How Startups Can Maximize R&D Tax Credits in 2024

The U.S. government supports innovative companies. Each year, it offers tax breaks through the R&D Tax Credit program. This helps businesses create new tech, products, or methods and aids those improving existing ones.

Now, startups can benefit, too. A new law from 2023 lets these young companies save up to $500,000 yearly on worker taxes. This is great for businesses involved in research and innovation.

The program aims to reward companies for trying new ideas. It’s not just for big tech firms. Small businesses working on cool projects can get help, too. This money can make a big difference for small startups.

Offering these credits is the government’s way of investing in America’s creative and problem-solving spirit and encouraging innovation across all industries.

How Startups Can Maximize R&D Tax Credits in 2024

After 2023, these tax breaks are even better. Here are the steps to understanding and using R&D Tax effectively for the most benefit:

1. Know What Counts

Ensure your work fits what the IRS calls research. This usually means trying to make something new or better in a way that’s not easy to figure out.

2. Keep Good Notes

Write down everything you do for your research. Keep track of what you spend money on, too. This helps prove you deserve the tax break.

3. File the Right Way

When you ask for the tax credit, use the correct IRS forms and make sure you do it on time.

4. Check Your State

Some states give extra tax breaks for research. See if yours does and apply for those, too.

5. Get Help If You Need It

Think about hiring someone who knows about these tax credits. They can help you get the most money back.

Eligibility For Startups: Who Can Get These R&D Tax Credits?

The rules are pretty straightforward. You’re on the right track if your company made $5 million or less in a year. Also, if you’ve been making money for less than five years, that’s another good sign. Just make sure you’re not a tax-free organization.

Here’s an interesting point: even if your company didn’t make money immediately, you might still qualify. For example, if you started your business in 2018 but didn’t see profits until later, you could still get credits for 2022. This is great for new companies that take a while to make profits.

Federal And State R&D Credits

The federal government has boosted support for startups. New companies can save up to $500,000 on worker taxes each year, double the previous limit. This change came from the Inflation Reduction Act of 2023.

States offer incentives, too. Arizona, for example, gives back 24% of research spending up to $2.5 million and 15% after that. California provides a 15% credit that can be used to lower future taxes. New York offers a straightforward 6% credit on research expenses.

Minnesota has a unique approach. They reduce income or franchise tax for companies doing qualified research in the state. For expenses up to $2 million, Minnesota offers a 10% credit. After that, it’s 4%. This credit isn’t just for the current year – it can be carried forward for up to 15 years.

Interestingly, Minnesota allows businesses to claim refunds within the statute of limitations. If you’ve missed out on credits in past years, you might still be able to benefit by filing an amended return.

Texas takes a different route, offering franchise tax credits and exempting certain research-related purchases from sales tax.

Qualifying R&D Activities

The IRS has a four-part test to determine what counts as R&D. First, it has to be experimental and related to your business. You’re trying to figure something out that’s not clear.

Second, it should use science or technology. This could be physics, biology, engineering, or computer science. Third, you need to work on something that will be used in your business. This could be a new product, a better way of doing things, or even new software.

Lastly, you need to try different ways to solve your problem. You’re not just picking the first idea that comes along. You’re testing and evaluating different options.

What Counts as R&D?

Developing new products or materials counts, as does improving existing ones. Research into new manufacturing techniques can also qualify. Working on making your products more sustainable can count.

Remember, each state has its own rules, too. In Minnesota, for example, you get a 10% credit on the first $2 million of R&D spending, then 4% after that. However, the research has to be done in Minnesota. Other states, like Arizona and California, have different rates and rules.

The key is to keep good records. Track what you spend on R&D, including salaries, supplies, and contract work. Even if a project doesn’t work out, the effort you put into it might still qualify for credits.

Non-Qualifying Activities

Not everything counts as R&D, though. If you’re working on something after you’ve started selling it, that usually doesn’t count.

Also, if you’re just changing something a little bit for one customer, that’s not R&D. Copying something already existing doesn’t count either.

Remember, each state has its rules, so it’s smart to check what your state offers. You might find extra help that could make a big difference for your company.

And if you’re not sure about anything, it’s always a good idea to ask an expert. They can help you get the most out of these credits.

Maximizing R&D Tax Credits Benefits

R&D tax credits can be a game-changer for startups. They offer a way to save money while pushing your business forward. Here’s how to make the most of them:

First, understand how these credits work. You can use them to offset annual payroll taxes up to $500,000. This applies to the money you pay for Social Security and Medicare. You’ll need to file some forms with the IRS to claim this. The main ones are Form 6765, Form 8974, and Form 941.

Timing matters, too. If you’re a C Corporation with a December fiscal year, you must file by April 15. For S Corporations, it’s March 15. Other fiscal years have different deadlines, so keep an eye on that.

You can also use these credits to offset income tax. Look back at your last three tax years – you might be able to amend them and get some money back.

How Much Can You Save With R&D Tax Credits?

For federal credits, it’s about 10% of what you spend on eligible R&D. States offer their credits, too, and these vary. You can claim up to $2.5 million on your quarterly payroll tax returns. If you don’t use all your credits, don’t worry. You can carry them forward for up to 20 years.

The benefits go beyond just saving money. These credits can reduce your tax bill by up to 20% of your qualified research spending. This means more cash in your pocket, which can be crucial for a growing business.

But it’s not just about the money. These credits encourage innovation. They can help you attract talented employees who want to work on cutting-edge projects. Investors like to see companies using these credits, too – it shows you’re serious about growth.

To get the most out of these credits, consider using specialized tools. Software designed to help track R&D spending is available. Some companies even hire R&D accountants to manage this. It might seem like extra work, but it can pay off quickly.


R&D tax credits can be a powerful tool for startup growth. They offer financial savings and encourage innovation. Startups should explore both federal and state credits to get the most benefit.

Remember, even unsuccessful research might qualify. It’s the effort that counts, not just the results. This helps companies take risks and try new things.


What Qualifies for R&D Tax Credits?

Qualified Work: Activities to develop new or improved products, processes, or technology.

Qualified Costs:

Staff: Includes salaries, employer’s National Insurance contributions, pension contributions, and reimbursed expenses.

Subcontractors and Freelancers: Payments made to external workers involved in R&D.

Materials and Consumables: Costs for heat, light, and power used up or changed during R&D.

Does Minnesota Have an R&D Credit?

Minnesota was the first state to create an R&D tax credit in 1981. Now, many states with corporate taxes offer similar credits for research expenses. These credits can differ in each state, but Minnesota’s credit is similar to the federal credit.

What is the R&D Credit Rule?

The Research and Development (R&D) tax credit reduces federal tax for approved research expenses in the U.S. The reduction rate is dollar for dollar, meaning you save one dollar for every dollar spent. You also get back about 13 cents for every dollar spent on eligible research activities.