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SR&ED vs CDAE: Everything You Need to Know

For innovators in Canada, investments in research and development (R&D) are vital; however, funding innovation often proves challenging, especially for growing companies with limited resources.

The Canadian and Provincial Governments have several programs to help propel investment in R&D in firms across the country. Among them are the Canada Revenue Agency’s Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax credit and Revenu Quebec’s Tax Credit for the Development of E-Business (TCBE), often referred to as “CDAE,” its French-language abbreviation.

We will explore the key similarities and differences between the two programs so that you can get a better idea of whether the programs are the right fit for your firm. Keep in mind that CDAE and SR&ED are not necessarily mutually exclusive—we will explore this later.

Nature of funding

Both the SR&ED and CDAE programs are tax credits.

A tax credit is an amount of money that a firm can subtract from the taxes they owe the CRA and their provincial agency or it can be a direct refund regardless of taxes paid or owing.

In the case of a refundable tax credit, a firm will receive a cash reimbursement at the end of the year, deducting any taxes due. Meanwhile, non-refundable tax credits are capped at the firm’s tax liability—even if the credit exceeds the owed taxes, the firm will not receive any additional reimbursements and the full value of the credit will not be used. Having said that, non-refundable tax credits can often be carried forward or back.

SR&ED is generally a refundable tax credit for Canadian-controlled Private Corporations (CCPCs). When claimed by non-CCPCs, the program generally offers a 15% non-refundable tax credit. On the other hand, CDAE offers a combination of refundable and non-refundable tax credits.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligible Firms

Most significantly, SR&ED supports firms across Canada, while CDAE only offers credits to firms in Quebec.

The CDAE requires that eligible companies are focused on developing and selling software licenses or services. Your company’s gross revenue must be at least 75% derived from IT sector activities; 50% of these activities must be related to a core subset of the IT sector, as defined here.

Additionally, to qualify for CDAE credits, your company must have at least 6 full-time, eligible technical employees for the entire fiscal year of the claim.

This minimum requirement is more flexible for startups that have existed for less than 2 years. For these firms are eligible once they have 6 eligible technical employees.

The SR&ED credit does not have revenue requirements, nor does it require a minimum number of employees.

Beyond the eligibility of the firm, there is a second level of eligibility for CDAE: the eligibility of employees and their salaries.

Eligible Activities

SR&ED supports R&D activities in any industry. R&D activities must demonstrate a systematic approach, an attempt at technological advancement, and technological uncertainty. As such, projects related to technology that have already been validated and for which there is readily accessible information cannot be claimed.

Contrarily, the CDAE covers innovation activities in E-business, SaaS, and B2B software companies. While CDAE’s revenue requirements are more restrictive, its eligible activities are less rigid and can include routine development.

It is important to note that CDAE does not cover programs that involve software that controls hardware or is built into hardware. As such, projects in the IoT or robotics are essentially ineligible because they involve software that controls mechanical elements.

Additionally, projects that rely on external data sets, such as AI or AI-adjacent projects, are ineligible for CDAE as well. To be eligible, data used in the project must be internally owned and generated—for instance, inventory data would be permitted under CDAE.

Interested in learning more about SR&ED Eligibility? Read our guide here.

Eligible Expenses and Amounts

Both tax credits cover salaries; however, they have different requirements and credit amounts.

CDAE covers only the salary of employees in technical roles—mostly front-end or back-end developers. The CDAE offers a refundable tax credit of up to 24% and a non-refundable tax credit of up to 6% of each eligible employee’s salary. These credits are applied to the total salary, regardless of the portion that is directly related to the CDAE activities.

Note, however, that the CDAE only covers salaries up to $83,333, meaning that firms can only receive up to $20,000 in refundable credit and up to $5,000 in a non-refundable credit per employee salary. There are no restrictions on the number of employees that can be covered by CDAE; however, a fee must be paid to Invest Quebec for each eligibility certificate requested.

