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Assisting Local Businesses in the Pursuit of R&D with Laura Berry

Assisting Local Businesses in the Pursuit of R&D with Laura Berry

Podcast published: December 15, 2023

We cover a lot of ground with Laura Berry, an R&D Tax Credit Specialist with Bowers R&D Associates. We talk at length about how local-area businesses can secure tax credits for their research and development. We also talk about being the spouse of a veteran, playing and coaching rugby, creative writing, and more. If your business is currently doing R&D or you are thinking of getting into it, this is a must-listen conversation.

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Laura Berry

Bowers R&D Associates and Tax

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Intro:  Welcome to Start Local, where we talk with business owners, leaders of nonprofits, and other members of our community focused on doing business in and around Chester County, Pennsylvania. Each episode will provide insight into the local business scene and tell you about opportunities to connect with and support businesses and nonprofits in your local area.

Erik Gudmundson:  Welcome to Start Local, where we connect with local leaders to support local businesses and nonprofits in and around Chester County, Pennsylvania. I am Erik Gudmundson, and I’m here today with my co-host, Liam Dempsey. Liam, how are you doing this day?

Liam Dempsey: Pretty good. Thank you, sir. Pretty to good. 

Erik Gudmundson: Alright, before we get our welcome, our guest to the show, Liam and I are reminding you about our plans for an in-person event for our Start Local community. 

Liam Dempsey: As we shared in our previous episode, we are going to gather somewhere in and around Chester County over some good food and some good beverage, and we are planning that probably towards February. Our plans have evolved a little bit since the previous episode, but we’re still very much in the planning stage. So the best way to keep in touch is to head over to our website and click out the subscribe now button right at the top of every webpage, and we’ll keep you informed. 

Erik Gudmundson: Yeah, we’re looking forward to it. We’re not really sure what exactly it’s going to entail, but after we finish digesting and processing all of our holiday scheduling, then, we’ll set to work on that. And we’ll see where it goes, but we’re looking forward to seeing you, some of you, some of you in person, that’s for sure.

But now to our guest today, we welcome Laura Berry.  She is an R&D Tax Credit Specialist with Bower’s R&D, a firm that helps other firms claim their tax benefits. Welcome, Laura.  

Laura Berry: Hi. Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.  

Erik Gudmundson: So Laura, I met you at an event focused on upcoming tax law changes. Many people would say that this is not at all an exciting topic, but the sheer size of the numbers required to describe our deficit, our debt, and our federal budget challenges are somewhere between terrifying and incomprehensible. So, could you please share some of those numbers to help our audience understand where we are as a country when it comes to federal debt? 

Laura Berry: Yeah. I think your descriptors of those numbers are quite apt. Basically, so just to get a nice little jolt in the morning for your listeners and the fiscal year 2023,  the government spending was $6.13 trillion dollars. Its total revenue was $4.4 trillion dollars which resulted in a deficit of $1.70 trillion.

So, for everyone else who is doing their budgets at home, those numbers, they’re not even real. You can’t even, and you know it, they’re out in the either, right? but it is fun to look at those numbers and then realize when you kind of break them down, what they’re actually going to remember is that America has over 300 million people in it. And there’s a ton of government programs at work that are using your taxpayer dollars. So, think you’re not just your roads and your bridges, your military. And that’s not just going towards buying bullets or creating new tanks. That’s paying for housing allowances for  health insurance for spouses and vets and active duty people. And that costs a lot of money, but that’s where your hard-earned taxpayer money is going, which is cool when you think about it. You know,  Erik, I know your girlfriend was in the Marine Corps. My husband was in the Marine Corps. So, I mean, I can tell you I was very happy to have Tricare when we were in.

It was great being able to go to the dentist. But yes, so it’s an incomprehensible number that when it, you break it down becomes a little bit more relatable when you realize where it’s all going and that there’s a lot of people to house and feed and to do things for.  

Liam Dempsey: Laura, when we introduced you, we introduced you as an R&D Tax Credit Specialist with a firm called Bower’s R&D, what kind of companies can claim R&D tax credits? Is it limited just to for-profit businesses or can nonprofits take advantage of them as well?  

Laura Berry: That one is, this one is for, for-profit businesses. Now,  you know, I was just referencing, you know, like federal programs, like the military spending and things like that. The federal research and development tax credit is shockingly accessible to, for-profit US companies. And when I say shockingly accessible, I really do need it. You answer four questions. And if you say yes to those four questions, you qualify. This is an incentive program for companies that are creating a new product and bringing it to market. So, I tell people that Bowers R&D Associates serves breweries to biotech. It’s a huge range of companies that can use it, and it’s there to help them innovate and to stimulate the economy. 

Erik Gudmundson: So you called them incentives and I’m wondering if current tax laws for companies involved in research and development truly do act as incentives or are they somewhat punitive because it’s just such a complicated set of tax laws that they have to be compliant with?

Laura Berry: That’s a good question. So, I personally have a lot of beef with section 174,  which Erik, you and I heard all about that tax breakfast, section 174 was designed to essentially get more taxes back from companies that were able to write off, or excuse me, you know, expense a hundred percent of their R&D expenses against their revenue, leaving a lot of companies with $0 in revenue to be taxed, right?

