• Service: Tax, R&D Incentives
  • Type: Regulatory update
  • Date: 27/08/2014

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Mark Prentice

Mark Prentice
Partner, Tax

+61 3 9288 5508

Mount Owen and specific R&D records 

by Mark Prentice, R&D Tax Specialist

AusIndustry recently highlighted the Mount Owen decision handed down by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, including important precedents for the Research and Development (R&D) Tax Incentive. Andrew Lewis, AusIndustry's Manager of R&D Tax Incentive Integrity Assurance, emphasised substantiation with specific R&D records in an interview, at the Tax Institute of Australia’s conference in June.

"Undertaking R&D with no records is a waste of money and bad business practice. But the critical part is creating records that substantiate R&D," Andrew said. This was the fundamental problem in Mount Owen. The company had evidence of routine tests and common mining activities conducted in a complex environment to deal with particular issues. But it didn't have any evidence that it had developed any new or different approach to resolving those issues.


Documentation of specific activities, experiments and hypotheses relating to technical outcomes is important. Problems arise when people don’t sufficiently identify the R&D with enough specificity. The Tribunal made clear that specific hypotheses form the basis for experimental activities and are necessary for a systematic experimental progression of work. A vague 'overarching' hypothesis is not a specific hypothesis.


Grouping dissimilar activities or too many activities together often means companies do not provide sufficient detail to clearly describe the activities. Claiming an overarching activity is not a justification to avoid explaining the specifics of what is being done within that activity.


Another important lesson from Mount Owen is that if you are conducting the R&D activities that coincide with another purpose then there is more reason to create documents which evidence the R&D. For example, the regulatory requirements exclusion is not intended to exclude experimental activities that are undertaken to develop a new product or service which must incidentally meet some regulatory requirement or standard.


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