There’s still no certainty on the cards for startups and small businesses making use of the government’s Research & Development Tax Incentive (RDTI) scheme, after the Senate committee reviewing a series of controversial changes quietly pushed back its reporting date, yet again.
The Senate Economics Legislation Committee was initially due to report on the proposed new legislation at the end of April. But, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that was delayed until August 7.
The reporting date was later delayed again until August 24. On Friday, August 21, however, the reporting date was changed on the committee website, to October 12.
This latest delay follows the release of an open letter from Aussie tech leaders to Prime Minister Scott last week.
A consortium of influential tech folk called on the government to engage with the sector on the policies that affect it the most, specifically drawing attention to the RDTI debacle.
Signatories include Atlassian co-founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar, Airwallex co-founders Lucy Liu and Jack Zhang, Culture Amp co-founder Didier Elzinga, Deputy co-founder Ashik Ahmed, Freelancer chief Matt Barrie, and StartupAus chief Alex McCauley.
“While we appreciate that the Bill was born in a different time to achieve different objectives, we strongly oppose it today not only for what it contains but for what it is lacking — measures to actively support and stimulate R&D activity in Australia at a critical juncture as the innovation and tech sector seeks to recover from the global impacts of COVID,” the letter said.
“Now is not the time to reduce the level of government support for R&D in Australia, which already lags behind peer OECD nations in this respect.”
Instead, it urged the government to strengthen its support of R&D activity at this time, saying innovation in tech businesses will aid the economic recovery post-COVID-19.
In the short term, the group called for a moratorium on clawbacks of RDTI claims, early payment of refunds, and a one-time stimulus to eligible startups and SMEs that make use of the scheme.
In the medium term, the letter calls for changes to the program to address concerns around the eligibility of software development, and a general increase in the level of support available through the program.
“While we appreciate that these investments will come at an expense, we propose them with the firm belief that the innovation economy, including the tech economy … will drive the future of Australia’s prosperity,” the letter says.