Research and Development Learn About Accounting for R&D

accounting for r&d costs

Helping clients meet their business challenges begins with an in-depth understanding of the industries in which they work. In fact, KPMG LLP was the first of the Big Four firms to organize itself along the same industry lines as clients. KPMG has market-leading alliances with many accounting for research and development of the world’s leading software and services vendors. Given the rate of technological advancement, particularly in countries like the U.S. and China, R&D is integral for companies to stay competitive and create products that are difficult for their competitors to replicate.

  • From the beginning, early tax court decisions and accounting literature supported research and development cost deferral; but scientists and economists supported immediate deduction for tax purposes as a means to stimulate research and development.
  • Capitalize costs when incurred if specified condi-tions are fulfilled and charge all other costs to expense” [SFAS No. 2, 1974].
  • An individual with an accounting background can effortlessly calculate and interpret ROI, guiding marketing decisions.
  • A study of 200 companies on the Fortune 500 list suggested that new ventures need, on average, eight years before they reach profitability [Biggadike, 1979].
  • Another study esti-mated exceedingly high new product failure rates, ranging from 30 to 90 percent.
  • “We conclude that the evidence supports the premise that the expense only rule caused a relative decline in R&D outlays for small high technology firms which had primarily used the deferred method of measurement.

To date, there has not been any substantive guidance on either Section 174 amortization or the related Section 280C(c) language, and Treasury officials have indicated that this is unlikely to occur until after April 15, 2023. The current federal Form 6765 instructions for tax year 2022 still contain the previous instructions concerning 280C, indicating that taxpayers must reduce their deductions by the amount of the gross credit if not electing the 280C. This could indicate the IRS maintains that taxpayers must still reduce their deductions, or the instructions may still need to be revised once further Section 174 guidance is issued. The conforming change in Section 280C for Section 174 amortization provision removed the „no deduction shall be allowed“ language that disallowed the deduction in the amount of the R&D Credit. And even then, a taxpayer only has to reduce the capital account by the excess credit amount. Because of this provision, taxpayers are now required to amortize their research expenditures over five years for domestic costs and 15 years for foreign research costs.

20 Research and Development Arrangements

Problems with SSAP 13 SSAP 13 is not in line with the newer International Accounting Standard covering this area. As seen previously, the UK allows a choice over capitalisation; this can lead to inconsistencies between companies and, as some of the criteria are subjective, this ‘choice’ can be manipulated by companies wishing to capitalise development costs. Research is original and planned investigation, undertaken with the prospect of gaining new scientific or technical knowledge and understanding. An example of research could be a company in the pharmaceuticals industry undertaking activities or tests aimed at obtaining new knowledge to develop a new vaccine. The company is researching the unknown, and therefore, at this early stage, no future economic benefit can be expected to flow to the entity. Using AIS allows accountants to customize the platform to meet their needs and provide more accurate and secure financial information.

  • Governmental accountants are experts in providing services that serve the government’s needs.
  • Before tracing the historical evolution of the accounting for research and development costs, the paper examines the importance of R&D and the importance of how R&D costs are accounted for in the next section of the paper.
  • Thus, before 1954, business firms may have switched from deferral to current expensing of research and development in published financial statements to take advantage of the tax benefits of immediate deduction.
  • R&D spending is treated as an expense – i.e. expensed on the income statement on the date incurred – rather than as a long-term investment.
  • Companies using the cash basis method of accounting will record expenses arising from R&D when they are paid.
  • The information contained herein is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity.

U.S. firms may be reluctant to invest in long-term R&D because of the expense-as-incurred financial reporting rules. Yet “[c]orporations in the U.S.A. are beginning to realize the intellectual property may be their most valuable asset in competing with Japan” [Dreyfuss, 1987]. In this paper, the history of accounting for research and development costs is analyzed to determine why the current accounting rules require immediate expensing. The reporting environment, issues and investigation conducted by the FASB in 1974 which led to the expense-as-incurred rule is examined. Particularly significant to the thesis of this paper is empirical evidence that was available at the time to counter the FASB’s overly pessimistic assessment of the likely outcome of an R&D expenditure. The paper then reviews the more recent pronouncement about accounting for software development costs as a contrast to R&D accounting.


More specifically, Mansfield [May 1972] estimates the marginal rate of return on R&D in the petroleum industry to be over 40 percent, while in the chemical industry, Minasian [May 1969] estimates a 50 percent marginal rate of return on R&D. The theoretical foundation for the current requirement of expensing R&D costs as incurred certainly may be questioned. The accounting model with the annual measurement of income may be best suited for an agrarian economy characterized by manual labor and a static technology. However, income may not be as easily or exactly measured in an industrialized economy characterized by long-lived capital assets and a rapidly changing technology. A longer time perspective then the annual accounting measurement cycle may be required to measure performance of many companies which sell technology based products.