Mackles says firms usually recover three to eight times what it costs to claim the R&D credit. Typically, an accountant conducts a quick appraisal to gauge the likelihood of meaningful savings before plunging in too deep.
Finally, a cautionary note: Remember that accountants' opinions and styles vary. Turnbull, for example, has strong reservations about how far R&D credits can be taken given the IRS' current language, especially when it comes to software and service companies. Still, she agrees the credits deserve attention.
But while Mackles agrees that much of the language affecting R&D tax credits remains subject to interpretation, he says the big six accounting firms, at least, are moving ahead quickly on the issue. Already, dozens of clients at his firm have claimed this credit, and the activity is filtering down to smaller companies.
Regardless of where you or your accountant fall on the risk-reward continuum of claiming credits and deductions, one time-honored dictum still applies that even Turnbull and Mackles can agree on: Keep the best possible records you can. If you want to take advantage of the R&D credit, you're going to need them.