Belfast Telegraph

More tax breaks are urged to help Northern Ireland companies grow

Seminar experts outline innovative methods of saving cash

by clare weir

Companies in Northern Ireland must further investigate innovation tax breaks in order to grow, a seminar in Belfast has heard.

The Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering Centre (NIACE), a technology hub for the research and development of advanced engineering and materials technologies, hosted tax expert Ian Edwards from Ernst & Young last week.

He told representatives from 10 companies about the benefits of Research and Development (R&D) Tax Relief and Patent Box and how they could help generate huge savings.

Mr Edwards said that attendees got an overview of the current tax landscape and heard about the Government's commitment to support innovative companies.

Attendees also heard about the Patent Box, a new relief introduced from April 2013 which attracts a 10% rate of corporation tax.

Companies learned about the qualifying conditions and the types of benefits that they could achieve.

"We talked about the R&D tax credits in some detail, the cash benefits, the costs that qualify and I also highlighted the low uptake of claims in Northern Ireland," Mr Edwards said.

"We looked at examples of R&D activities in a wider industry level and also more specifically relevant to the composites industry."

Jim Erskine, managing director of CCP Gransden Ltd, which makes thermoplastic components for water, wastewater and effluent treatment, was one of those who attended the seminar.

"We have two patents and have undertaken various R&D projects, but we never fully realised the tax benefits on offer. I found this a very useful seminar, which will save us money," he said.

Scott King, general manager of NIACE, said that some firms need to come up to date and take advantage of the tax benefits available.

"This is just the latest workshop that we have offered to participant companies as part of the many benefits of being involved with NIACE," he said.

"Companies within Northern Ireland have been traditionally poor at seeking out and accessing the R&D Tax Credits system.

"Industry must reassess this position and culture if they wish to grow through this difficult economic climate.

"The Government is very supportive of the advanced engineering sector, in particular the composites industry, and I would urge all companies who are nervous about potential costs of R&D to think again and explore fully the tax benefits that may be available."

Opened in January 2012, NIACE currently has 10 participating company members from a variety of sectors, and two university partners carrying out research. Trade body ADS is also an associate member.

The construction of the centre was funded by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, Invest Northern Ireland and Bombardier Aerospace.

Last month a tax credit specialist encouraged firms in the aerospace, defence and security supply chains here to explore tax breaks for new ideas.

The three sectors, particularly aerospace, are a key component of the Northern Ireland economy, with more than 50 companies – including B/E Aerospace, Bombardier Aerospace, DuPont, Martin Baker, Survitec Group and Thales – having bases here.

Jumpstart, a research and development tax credit specialist in Edinburgh, has expressed concerns that some companies which may be eligible for significant financial aid may be missing out because of uncertainty about tax credit claims procedures.

Belfast Telegraph