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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.

Changes to the Tax Holiday Program for Foreign Researchers and Foreign Experts

The Ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation (MEI) recently announced changes to the eligibility criteria for the Tax Holiday Program for Foreign Researchers (FR) and Foreign Experts (FE). This program is designed to facilitate the recruitment of foreign researchers or foreign experts capable of aiding in the commercialization of innovation activities or the advancement of technology, respectively, within private companies in Quebec. Quebec companies remain competitive by attracting highly qualified researchers/experts to perform scientific research and experimental development (SR&ED).

What’s New?

1. The tax holiday is applicable as of the date of hire on contract.

The tax holiday is now based on the hiring date and the number of months that pass after this date, rather than in calendar years following the year in which the hiring date fell – making it much more beneficial.  If a candidate is hired October 9, 2021, the tax holiday begins on October 9, 2021, and lasts for 60 months, i.e., October 9, 2026.

2. Applications must be submitted prior to moving to Quebec.

The rules also state that candidates now need to apply before their arrival to Québec. This means that employers should apply prior to the candidate’s hiring date and arrival into Québec. Those who are already in Québec and that have not yet applied should move forward with applications as soon as possible to avoid any issues. These changes are on-going and may be further refined in the next couple months.

3. The comparative evaluation requirement has been updated.

Previously, the approval of the tax holiday depended on the receipt of the comparative evaluation certificate. Going forward, the comparative evaluation may not be required for approval. However, it may be requested during the review process on a case-by-case basis; it is therefore recommended to apply in advance to minimize the processing time as the comparative evaluation issuance process is the longest part.

One of the following documents must now be submitted with the tax holiday application:

  1. Copies of post-secondary diplomas with a list of courses taken for each diploma and a certified copy of the applicant’s last relevant diploma, OR;
  2. Comparative evaluation of studies completed outside Quebec issued by the Ministry of Immigration, Francisation and Integration (MIFI) and sent directly to MEI

4. No annual renewal is required for FRs, but it is still required for FEs.

Foreign researchers only need to submit one application to receive the full tax holiday, no longer needing to submit annual follow-ups. For foreign experts, annual renewal applications are still required for the five-year duration of the tax holiday. Once the initial expert certificate has been issued and the candidate is employed in Québec, the employer must submit an annual application for the expert certificate annually before March 1 of the calendar year following the tax year for which the applicant is taking the tax holiday.

Additional information on the comparative evaluation

Along with the comparative evaluation document, the candidate should include certified copies of all post-secondary diplomas they wish to have evaluated by the Ministry, noting that the minimum education requirement for the tax holiday is a graduate degree for foreign researchers and a first cycle university degree (bachelor’s) for foreign experts. If you would like to learn more about the tax holiday program requirements, please read our previous article.

To find recognized authorities to certify your degree as a true copy please see the List of authorities recognized by the Ministère for certifying documents. It explains how to obtain a certified copy of your diploma depending on the country or territory where your documents were issued. A copy certified by the issuer of the document (your university) is always the preferred format.

Further reading

If you have any questions about the Tax Holiday Program 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 tax credit claim by a dedicated consultant.

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.

SR&ED vs IRAP: Everything You Need to Know

The National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) and the CRA’s scientific research and experimental development tax credit (SR&ED) are two programs of major importance for Canadian innovators.  

In this article, we will examine the key similarities and differences between SR&ED and IRAP and how these programs can work together to maximize your government funding for your innovative technology project.   

Nature & Timing of Funding 

The first fundamental difference between SR&ED and IRAP is that the former is a tax credit, while the latter is a grant. This mainly affects when the funding is received from each program, but also the administrative overhead necessary to access funds, as well as the reporting requirements that come with the funding.  

A tax credit – like SR&ED – provides funding after the expenses are incurred. For Canadian Controlled Private Corporations, the SR&ED program offers a refundable tax credit disbursed after the CRA receives the claim. Therefore, SR&ED is typically less useful in cases when a business is looking to sustain their cash flow as they undertake a project.  

This is especially true when a business submits their first SR&ED claim, since the retroactive funding will not arrive until after the end of the fiscal year. However, when claiming SR&ED every year, the refund from the previous year helps sustain the cash flow for the next period.   

IRAP, on the other hand, requires monthly refund requests after the initial application is received and accepted. This means that a grant program such as IRAP is naturally more apt at sustaining a business’ cash flow while a specific project requires it. This is especially true for first-time applicants.  

Funding Amounts 

Once the federal and provincial tax credits are combined, SR&ED typically offers a refundable tax credit ranging from 54% (no provincial tax credit) to 74% (Quebec, beyond the threshold) of eligible salary expenditures to Canadian controlled private corporations. The exact tax credit rate depends on the size of the claimant company and a few other factors.  

IRAP on the other hand is a grant and its funding is allocated on a discretionary basis. A certain amount is approved with the initial application when a budget is submitted. Therefore, the final funding amount will vary depending on  the project, but typically goes up to 80% of salaries expenditures.  

Eligible Expenses 

IRAP and SR&ED share salaries as eligible expenditures, but treat them very differently. Since IRAP is a grant program and must be applied for before the project starts, applicants submit a budget which will end up dictating the amounts of funding they are entitled to receive, if accepted into the program.  

For example, ABC Corp plans to assign 2 employees to work on a project they wish to fund through IRAP. They include this in their application, and the NRC agrees to fund up to 50% of those 2 employees’ salaries. Three months later, they realize they will need an additional team member to complete the project. The additional employee who ends up working on the project will, in this example, not be covered by the initial agreement, and therefore, their salary will have to be paid by ABC Corp, with no additional support from the NRC.  

