R&D Tax Credit Benchmarking Survey & Study

Research and Development Tax Credits represent a considerable opportunity for CPAs and their clients alike. 

How do we know? Well, we asked! 

Throughout the summer of 2021, Tri-Merit engaged in a comprehensive independent study to get a feel for how our clients and their clients are incorporating R&D tax credit services into their businesses. The results looked into who’s offering these services, and if not, or why not? 

The feedback from our clients is fascinating and, in some instances, surprising. But the bottom line is clear:

R&D tax credit as a service is a huge untapped opportunity.

Let’s look at how our partner CPAs approach this opportunity and accelerate their success

The Results Are In

Firms of all shapes and sizes participated in the survey, from sole practitioners to large firms with 50+ employees. 

Most of the surveyed firms offer some type of ‘specialty’ service. With 54% of respondents listing the Employee Retention Credit (ERC), R&D tax credit studies came in at a distant second (23%).

MId-sized firms were most likely to offer R&D credit and Cost Segregation study services, while sole practitioners were least likely to provide any kind of specialty service. 

But here’s something shocking. Although participants listed the average credit to clients who qualified as being $50k-150k, most respondents’ firms generate less than $100k revenue per year from R&D tax credit studies services. 

This means many clients are missing out on significant federal and state tax savings.

An Untapped Opportunity

Offering R&D tax credit services to your clients – regardless of their industry – creates a win-win situation for you both. This service grants you the opportunity to improve your firm’s value proposition and generate additional revenue, all while saving your clients money and improving their cash flow.

Who Qualifies?

Although many participants believe that their clients wouldn’t qualify, the reality might surprise them. 

To qualify for an R&D credit, your client doesn’t need a dedicated R&D department. They merely need to be doing qualifying research that passes the IRS’s four-part test

Furthermore, there isn’t one specific sector or industry that can benefit the most. It can range from manufacturing to software or architecture to agriculture. 

Why don’t more firms offer R&D tax credit services?

Over half (52%) of the survey respondents cited a lack of technical expertise as a significant reason they aren’t offering R&D services to their clients. But this doesn’t need to be an issue. 

Of course, you should understand the basics behind the credit. But there’s no need to develop (or hire) extensive expertise in-house. You’re probably even better off outsourcing specialty services like R&D tax credits to a trusted partner. 

What exactly should you look for in a partner? They should:

  • Be an expert in the field (e.g., R&D tax credits)
  • Have great communication and transparency, both with your firm and your clients
  • Treat your clients well, and always keep you in the loop (after all, they’re still your clients)
  • Use straightforward pricing


The client savings can be huge. Large-sized firms that reported successfully outsourcing the R&D tax credit services frequently saw credits between $50k and $150k. 

Deciding how much to charge for this service can be tricky, especially if you and your clients are accustomed to hours-based billing. As the returns for your clients can be huge, it might make sense to charge a fee in line with the value you’re generating. 

Even if you’re outsourcing the bulk of the service, offering R&D tax credit services will take some time and effort on your firm’s part. You should be getting a referral fee or fee share with the specialty service partner. After all, creating ROI for your internal investment is important as well. 

In the end, it will come down to selling your clients on the value of the R&D credit studies. 

But what about audits?

Most respondents weren’t as concerned about showing a strong ROI through offering the R&D tax credit services to their clients as they were about audit risks. Smaller firms especially worry about the risk of audit and damage to the firms’ reputation associated with performing the study in-house or outsourcing to a specialty provider.

However, the survey results also show that audit risk is low when using the right professionals. Furthermore, in the rare cases where audits did take place, more often than not, there was, at most, only a minor adjustment to the credit. 

Work with Tri-Merit for your R&D Tax Credit Needs

R&D tax credits offer a huge, untapped opportunity both for CPAs and the clients they work with. Although fewer than 25% of our survey respondents offer credits, 64% believe at least some of their clients qualify. 

And they’re right. Many businesses are engaged in qualifying R&D activity without the need for a team of scientists or researchers.

Tri-Merit is a dependable partner with the expertise to give you and your clients a refreshingly straightforward experience, no matter how complex the topic is. 

Why not schedule a discovery call to see how your clients can benefit from working with a strategic partner focused on R&D tax credits?