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Are R&D Tax Credits classed as notified state aid?

Updated: May 17, 2023

Research and development tax relief (R&D Tax Relief) is a government-led tax incentive for UK businesses that are in the process of introducing new product, processes, and services.

The scheme allows innovative companies to claim Research and Development Tax Credits (R&D Tax Credits) every financial year, which means that they can reclaim up to 27% of the money they’ve spent on qualifying R&D activities.*

Qualifying R&D activities (claimable areas of spending decided by HMRC) are:

  • Staffing

  • Subcontractors

  • Externally Provided Workers (EPWs)

  • Consumables

  • Software

  • Payment to the subjects of clinical trials

Are R&D Tax Credits classed as notified state aid?

For the purpose of using R&D Tax Relief and other forms of government funding (such as grants) on the same project, it’s important to distinguish whether or not your R and D Tax Credits are classed as notified state aid.

Notified state aid is any government funding that’s approved and regulated by the European Commission (EC). Under EC regulation, businesses are not permitted to access to more than one form of notified state aid for the same research and development project.

This is simply to ensure that a level playing field is maintained across the continent when it comes to the allocation of financial support.

SME R&D Tax Relief Scheme

R and D Tax Credits are classed as notified state aid only if the claimant files under the more lucrative SME R&D Tax Relief scheme.

The SME (Small to Medium-Sized Enterprise) R&D Tax Relief scheme is the more conventional way to claim R&D Tax Credits, as it’s open to businesses that have less than 500 employees, less than €86M in gross assets, and less than €100M in turnover.

The SME scheme allows profitable businesses to reclaim 21.5% of qualifying R&D expenditure as a corporation tax deduction, and loss-making businesses to reclaim 27% of qualifying R&D expenditure as cash.

So - businesses that have received another form of notified state aid, such as the Innovate UK Smart Grant, cannot claim R&D Tax Credits under the SME scheme.

RDEC R&D Tax Relief Scheme

Alternatively, Research and Development Tax Credits filed under the RDEC scheme are not classed as notified state aid and can therefore be used in conjunction with grants on the same project!

The RDEC (Research & Development Expenditure Credit) R&D Tax Relief scheme is open to businesses that exceed the size metrics of the SME scheme – that being; over 500 employees, more than €86M in gross assets, and more than €100M in turnover.

RDEC R and D Tax Credits allow all claimants to recover a fixed rate of 10.5% of qualifying R&D expenditure, as a corporation tax deduction.

Because this scheme is not classed as notified state aid, it is the only form of R&D Tax Relief that’s compatible with businesses that have received EC-regulated government funding - even if they fall below the size metrics outlined above.

The impact of notified state aid on the R & D claim process

To illustrate how notified state aid can affect the R&D Tax Credit claimant, let’s run through an example. The characteristics of the following business reflect that of a typical candidate for the SME scheme. However, they’ve previously been awarded notified state aid in the form of a grant, so their R&D Tax Credit claim is impacted…


Your business has previously been awarded an Innovate UK Smart Grant of £500k. Over the past financial year, you’ve spent £250k of the grant on software, consumables, and paying your six employees. Your product isn’t market-ready, so you’re not yet generating profit. As you’ve received a form of notified state aid, the size of your company and its’ financial position does not impact your R&D Tax Credit claim. Your Innovate UK Smart Grant determines that you’ll be able to claim R&D Tax Credits exclusively under the RDEC scheme. So, your R & D claim will return £26,250 (10.5% of £250k) in the form of a corporation tax deduction off current or future tax liabilities.

How about the other way round?

Having clarified the fact that only one form of notified state aid is permitted on the same research and development project, you might be wondering if your previous use of SME R&D Tax Credits prohibits you from accessing government funding in the future, such as grants.

The answer is no!

Don’t worry, if you’ve previously received notified state aid through SME R and D Tax Credits, this does not make you ineligible for grant funding moving forwards.

This is because R&D Tax Relief is a retrospective initiative, concerned with R&D expenditure incurred over the past financial year. In contrast, businesses are awarded grant funding to subsidise future R&D activities.

In this scenario, your one permitted form of notified state aid will simply switch from SME R&D Tax Credits to grant funding. Then, your R and D Tax Credits will be claimable under the RDEC scheme.


All in all, the issue of whether your R&D Tax Credit claims are classed as notified state aid becomes relevant if your business has been previously subsidised by a form of government funding.

Further nuances arise that can complicate how these funding tools intersect. For example, certain government grants are classed as non-notified state aid and are therefore compatible with SME R&D Tax Credits.

To read about how R&D Tax Credits and grant funding work together, check out our specialised blog.

If you’re new to the R&D Tax Relief scheme, it can be difficult to get to grips with.

But when claiming R and D Tax Credits, you don’t have to work out your eligibility alone.

By using an R&D Tax Credits Specialist, such as Claim Capital, you can offload the entirety of your R & D claim and focus on what matters most – growing your business.

After a short call with our R&D Tax Experts, we’ll quickly and efficiently assess the scope of your R & D claim, and which scheme you should be filing under.

Our 25+ years of experience in the field allows us to maximise, complete, and submit fully compliant R&D Tax Credits within 3-5 working days.

We’re so confident in our approach that we only operate our fixed fee once the client receives their R&D Tax Relief from HMRC. Plus, in the unlikely event of an HMRC enquiry, our team will collate the necessary evidence to defend and justify your R&D Tax Credit claim at no extra cost.

That means no upfront fees, and no nasty surprises.

To learn more about the benefits of our fixed fee R&D Tax Credits service, or to check whether your business qualifies for R&D Tax Relief, contact our team today.

*These are the updated figures in line with the new legislation announced in the April 2023 Spring Budget.


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