Since SR&ED is a refundable tax credit, it is able to account for all the actual costs incurred for a given project for the past fiscal year. Those costs are eligible salaries, subcontracting expenses, and other eligible expenditures related to eligible R&D activities for the SR&ED project. This may also include certain overhead expenses. 

This level of specificity is why time tracking is important for a company planning to claim SR&ED.  

Let’s consider ABC Corp again. Say they decide to forego IRAP funding altogether for simplicity’s sake – we will return to stacking IRAP & SR&ED later. They decide to attempt to claim SR&ED for their project at the end of the year instead and are tracking their employees’ time as it is spent on different tasks and projects.  

We will assume, for simplicity sake, that ABC Corp is eligible for the maximum 74% refundable credit and have 5 employees in total. 2 of them begin working on the SR&ED project, but at some point during the year a third employee joins the project. When the time comes to submit the SR&ED claim, their eligible expenses would be as follows, assuming they did not receive any other overlapping funding for the project:  

First, because they did not work on the R&D project at all, 0% of the salary of the 2 employees who did not do any experimental development work would be eligible for SR&ED.  

For the 3 remaining employees who did do eligible experimental development work, the amount of time spent on the project needs to be taken into account in order to determine which portion of their salary is eligible for SR&ED. 

According to their timesheets, at the end of the year it can be concluded that: 

  • Employee #1 worked on eligible experimental development work 75% of their time.  
  • Employee #2 worked on eligible experimental development work 50% of their time. 
  • Employee #3, who joined the project much later, worked on eligible experimental development work 25% of their time. 

Therefore: 

  • 75% of Employee #1’s salary for the claim year is eligible for a 74% refundable tax credit.  
  • 50% of Employee #2’s salary for the claim year is eligible for a 74% refundable tax credit. 
  • 25% of Employee #3’s salary for the claim year is eligible for a 74% refundable tax credit. 

Of course, SR&ED claims are never this straightforward, but this example seeks to illustrate the basic principles that guide how the eligible salaries are determined.  

SR&ED can also fund materials necessary for the project, something IRAP does not do.  

Evaluation Criteria 

While there is some overlap when it comes to the eligibility criteria of SR&ED and IRAP, there are some important differences to note. 

First, neither SR&ED nor IRAP have industry specific criteria – therefore, any company could theoretically be eligible as long as they are conducting eligible experimental development activities. 

Experimental development can look drastically different depending on the industry. Find out how to determine if your project is eligible in our blog post all about the topic here.   

This does not mean either program funds anything or everything. For example, IRAP excludes any clinical trial activities from their eligible project costs. This does not exclude pharmaceutical companies altogether but is still important to keep in mind when applying for funding.  

Furthermore, neither program formally requires a minimum number of employees or years in business in order to be eligible. That said, while SR&ED can be claimed by an individual – there is no incorporation requirement – IRAP does require the company to be incorporated, and the company generally needs to be revenue-generating as well. Businesses with more than 500 employees are not eligible for IRAP, as the program is purposed to support small and medium businesses.  

While IRAP does not require a minimum number of employees, the program’s monthly reporting requirements make it more complicated to handle for small businesses with little administrative staff. A business entirely run by its two co-founders or an otherwise very small, specialized technical staff are rarely awarded IRAP funding. Therefore, the size of the team does have an impact on the usefulness of IRAP to a specific company.  

SR&ED is usually more advantageous for such smaller teams because, while it requires diligent time tracking of all activities related to the project throughout the year, the claim is only submitted once for the whole year. 

A key difference to note between SR&ED and IRAP’s evaluation criteria is that the CRA has no return-on-investment considerations when they fund a SR&ED project. On the other hand, IRAP’s mission is to advance technology in Canada and stimulate Canada’s growth as a science and technology leader on the world stage. Therefore, eligible projects are selected much like investments. Only those with the greatest commercialization potential and that advance science and technology in a way that the NRC considers significant enough will receive funding. In this way, NRC IRAP is a competitive program – not all applicants, even if they may be eligible, receive funding.  

SR&ED is not subjective. As long as a project and related corporation/individual meet the criteria according to the lawit will be accepted – assuming the claim is submitted correctly and on time.  

Stacking  

It is perfectly possible for a company to benefit from both SR&ED and IRAP for the same project. However, a few things must be kept in mind.  

Since some eligible expenses could both be covered by SR&ED and IRAP, having received IRAP funds throughout the project would necessarily reduce the amount of the future SR&ED refund. Of course, the difference here is the timing of when the funds are received. As mentioned earlier, IRAP is better designed for supporting cash flow because of its monthly reimbursement structure, so it makes sense to apply for IRAP if increasing cash flow during the project is a primary concern. It will still be possible to submit a SR&ED claim and receive the refundable tax credit amount, but it will almost certainly be reduced by the amounts that overlap with NRC IRAP funded activities.  

Want to find out more about the best practices related to stacking funding programs? Read our dedicated blog post here.   

Stacking funding programs requires paying extra attention to the stacking limits of each program and how they interact with each other. Double-dipping – covering the same expense twice – can come with its fair share of trouble.  

This is particularly true when using IRAP as the NRC conducts a systematic audit of every application, whereas SR&ED claims do not automatically get audited.  

Have questions about the SR&ED audit process and how to prepare for it? Find out more here.  

Whether you get audited or not, you should always be ready by preparing your claim carefully and having all the necessary documentation. 

 

Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute professional advice.

To know more about SR&ED, IRAP and any other funding program and how your business can benefit from it, contact Mike Lee at:  1-800-500-7733, 110 mlee@rdpartners.com.