On the eve of Congress’ summer departure, an R&D tax credit bill called the COMPETE Act was introduced this morning that would make the R&D tax credit permanent, increase the credit rate to 25% of qualifying research investments and enable investors in small research companies to claim the credit.
“Unfortunately, the current R&D credit is too small, too complicated, poorly targeted and not accessible to some research companies, particularly small businesses,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who introduced the legislation, said in a statement. “The COMPETE Act would update our tax code and help encourage private investment in groundbreaking discoveries that will propel our economy forward.”
The proposed legislation comes amid Congressional gridlock and sharp disagreements over growing concerns that some large companies, including AbbVie, are acquiring foreign companies and shifting their tax domiciles to countries with lower tax rates than the U.S. This process, known as inversion, puts overseas earnings out of reach of the Internal Revenue Service and provides companies with considerable tax savings without any headquarters relocations.
Sen. Carper, a Democrat, reportedly tried to get a Republican senator to co-sponsor the COMPETE Act but was unable to because of GOP concerns about making it permanent and how to pay for the increased credit rate, according to John J. Lewis, senior vice president, policy and public affairs at the Association of Clinical Research Organizations (ACRO).
ACRO is an early backer of Carper’s legislation, citing U.K., France, Canada and Austria policies that reward contract research with generous R&D credits.
ACRO said for CROs, including its members, the COMPETE Act would level the playing field and provide an incentive to locate well-paying clinical research jobs in the U.S.
Lewis said despite the timing of the legislation—as the summer recess begins and Republicans maintain inversion rule changes must be part of a broader overhaul of the U.S. tax code—Carper has been working on making the R&D tax credit permanent for several years.
“The inversion issue is almost a distraction, and while it highlights problems with the tax code on the corporate side, it also is very important to grow the R&D tax base here,” said Lewis. “It’s true that getting extensions and reauthorization is difficult, which is why this legislation would update the tax code and encourage discoveries that move the economy forward.”
And the chances of it passing when Congress returns in September?
“Let’s be somewhat optimistic,” said Lewis, “and hope Congress will deal with the R&D tax credit issue.”