California R&D Tax Credit Consultants

R&D Tax Credit | March 15, 2021 | 7 min read
California State Capitol

The federal research and development (R&D) tax credit is one of the best opportunities for California businesses to substantially reduce their tax liability. Many businesses engage in “qualified research” which enables them to reduce their tax liability by taking advantage of the R&D tax credit. Introduced in 1981, the federal R&D tax credit is the largest tax incentive available to California taxpayers. Furthermore, California has a state sponsored R&D tax credit that can be claimed in conjunction with the federal R&D credit. In order for your California business to be eligible to qualify for the R&D tax credit, it must engage in certain qualified research activities. The best way to learn more about R&D activities and tax credit eligibility is to work with an experienced and well-qualified R&D tax credit consultant. Schedule a free consultation with Clarus R+D to learn more about R&D tax credits and find out if your California business engages in R&D eligible activities. Clarus’ technology-driven solution empowers companies to fuel their growth with America’s largest tax incentive.

Contact us for additional information

California businesses need to take advantage of the R&D tax credit

The research and development tax credit is a government sponsored tax incentive available to companies who conduct research and development within the United States. The credit was implemented as a Congressional response to the decline in research spending which negatively impacted the country’s economic growth, productivity gains, and overall global competitiveness. The R&D tax credit was initially implemented in 1981 and has since been reauthorized several times. In 2015, when the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act was adopted, the research and development (R&D) credit became a permanent part of the tax code.

I encourage any entrepreneur or company with significant dev expenses to pursue the R&D tax credit. The ROI compared to the amount of time spent is worth it.

Jeff Wilkins / FMX

Many taxpayers assume the R&D tax credit is available only to major corporations conducting tests in research laboratories. This, of course, is not the case. Businesses of all sizes across many industries are eligible for the incentive as long as they are engaged in qualified research activities. Under the current tax code, any company that develops or improves products or processes may be eligible for the credit. The number of businesses that engage in eligible activities is ever-increasing as are the eligible activities that qualify for the credit. More and more California businesses are engaged in qualified research activities making them eligible for the R&D tax credit. Clarus R+D is California R&D tax credit consultant of choice to help your business take advantage of the research and development tax incentive.

Learn how to take advantage of the R&D tax credit

The R&D tax credit and your California business

Businesses in the United States are battling in an intensely competitive global market. Tax incentives, like the research and development tax credit, are designed to protect American jobs and businesses while spurring ingenuity and innovation. The research and development tax credit helps by allowing you to take advantage of tax credits for the work your California business is already doing. Smart businesses are taking those dollars saved via the tax credit and reinvesting in their growth. Many businesses are unaware expenses related to their daily operations could qualify for a dollar-for-dollar tax credit towards their annual income and/or payroll tax liability, irrespective of industry or company size. Additionally, California offers an R&D tax credit that can supplement the federal R&D tax credit.

For most companies, the credit is worth 7-10% of qualified research expenses. This is a dollar-for-dollar credit against taxes owed. Plus, it carries forward 20 years. For startups, applying the credit against payroll taxes is a valuable, non-dilutive funding opportunity. Eligible expenses for the R&D tax credit include U.S.-based wages, contracting, and supply costs. Most typically, wages are the largest qualified expense, and there must be a nexus between the expense and qualified project.  

Innovation across the state of California 

Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley is home to the world’s highest ranked technology and startup ecosystem; it is the global center for innovation.  The area is home to many of the world’s technology giants and high tech corporations.  The area hosts nearly 20,000 startups at any given time. 

San Francisco 

Much like the neighboring Silicon Valley, San Francisco is known for its free -spirit and innovation. It is the home to tech companies and startups alike.  San Fransisco’s economy is one of the largest in the United States. Its economy is diverse and is no longer predominated by finance and tourism.  High tech, biotechnology and medical research are the new drivers of the Bay Area economy.  The tech sector’s dominance in the Bay Area is recognized internationally and continues to draw entrepreneurs form all over the globe. 

Los Angeles, San Diego, and Southern California 

The Southern California economy is diverse and includes various sectors such as business and professional services, construction, healthcare, information technology, telecommunications, logistics and transportation, manufacturing, an emerging bio-technology/nanotechnology cluster, clean energy and green technologies –  all of which involve innovation.  San Diego’s economy may be best known for tourism and the military (given its deep sea port,) but it is a hub of telecommunications innovation. Likewise, Los Angeles is best known for the entertainment industry, but it is also the biggest manufacturing hub in the United States.  The manufacturing industry is a significant driver of innovation.  

Work with Clarus to claim your R&D tax credit

Determining R&D tax credit eligibility in California  

What is considered qualified research for purposes of determining California business’ R&D tax credit eligibility? In order to be eligible for the research and development tax credit, your business must engage in qualified research. Qualified research generally is private sector or commercially driven development intended to yield innovation within a scientific or technological field. The following four part test determines whether an activity is considered qualified research and, thus, eligible for the R&D tax credit.

Permitted Purpose

The purpose of the activity or project must be to create new (or improve existing) functionality, performance, reliability, or quality of a business component. A business component is defined as any product, process, technique, invention, formula, or computer software that the taxpayer intends to hold for sale, lease, license, or actual use in the taxpayer’s trade or business.

