The most common mistakes in R&D Tax Incentive Application and how to avoid them


Research and Development (R&D) Tax Incentives are a fantastic way for businesses to recoup some of their costs associated with innovation and R&D. However, navigating the R&D Tax Incentive application process can be tricky, and many companies fall into common traps that hinder their chances of securing the deserved benefits. 

In this article, we'll point out some of the most common mistakes in R&D Tax Incentive applications, helping you avoid these pitfalls and optimise your chances of a successful R&D claim.

download r&d tax incentive | summary

Insufficient Documentation

One of the primary stumbling blocks in R&D Tax Incentive applications is the lack of comprehensive documentation. Many businesses fail to maintain detailed records of their R&D activities, making it difficult for AusIndustry to assess the eligibility and validity of the claimed expenses.

To avoid this pitfall, we recommend documenting each stage of your R&D process, including project plans, testing procedures, and financial records.
Maintaining high quality documentation is the best defence of your R&D Tax Incentive.

A collection of high-quality documentation should:

  • Directly relate to the claimed R&D activities
  • Describe the technical challenges or uncertainties related to your development
  • Clearly explain the process of experimentation undertaken and any conclusions reached
  • Link individuals to specific R&D activities
  • Link claimed expenses to eligible activities performed

download r&d tax incentive | DOCUMENTATION

Narrow Definition of R&D

Another common mistake is adopting a narrow interpretation of what constitutes Research and Development. Some businesses restrict their definition to traditional scientific activities, overlooking the fact that innovation can occur in various fields. 

Make sure to cast a wide net when defining R&D within your organisation, considering technological advancements, process improvements, and even the development of new products or external use software.

Lack of Technical Detail

Inadequate technical detail is a prevalent issue in R&D Tax Incentive applications. Tax authorities require a thorough understanding of the technological challenges you faced, the innovative solutions implemented, and the scientific principles involved. Failing to provide this information not only hampers the assessment process but also diminishes the credibility of your claim. 


  • Ensure your application explains your activities in technical detail and clearly illustrating the complexity of your R&D endeavours.
  • Discuss developmental roadblocks and failures to illustrate why development was technically challenging. 

Inaccurate Cost Allocation

Misallocating costs is a significant pitfall that can lead to a reduced claim or even rejection. It's crucial to accurately identify and allocate expenses directly related to your R&D activities. It is common to accidentally include non-eligible costs, such as routine maintenance, business as usual or marketing expenses, in the claim. 


  • Perform a cost analysis and segregate R&D costs from other operational expenditures.
  • Include brief notes about how material expenditures are related to R&D activities.
  • Incorporate a time tracking tool to substantiate employee involvement in R&D activities.

Related: A Checklist for Registering your R&D Activities

Inadequate Financial Advice

R&D Tax Incentive applications often involve complex financial considerations. Many businesses make the mistake of not seeking professional advice, leading to errors in the application process. 

Engage with experts who specialise in R&D tax incentives to ensure that your application aligns with the regulatory requirements and maximises your eligible claims.

Successfully navigating the R&D Tax Incentive application process requires diligence, attention to detail, and a broad understanding of what constitutes research and development. By avoiding these common mistakes—insufficient documentation, a narrow definition of R&D, lack of technical detail, inaccurate cost allocation, and inadequate legal and financial advice—you can increase the likelihood of a successful claim. 

Remember, securing the benefits of R&D Tax Incentives is not just about innovation; it's about presenting a compelling case that demonstrates the technical challenges and experimental activities performed to overcome those challenges.

Talk to our R&D team

Our R&D experts have the knowledge and experience needed to maximise your claim and significantly reduce the risk of non-compliance for a greater chance of a successful application. If your business had a financial year end of 31 December 2022 and you think you conducted eligible R&D activities during the year, talk to our team today about claiming the R&D Tax Incentive.

Related: Navigating R&D Tax Incentive this Tax Time with confidence


Have you noticed our #FridayExpertTips... Here's one that relates to R&D Tax Incentive

"The costs of innovation can be offset by the R&D Tax Incentive. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a lab, on a factory floor, or behind a computer – innovation is innovation! Talk to our team!"


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Azure Group
Azure Group

Azure Group is the leading Chartered Accounting, Business Advisory and Strategic Advisory firm supporting the growth & success of fast growing entrepreneurial businesses.

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