THIS CASE STUDY EXEMPLIFIES THE APPLICATION OF ESSENTIAL LEGISLATIVE REQUIREMENTS FOR ELIGIBLE SR&ED ACTIVITIES AS THEY APPLY TO RELEVANT ACTIVITIES IN THE ARCHITECTURE INDUSTRY.
Freeman Home Builders (Freeman) is a custom home construction company involved in designing, constructing and managing home builds from conception to delivery.
In 2016, Freeman identified that the inefficiencies that occurred during the building process were a result of poor industry practices, which were manual, resource-intensive and poorly organized.
Freeman saw a need for a new, all-encompassing software that could handle all aspects of its business instead of the existing market technology that focused strictly on design. Freeman formulated a hypothesis for its new SR&ED project:
“A management system can be designed and developed to manage all aspects of a building project by integrating the functions of design, customer relationship management (CRM) and accounting software.”
The company believed its new management software (FMS) could be achieved by implementing four key Scientific Research and Experimental Development activities. To be eligible for the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive Program, Freeman’s activities had to meet the definition of “scientific research and experimental development” in subsection 248(1) of the Income Tax Act (see Commentary below).
FREEMAN’S ELIGIBLE SR&ED ACTIVITIES
Design and development of a series of prototypes to achieve the technical objectives (design of FMS).
This activity focused on whether a management system could be designed and developed to manage all aspects of a building project by integrating the functions of design, CRM and accounting software.
After cycles of coding, testing and re-coding, Freeman was able to prove the theoretical feasibility of developing FMS.
Trials and analysis of data to achieve results that can be reproduced to a satisfactory standard and to test the hypothesis (prototype development and testing of FMS).
The hypothesis for this experiment was to prove that theoretical conclusions from the design phase could be realized through the development and testing of FMS, and conclude that a management system could be designed and developed to manage all aspects of a building project by integrating the functions of design, CRM and accounting software.
Background research to evaluate current knowledge gaps and determine feasibility (background research for the design of FMS).
Freeman engaged in background research for three years which included the following activities:
- Literature search and review
- Consultation with industry professionals and potential customers to determine the level of interest and commercial feasibility of such a project
- 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
These activities qualified as SR&ED because they assisted in identifying the key elements of the research project.
Ongoing analysis of customer or user feedback to improve the prototype design (feedback SR&ED of FMS).
Freeman’s SR&ED work at this stage included activities such as ongoing analysis and testing and continuous development and modification to interpret the experimental results.
These activities were necessary to evaluate the performance capabilities of the new design in the field and to improve any flaws in the design, therefore qualifying as SR&ED work.
To qualify, the work must meet the following definition of “scientific research and experimental development” (SR&ED), as defined in subsection 248(1) of the Income Tax Act.
“Scientific research and experimental development” means systematic investigation or search that is carried out in a field of science or technology by means of experiment or analysis and that is:
(a) basic research, namely work undertaken for the advancement of scientific knowledge without a specific practical application in view;
(b) applied research, namely work undertaken for the advancement of scientific knowledge with a specific practical application in view; or
(c) experimental development, namely, work undertaken for the purpose of achieving technological advancement for the purpose of creating new, or improving existing, materials, devices, products or processes, including incremental improvements thereto;
and, in applying this definition in respect of a taxpayer, includes:
(d) work undertaken by or on behalf of the taxpayer with respect to engineering, design, operations research, mathematical analysis, computer programming, data collection, testing or psychological research, where the work is commensurate with the needs, and directly in support, of work described in paragraph (a), (b), or (c) that is undertaken in Canada by or on behalf of the taxpayer.
WHAT RECORDS AND SPECIFIC DOCUMENTATION DID FREEMAN KEEP?
Similar to any tax credit or deduction, Freeman had to save business records that outlined what it did in its SR&ED activities, including experimental activities and documents to prove that the work took place in a systematic manner. Freeman saved the following documentation:
- Error log and fixes
- Conceptual sketches
- Technical drawing revisions
- Screenshots of various build versions / final version
- Email correspondence
- Progress reports and meeting minutes
- Staff time sheets
- Tax invoices
- Patent application number
- Backup copies of the program and reports for each release
- Documentation of changes and source code in an online, private revision control system
This is an excellent example of how to be “compliance ready” — meaning if you were selected for an audit by the CRA, you could present documentation to show the progression of your SR&ED work.