16 May 2014

Tax breaks seen as "narrow"

7:13 am on 16 May 2014

The well foreshadowed tax breaks for start-up and research and development companies were confirmed in Thursday's budget.

Two new tax measures were introduced to support business research and development.

Changes in the budget will allow loss-making start-up companies to cash out all, or part of, their tax losses from spending on research and development.

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Photo: 123RF

All businesses will be allowed to deduct tax for spending on research and development projects which is currently neither deductible or able to be depreciated.

The Government said the two initiatives were expected to return a net $58.1 million in tax to innovative companies over the next four years.

A partner at Ernst & Young, Aaron Quintal, said while this was welcome news, it was narrow on the tax front.

"Businesses that spend a lot on R&D in their start-up phase - and they're in losses - currently they have to carry forward those losses," he said.

"You only get to use them once you start making profits - which might be many years down the track - and quite often run out of cash before you get to that stage.

"What the Government is saying - for those R&D-intensive start-up businesses - is `we'll let you cash out those losses'," he said.

"The Government will effectively pay those losses out to you in cash".

The other big change was around "black hole" spending - the kind of costs incurred developing intellectual property for which there had not until now been deductions.

"Those costs related to developing IP should be deductible and will be deductible," Mr Quintal said.

"It is a very narrow focus to businesses that they're going to help,'' he added.

"I think that does reflect the philosophy of this Government as distinct from what Labour is proposing.

"It is very difficult for them to pick who's going to be a winner, so they're really saying: `Smart ideas we'll back, no matter what industry you're in. Beyond those smart ideas, there's no Government money for you'."