THIS CASE STUDY EXEMPLIFIES THE APPLICATION OF KEY LEGISLATIVE REQUIREMENTS FOR ELIGIBLE R&D ACTIVITIES AS THEY APPLY TO RELEVANT ACTIVITIES IN THE OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY.
SafeMark Gas Experts (SafeMark) has been involved in gas detection in the workplace for over 40 years and offers safety solutions to Ireland’s infrastructure and resource companies. To maintain the trust of its clients and keep its industry-leading reputation, SafeMark conducts regular R&D work.
In March of 2017, SafeMark found a need for a guard that detected flammable materials which led to the start of Project Flame Guard in April of 2017. The hypothesis for its project was that SafeMark could design and develop an examined guard with innovative features to detect flammable material in an improved manner to what currently existed on the market.
To qualify for the Research and Development Tax Credit, SafeMark’s activities had to meet the following criteria:
- Be in the field of science or technology
- Involve one or more of these categories of R&D:
- Basic research
- Applied research
- Experimental development
- Seek to make scientific or technological advancement
- Involve the resolution of scientific or technological uncertainty.
After self-assessing, SafeMark declared the following experiments as R&D work.
SAFEMARK’S ELIGIBLE R&D ACTIVITIES
Design and development of a series of prototypes to achieve the technical objectives (design of the examined guard).
SafeMark’s hypothesis for its experiment questioned whether it was feasible to design an examined guard to detect flammable materials that was easier to use in the field and reduced operating costs for clients.
The experiments SafeMark conducted in the design phase mainly consisted of computer modeling, conceptual engineering drawings and mathematical calculations. These experiments could only be proven effective or ineffective in the prototype development and testing phase. Following the experiments in that phase, during which the product was built and tested in various applications, the design was modified and re-tested until the desired outcome was achieved.
Background research to evaluate current knowledge gaps and determine feasibility (background research for the examined guard).
SafeMark’s eligible R&D activities during this phase of experimentation included:
- Literature search and review, including maintaining up-to-date knowledge on relevant certification and standards.
- Consultation with industry professionals and potential customers to determine the level of interest and commercial feasibility of the product.
- Preliminary equipment and resources review with respect to capacity, performance and suitability for the project.
- Consultation with key component/part/assembly suppliers to determine the factors they considered important in the design and to gain an understanding of how the design needed to be structured accordingly.
The background research conducted by SafeMark was directly related to the main objective of designing a guard capable of detecting flammable materials, therefore qualifying as R&D.
Ongoing analysis of customer or user feedback to improve the prototype design (feedback of the examined guard).
The feedback of the examined guard included:
- Ongoing analysis and testing to improve the efficiency and safety of the project.
- Ongoing development and modification to interpret the experimental results and draw conclusions that served as starting points for the development of new hypotheses.
- Commercial analysis and functionality review.
This feedback was necessary to evaluate the performance capabilities of the new design in the field and to improve any flaws in the design. There was a direct correlation between the feedback and the design process of the examined guard, making it an eligible R&D activity.
WHAT RECORDS AND SPECIFIC DOCUMENTATION DID SAFEMARK KEEP?
Similar to any tax credit or deduction, SafeMark had to save documents that outlined what it did in its R&D activities, including experimental activities and business records to prove that the work took place in a systematic manner.
SafeMark saved the following documentation:
- Background research
- Meeting notes or progress reports, including internal project management issues and updates
- Conceptual sketches
- Design drawings
By having these records on file, SafeMark confirmed that it was compliance ready — meaning if it was audited by Revenue, it could present documentation to show the progression of its R&D activity, ultimately proving its eligibility for the R&D credit.