Thursday 29 September 2016

Statistics: make of them what you will - UK patent box vs R&D reliefs

The UK tax authority has recently released statistics for take up of the patent box in 2013-14 (the first year of the relief); on the same day, it released the latest statistics on use of the UK’s R&D tax reliefs for the same tax year. The reports make for some interesting compare and contrast points:

Total claims in 2013-14
- patent box: 700
- R&D tax reliefs: 22,415

Total value of claims in 2013-14
- patent box: £342.9m
- R&D reliefs: £2.45bn

SME claims in 2013-14
- patent box: 475 (68%)
- R&D reliefs: 19,990 (95%)

Value of SME claims in 2013-14
- patent box: £15.7m (5%)
- R&D reliefs: £1.165bn (48%)

The largest claimant sector (for both patent box and R&D) is, unsurprisingly, manufacturing (63% of patent box claims; 30% of R&D claims). The second largest for R&D is Professional, Scientific & Technical, with about 20% of claims - but this sector only made 6.3% of patent box claims. This might relate to the nature of the patent box, and particularly the extra hurdle for claiming on services income. The other sectors are somewhat more difficult to analyse as numbers of patent box claims are so low that sectors have been combined to prevent commercial information being disclosed.

The R&D relief requires a company to be undertaking a project which seeks an advance in the global state of knowledge in an area of science or technology, it would seem logical that a successful R&D-relief qualifying project would often lead to something capable of being patented – and, in the 14 years for which we have R&D statistics, 141,000 claims for relief have been made. Fair enough, R&D relief claims can be made for unsuccessful projects, but out of 141,000 R&D relief claims, it seems pretty likely that there are more than 700 companies within the scope of the patent box … the report doesn’t speculate upon why the take up is so low in terms of numbers (and for comparison, the impact note when the patent box was introduced estimated the first year cost to the Treasury at £500m).

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