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General government: Research Tax Credit (2011-65)

Opportunities exist to improve targeting of the $6 billion research tax credit and reduce forgone revenue.

Year Identified: 2011
Area Number: 65
Area Type: Cost Savings & Revenue Enhancement

1 Total Action(s)

Action 1
Not Addressed

Congress could eliminate the regular credit and add a minimum base amount (equal to 50 percent of a taxpayer's current spending) to the method for computing the alternative simplified credit (ASC).

Last Updated
March 31, 2022

As of March 2022, Congress had not enacted legislation to eliminate the regular computation option for the research tax credit or to add a minimum base to the ASC option, as GAO suggested in November 2009. The credit is designed to encourage business innovation by providing a subsidy to new research.

Continued use of the regular computation credit option, which arbitrarily distributes subsidies across taxpayers, can distort investment decisions so that research spending and economic activity are not allocated to sectors that offer the highest returns to society. These misallocations may reduce economic efficiency and thereby, diminish any economic benefits of the credit. Adding a minimum base for the ASC would reduce the revenue cost of the credit without affecting the average incentive it provides for research.

Implementing Entity:
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