Unlike CDAE, companies applying to SR&ED can only claim tax credits on expenses related to R&D activities—salaries, wages, materials consumed or transformed, subcontractor expenses, and overhead.

The SR&ED tax credit covers only the portion of employee salaries and subcontractor expenses that are related to the eligible R&D activities. In other words, the SR&ED refundable tax credit is based on the percentage of time spent on R&D activities relative to the employee’s salary. However, there is a tradeoff: this program also covers the salaries and wages of support employees, such as HR or payroll employees who specifically spend time recruiting engineers for the SR&ED project or handling payroll for project employees. This is known as indirect SR&ED and is claimed in different manners federal and provincially.

Note that unlike CDAE, SR&ED tax credits are not restricted by a maximum eligible salary amount for non-owners.

Application Process

The CDAE’s application process is done in two levels: first, you must apply to Invest Quebec within 15 months of the fiscal year-end in which the expenses were incurred to receive an eligibility certificate for each employee for which a tax credit is being requested. Then, you must submit an application to Revenue Quebec within 18 months of the same fiscal year. These CDAE applications automatically get reviewed—the process is standardized and systematic.

Meanwhile, SR&ED applications are only reviewed by the CRA and do not always get audited, but there should be at least a first-year visit.

SR&ED vs CDAE

So, we’ve discussed the two programs and their differences. Now, which one will be more beneficial to your firm?

CDAE can help firms that are more advanced and are looking to scale up. Many firms receive more SR&ED tax credits in the early days of their innovation projects, and then move towards increasing their CDAE funding amounts as SR&ED covers fewer of their activities.

Because routine development activities are covered under CDAE, firms that are looking to maintain or improve existing technology will benefit. Meanwhile, these activities are not covered under SR&ED.

CDAE is also more beneficial to large or foreign companies, since its tax credits are fixed, unlike SR&ED which offers lower, non-refundable credits to non-CCPC.

Stacking SR&ED and CDAE

If both programs seem like they’d benefit your firm, how do you choose which one to claim? There’s good news: it is possible to claim both SR&ED and CDAE.

A few options exist if you want to benefit from both programs. Claiming federal SR&ED tax credits and provincial CDAE tax credits is a great combination. It is also possible to optimize both CDAE and SR&ED on the provincial level to maximize the tax credit amount, but this is tricky.

If you like to learn more about how to stack SR&ED and CDAE or need some help, speak with our experts to find the best option for your firm’s specific needs.

Still Have Questions?

Read what our experts have to say in our SR&ED FAQ and CDAE FAQ articles.

If you’re considering submitting a CDAE claim or combining credits, don’t hesitate to contact R&D Partners at 1-800-500-7733 for more information or to schedule a meeting with one of our expert consultants.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to nor can it replace the evaluation of your specific SR&ED or e-business tax credit claim by a dedicated professional.

Your Questions About CDAE, Answered by an R&D Partners Expert

Introduction

The Tax Credit for the Development of E-Business, commonly referred to as “CDAE” – its French-language abbreviation – is a provincial tax credit available in Quebec for businesses developing e-business software solutions in the province.

To be eligible, a business must have a minimum of 6 eligible employees spending 75% or more of their time on technical activities, and 75% of the company’s gross revenue must be coming from IT sector activities.

The funding is structured as a maximum 24% refundable and 6% non-refundable tax credit for each eligible employee’s salary.

This quick overview does not cover every detail of the CDAE tax credit. For more information on the program, read our dedicated blog post.

We often get questions about CDAE, so we’ve asked a member of our team of experts to answer the most common ones for you below.

The expert

Sahar Ansary, M. Eng.

Sahar has assisted hundreds of small to large-sized organizations across Canada with SR&ED and E-business tax credit programs for over ten years and has led work on over $50M in related claims.

She specializes in identifying and optimizing the technical and financial aspects of various funding programs, maximizing overall tax credits, and managing major accounts. Sahar has significant experience in the aerospace, medical device, and software industries.

