Powering innovation through tax concessions: The changing research & development tax incentives

Kerrie Sadiq

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The changes to the R D tax concession in 2011 were touted as the biggest reform to business innovation policy in over a decade. Three years later, as part of the 2014 Federal Budget, a reduction in the concession rates was announced. While the most recent of the pro-posed changes are designed to align with the reduction in company tax rate, the Australian Federal Government also indicated that the gain to revenue from the reduction in the incentive scheme will be redirected by the Government to repair the Budget and fund policy priorities. The consequence is that the R D concessions, while designed to encourage innovation, are clearly linked with the tax system. As such, the first part of this article considers whether the R D concession is a changing tax for changing times. Leading on from part one, this article also addresses a second question of what s tax got to do with it? To answer this question, the article argues that, rather than ever being substantive tax reform, the constantly changing measures simply alter the criteria and means by which companies become eligible for a Federal Government subsidy for qualifying R D activity, whatever that amount is. It further argues that when considered as part of the broader innovation agenda, all R D tax concessions should be evaluated as a government spending program in the same way as any direct spending on innovation. When this is done, the tax regime is arguably merely the administrative policy instrument by which the subsidy is delivered. However, this may not be best practice to distribute those funds fairly, efficiently, and without distortion, while at the same time maintaining adequate government control and accountability. Finally, in answering the question of `what s tax got to do with it? the article concludes that the answer is: very little.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 31
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Australian Taxation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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