities conducted overseas were not eligible for offsets due to the absence of an Advance Overseas Finding from the Department of Industry, Science, and Resources. This case highlights that companies can claim offsets for overseas R&D expenditure, but it’s imperative to hold an Advance Overseas Finding for such activities.


The ATO’s admonition is an important cautionary note for enterprises involved in R&D activities that want to claim tax breaks. Companies must follow the criteria and restrictions provided by the Australian government as it continues to foster innovation and growth through the R&DTI. They can profit from the financial assistance offered by tax offsets and contribute to the progress of industries and the general economy. Businesses must be aware of such reminders in order to traverse the complicated landscape of R&D tax incentives effectively.