Frankly, Caroline Hughes was flummoxed. Here she was, a seasoned expert on Australia’s tax structure, watching as countless dollars in research and development tax breaks were left untouched. Innovative businesses, she concluded, either didn’t know the money was there or were too intimidated by red tape to get their hands on it.
Fortunately for these innovators, Hughes transformed her frustration into a business that boasts a suite of online tools that make the R&D tax claim process more accessible and far less intimidating. R&D SmartTax and its Eligibility Wizard and Application Wizard wants to empower Australia’s idea people. For that, Hughes and her company top the charts in Anthill’s SMART 100.
1. R&D Eligibility Wizard and R&D Application Wizard
Company: R&D SmartTax
Headquarters: Brisbane, QLD
The R&D Eligibility Wizard lets users self-assess whether their companies or projects fit the requirements for tax breaks. The Application Wizard lets small and medium-sized enterprises self-assess eligibility and complete questions that feed into an R&D application that is emailed to the user for lodgement.
Subscribers to the R&D SmartTax tools use unique access codes to unlock a secure online database. The user is asked detailed questions developed from Hughes’ years of tax-consulting experience. Responses are stored in the database and a series of automated scripts creates the R&D Application that is emailed for editing, review and lodgement. The software will be regularly updated to keep up with tax-code changes.
Hughes, the managing director for R&D SmartTax, has worked for more than a decade all over Australia helping large and small companies benefit from the R&D tax breaks. She is a member of the Taxation Institute of Australia and the ATO/AusIndustry Consultative Group that meets to discuss R&D policy. She has been asked to contribute on specific policy matters such as R&D plans and the new R&D tax credit system.
Traditionally, applications for tax breaks rely heavily on the hiring of consultants to guide businesses through the maze of options and requirements. R&D SmartTax says its online tools provide that same expertise, but at a much lower cost.
Hughes notes that the tools don’t necessarily have to go head-to-monitor against real-life consultants. The consultants themselves, she says, can use the tools, as can large businesses and the government’s AusIndustry division for business programs. Hughes says the tax guidebook from AusIndustry and the Australian Taxation Office offers little useful detail for tax claimants.
The primary target of the R&D online tools are the estimated 500,000 Australian companies that should be making R&D tax claims. Hughes says the initial goal is modest — one percent of those companies using the SmartTax suite. Bet on Hughes’ deductions being as sharp as the innovators she aims to help.