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Software/Hardware Combination Could Hamper Eligibility to TCEB

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There have been numerous amendments to the tax credit for the development of e-business (TCEB) since it was introduced in 2008. You may recall that this tax measure is designed to support providers of information technology (IT) services to help their clients improve their main operational processes.

The last changes were made in 2015, when the Quebec Finance Minister (QFM) announced rules to further clarify the types of IT providers covered by the program, while, at the same time, limiting access for other providers. To qualify for the TCEB, a corporation must show that its main revenues meet specific criteria.

Under the proposed changes, the QFM now disqualifies a class of income from the sale of software where the software is considered to be integrated into property (equipment of some form) intended for sale. This criterion is very broad in meaning and Investissement Québec (IQ), which is responsible for applying the program, has been providing clarifications on this new exclusion rule since early 2017.

Incidental or not?

When it reviews a TCEB claim and a company’s business model, if IQ determines that the sale of software includes property, it will ask a number of questions to understand the connection between the software and the property in question:

  • Who benefits from using the software (manufacturer, value-added distributor, wholesaler, retailer)?
  • How is the software used?
  • Was the software used before or at the time of the sale?
  • Is the result an integral or inseparable part of the property?

IQ does not use a single rule to determine if software is integrated into the property intended for sale and must now be excluded. In short, software that seems to be incidental to a property when a solution is implemented is now eliminated from the program.

This analysis is open to much interpretation and, as you can imagine, there are numerous gray areas. There are major implications if software supplied to clients that also includes property is deemed to be excluded under the new rule. The work performed by employees who develop and implement the software will no longer be eligible, which could disqualify an employee from the credit. However, the greatest impact is the company being completely excluded from the program if the proportion of income related to these activities is too high.

Explain the predominate role of the software

When IQ analyzes a TCEB claim, it bases itself on several documents. In addition to documents that explain the predominate role of the software vs. the property, factual information is always the best way to support a claim. If the core of the solution you are proposing to your clients is the software and not the equipment that is incidental to its operation, the documentation should support this fact: contracts, invoices, promotional documents, website, etc. If you are able to adjust this documentary evidence without misrepresenting your business, you’ll avoid a lot of worries when you submit a TCEB claim.

Don’t hesitate to contact our tax specialists to help shed light on these gray areas.

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