Understanding Eligible Expenses for R&D Tax Credit

R&D Tax Credit

small business

Deborah Roth, CPA
July 25, 2023

The Research and Development (R&D) tax credit offers businesses an opportunity to claim tax benefits for certain qualifying expenditures. By understanding what expenses are eligible, companies can maximize their benefits. The R&D tax credit covers various categories of expenses, including salary and wages, supply costs, computer rental or lease, and contractor costs.

Salary & Wages

Under the R&D tax credit, eligible salary and wages fall into three main categories:

  1. Direct Research: This category includes individuals directly involved in performing research activities, such as researchers, engineers, CAD associates, and project managers. These employees are at the core of the credit.
  2. Direct Supervision: Employees directly supervising those engaged in direct research activities also qualify for the credit.
  3. Direct Support: Individuals providing direct support to research efforts are considered for the credit. For example, if a researcher has an assistant responsible for note-taking and data accumulation, the assistant's time can be included. Similarly, individuals testing prototypes and first articles can be considered for direct support credits.

Supply Costs

Companies can include the cost of materials used for prototyping and testing when calculating eligible supply costs. For instance, expenses associated with prototype builds and materials utilized in evaluating new formulations, such as beauty products, can be included.

Computer Rental or Lease

With the increasing demand for complex research algorithms and testing techniques in software development, claiming expenditures for computer rentals or lease costs has become more common. This includes costs associated with dedicated cloud storage specifically utilized for research activities.


When research activities are performed by non-employees, the expenses incurred can also be eligible for the R&D tax credit. Contractors or outside resources hired for research-related tasks can be included. For instance, if a company needs to hire a specialist with expertise in electrical engineering to aid their research, 65% of the contractor costs can be considered for the credit.

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