Elimination of Uncertainty

The taxpayer must intend to discover information that would eliminate uncertainty concerning the development or improvement of the business component. Uncertainty exists if the information available to the taxpayer does not establish the capability of development or improvement, method of development or improvement, or the appropriateness of the business component’s design.

Process of Experimentation

The taxpayer must undergo a systematic process designed to evaluate one or more alternatives to achieve a result where the capability or the method of achieving that result, or the appropriate design of that result, is uncertain as of the beginning of the taxpayer’s research activities. Treasury Regulations define this as broadly as conventional implementation of the scientific method to something as informal as systematic trial and error process.

Technological in Nature

The process of experimentation used to discover information must fundamentally rely on principles of the physical or biological sciences, engineering, or computer science. A taxpayer may employ existing technologies and may rely on existing principles of the physical or biological sciences, engineering, or computer science to satisfy this requirement.

Research activities that qualify for R&D tax credits must be conducted in the U.S (those activities must be conducted in the state of California to be eligible for the state credit). If your California business does any of the following, it likely qualifies for the R&D tax credit:

  • Develops or designs new products or processes
  • Enhances existing products or processes
  • Develops or improves upon existing prototypes and software

Learn how your business can claim the R&D tax credit

Claim the R&D tax credit for your California business

A number of factors go into claiming the credit, but the potential savings on the table make exploring the credit a worthy endeavor. Since the credit may be claimed for current and prior tax years, companies can benefit from documenting their R&D activities to ensure they are positioned to claim the credit in both situations.

To claim the credit, the taxpayer must contemporaneously evaluate and document their research activities to establish the amount of qualified research expenses paid for each qualified research activity. While taxpayers may estimate some research expenses, they must have a factual basis for the assumptions used to create the estimates.

Examples of such documentation include:

  • Payroll records
  • General ledger expense detail
  • Project lists
  • Project notes
  • Other documents a company produces throughout the regular course of business

Contact Clarus R+D for additional information

California Research and Development: The state R&D tax credit

The California state R&D tax credit is among the most robust state tax credit programs in the country. The non-refundable credit is equal to 15% of the incremental qualified research expenses incurred in the state over the calculated base amount, plus 24% of the basic research payments over the base amount paid to independent research institutions and universities. The more notable features of the California R&D tax credit are outlined below. 

  • Expenses must be incurred within the state of California
  • Several states impost a dollar limit to the amount of expenses that can qualify for the the credit.  Some state impose a limit on the number of credits a business can claim in any one year. The California research tax credit has no such limits
  • In California, the definition of qualified organizations includes hospitals run by public universities
  • Tax filing is due with the California tax return
  • The credit may be carried forward indefinitely
  • Taxpayers may elect the alternative incremental credit
  • There is no Alternative Simplified Credit method in California

IRS statistics show that R&D tax credits worth over $12 billion were claimed in 2014. While this sounds significant, a large number of eligible entities neglect to claim the R&D credit. One of the biggest drivers for the underutilization is likely a lack of knowledge by both taxpayers and their advisers. Many are unaware of the R&D credit or otherwise believe their business activities are not eligible.

Learn more about R&D tax credits

R&D tax credit consultants: What to expect

You can expect the following when selecting Clarus R+D as your R&D tax credit consultants:

  • Clarus provides a team of professionals with expert credentials able to answer all your R&D tax credit questions. 
  • Our proprietary software streamlines R&D studies which maximizes your ROI.
  • Clarus has expert knowledge of the IRS regulations relating to the research and development tax credit, IRC Section 41, as well as the regulations pertaining to state-specific research and development credits.
  • Clarus has extensive experience in recognizing qualified research activities and expenditures.
  • Our time-proven methodology has yielded maximum benefits to our clients.
  • The Clarus team has helped hundreds of clients claim millions in R&D tax credits.
  • We place emphasis on helping growth businesses take advantage of the tax incentive. 
  • Clarus does the work for you; our web-based app allows you to enter information at your own pace. 
  • We have extensive IRS and state audit experience, and provide our clients audit support.
  • We have maintained an exceptional success rate in applying for the R&D tax credit. 
  • We work directly with our clients and their respective accounting firm and payroll processor. 
  • Our process saves valuable time and resources within the engineering and finance departments.
  • Our fees are very competitive.
  • Our performance, success rate, and unparalleled quality of service result in high client loyalty.

Ready to get started?

Schedule a free consultation with our team of experts to learn more. We’ll discuss the R&D tax credit and help you determine if our solution is a fit for your company.

Schedule a call with Clarus R+D


Clarus R+D gave us tremendous ROI. Easy software. Helpful people. Reasonable fees.

Richard Cumberland / Zupt



ABOUT CLARUS R+DWith custom software backed by a team of tax experts, Clarus R+D specializes in tax credits for growth businesses. Our technology-driven solution simplifies the process, maximizes benefit, and ensures compliance. We partner with accounting firms, financial advisors, investors, payroll providers, and more.

Back to Blog