The questions

What is meant by “e-business” when it comes to the CDAE credit?

The CDAE Tax Credit criteria defines “e-business” much more broadly than just e-commerce.  It is not limited to the transactional side of e-commerce that we traditionally think of; the program guidelines state that it “concerns the organization of work in a company as well as how the company communicates and exchanges data with its customers, subcontractors, suppliers and partners.”

Eligible companies are therefore those who develop software for other businesses to evolve in that direction and digitize their operations at various levels – HR, procurement, accounting, and more. Traditional e-commerce is also eligible if a company is developing a software solution allowing monetary transactions, but the program includes a lot more than this under the umbrella of “e-business.”

Who can be considered an eligible employee?

Eligible employees for the CDAE tax credit are full-time indeterminate salaried employees in Quebec that work a minimum of 26 hours per week and spend over 75% of their time on technical activities.

When an individual is temporarily absent from his or her work for grounds considered to be reasonable (e.g. temporary illness, maternity leave, paternal etc.), Investissement Québec (IQ) may deem that the employee continued to work throughout the period of absence for the purpose of determining tax credit eligibility. For instance, someone who worked  20 weeks during the fiscal year because they were on sick leave during the rest will still be considered as an eligible full-time employee.

What counts as a “technical activity”?  

The CDAE eligibility guidelines stipulate that an employee must be devoting at least 75% of his/her time to carrying out, supervising, or directly supporting eligible activities to be eligible. Those activities must be technical and some examples include the following:

  • Design and development of e-business solutions
  • Quality control (testing, 2nd and 3rd level support)
  • Maintenance and evolution of e-business solution
  • IT consulting services for e-solution (customization, integration, deployment)
  • Technical coaching and supervision of technical employees/team.

If an employee spends more than 25% of their time on non-eligible activities during the fiscal year, then that employee will not be eligible for the CDAE tax credit because they won’t respect the 75% rule (ex. an HR employee or a CEO would not be eligible, because they spend a lot of time on administrative tasks and very likely do not spend 75% of their time on eligible technical work).

Do you need to continuously have 6 technical employees or more to remain eligible for the CDAE credit?

Yes, and no. What you need are 6 eligible positions maintained throughout the year. The requirement is not tied to any individual employee because you obviously do not control if someone leaves the company during the year.

For example – if one back-end developer leaves, and you fall below the 6 required eligible employees, you do not suddenly become ineligible. As long as you have the intention to replace this employee with another back-end developer (i.e. someone in the same position) and do so within around 6 months, everything should work out fine. You will essentially have had two employees in one role in the year, and both will be eligible.

Past the 6 month timeline, you may need to provide stronger arguments to explain why a replacement could not be found. However, note that none of this applies if you “lay off” an employee (i.e. ROE indicates code A in box 16 ) as no replacement can be justified in this case.

Can employees join during the year and still be eligible?

If an employee was hired towards the end of the fiscal year and, as such, worked for less than 40 weeks, they are eligible if they still hold the same position at the company beyond the fiscal year end. If an employee worked less than 40 weeks and quit during the fiscal year, they will only be eligible for the tax credit if the company found a replacement or if the company is still actively looking for one. The rule stating that they must have spent 75% of their time on eligible technical activities also still applies, of course.

How is the CDAE calculated if an employee joins during the year?

When employees join during the year and they meet the 75% rule, their maximum eligible salary cap of $83,333 is prorated based on the number of days they worked in that fiscal year.

For example, if an employee is hired at the beginning of Q3 and worked 100 days before the end of the fiscal year, their salary cap will be prorated by the following ratio:  Once we apply it to the maximum cap offered by the program, we get 100/365 x $83,333 = $22,830.

 

If you have any questions about CDAE that this blog post left unanswered, or if you are considering submitting a claim, don’t hesitate to contact our team at:  1-800-500-7733, ext.102.

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to nor can it replace the evaluation of your specific e-business tax credit claim by a dedicated consultant.