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Research and Development Tax Credit


As tax season rolls around, it is important to keep an eye on the tax credits that are available to startups. These credits are easy to forget because it is not something that just anyone can claim on their business tax returns. But as startup company or an existing business building software that has a risk of failure, the government wants to provide financial incentives you to build it within the United States.

Each year, one of the better credits that are available to companies commissioning a custom software development project is the Federal Research & Development Tax Credit. The IRS publishes its Audit Guidelines on the Application of the Process of Experimentation for all Software.

Activities and costs that can be claimed

Covers research that

  • Creates new or improved business components
  • Is technological in nature
  • Has an element of uncertainty

But not expenses related to

  • Research conducted after the beginning of commercial production.
  • Research adapting an existing product or process to a particular customer’s need.
  • Duplication of an existing product or process.
  • Surveys or studies.
  • Research relating to certain internal-use computer software.
  • Research conducted outside the United States, Puerto Rico, or a U.S. possession.
  • Research in the social sciences, arts, or humanities.
  • Research funded by another person (or governmental entity).

State Tax Credits

Your state may have additional tax credits designed to encourage small businesses, such as your startup company. For example, in Georgia there is a generous Angel investor tax credit available that is worth investigating. You can read about it at Georgia: Small Business Incentives.


A tax credit is better than a business expense because it reduces the total amount of your tax bill dollar for dollar.

Because Rietta and its team members are located within the United States, the cost of the development work that we perform for your company may qualify for this credit depending upon the stage that your startup is currently in. Be sure to check with your tax advisor and apply for this credit if it is applicable to you.

Confirmed with my tax accountant

Before publishing this article, I double checked the facts with my company’s accountant, Alan Bradford of Acuff Accounting & Tax Service. If you are in the metro Atlanta area and are looking for some help with your taxes, give him a call at 770-554-8344.

Further reading

About Frank Rietta

Frank Rietta's photo

Frank Rietta is specialized in working with startups, new Internet businesses, and in developing with the Ruby on Rails platform to build scalable businesses. He is a computer scientist with a Masters in Information Security from the College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He teaches about security topics and is a contributor to the security chapter of the 7th edition of the "Fundamentals of Database Systems" textbook published by Addison-Wesley.