So imagine R&D expenses as a big old pie you used to be able to eat all of your pie, but then Section 174 went into action in 2022.  And that stated that companies could no longer eat a hundred percent of their R&D pie. They could only eat 20% of it. So it, in essence, Section 174 is highly punitive against companies that are innovating because, especially if you are, a young company or you’re a growing company and you don’t have a massive cash reserve to suddenly pay these new revenue taxes that you have. 

So to put it into some context really quick, imagine you’re a company that has a hundred thousand dollars in revenue, but you’ve spent a hundred thousand dollars in R&D expenses, and R&D expenses is a huge pie, tons of things go into it.  This is say the year 2021,  you can say, great, a hundred thousand dollars in revenue. A hundred thousand dollars in R&D expenses equals $0 that I have to pay in revenue because I don’t actually have that money. I’ve spent it. 

2022 comes around and Section 174 states that companies can no longer eat a hundred percent of their RD expenses pie. They may only eat 20% of it annually and then continue to each 20% of it over a five year period called amortizing the taxes, or the R&D expenses. Excuse me. So now, you have a company that can only eat $20,000, $20,000, 20% of a hundred thousand, and all of a sudden you have a hundred thousand dollars minus $20,000, which equals $80,000 in revenue taxes that you have to pay, but you’ve actually spent a hundred thousand dollars. 

So, a lot of growing companies are being penalized for innovating, and there’s a lot of creative accounting, let’s say, going on because people are terrified that if they expense these R&D expenses, and then try good claim their credit, they’re gonna be getting you basically like shot on the foot. But they’re shooting themselves on the feet anyway because the IRS is a ton of shiny new auditors who have time to audit people if they don’t actually claim these R&D expenses and they clearly have R&D. 

So, yeah. Sorry I went off a little bit of a tangent on that one, but that’s when, that gets my blood going early in the morning. So, but yeah. No, not.

Erik Gudmundson: So, let me ask you then. Yeah,  go ahead. Please finish. 

Laura Berry: Oh, no. The, yeah. The, yeah, with the sum up, it’s punitive.  

Erik Gudmundson: Got it. So, that kind of leads me to a follow-up question is, are these tax credits for companies engaged in R&D? Are they too good to be true?  Or you know, maybe would it be a more true to say that they actually do enable companies in R&D exploration to achieve both their own business success, but also eating and improving society in some meaningful way? Where does all this land and  where do our local accountants land as compared to maybe where you and your colleagues land? 

Laura Berry: Yeah. So, the first half of that, the tax credits are definitely not too good to be true. They’re doing exactly what they were designed to do, which is great. The tax laws are punitive, the tax credits are actually wonderful incentives that a ton of companies are missing out on, especially now because what’s great about this is that there’s a federal program. And most states have their own R&D tax credit program. Pennsylvania, for example, has a wonderful R&D state tax credit program. It’s actually one of the few states that allows companies to sell their state tax credit if they don’t have revenue to use against it or to use it against, excuse me. And what I mean by that is, let’s say you have a company that they have no revenue, they have R&D expenses. They’re able to get one. A federal R&D, tax credit, then they can apply for a Pennsylvania R&D tax credit.  

Now, if they don’t have any revenue to use this credit against, they can sell it. They can sell it for 90 to 92 cents on a dollar too. There’s a lot of big companies out there that love to purchase these because they do have huge amounts of revenue to reduce, basically. So let’s say you’ve got a tiny brewery, they just started. They don’t have any revenue. They can sell their $50,000 credit for 90 to 92 cents on the dollar and get cash back. Essentially, someone cuts them a check and they can use those funds however they want.

So, for companies that are pre-revenue and aren’t being affected by 174, it’s so great and it’s wonderful, but if you are being affected by 174, these credits are all the more important because you need to reduce that tax liability with whatever tools are available and you can get thousands of dollars back from these.

One of my favorite examples is they’re not a client. I would love it if they were LeVante Brewing, local Chester County Brewery, not a, you know, not Energizer Busch, not a massive brewery, right? In 2022, they were awarded $60,000 from the state, which is a huge amount of money. Like, that’s great. And that is a local, like mid-size brewery.

So if any company that is creating a new product and is investing in new product development, they should absolutely look into it because, you know, worst case scenario, they don’t qualify. Best case scenario they do and they can get thousands of dollars back. 

So that’s kind of where we come into accounting ’cause people’s accountants have a ton on their plate. There’s so much that they’re doing. And we are specialists in this field. So we’re sort of, if you think about it, we’re like the kicker on the football team. We come out. We come out to kick and then we go back to the bench. So we go out there to be a supplement to our clients, accountants and CPAs to make their lives easier.

We do what we do because there are nuances to this. It can be a little weird depending on what industry you’re in to identify what counts as R&D, you know, which employees should go into this. I give for their salaries to count to the calculation. So we’re a supplement to accountants and CPAs. We’re there to help them and to make everybody’s lives easier. So, yeah. If you think about us as like the kicker, we’re there to punt that ball and get you some extra points on the board.

Erik Gudmundson: That’s a really good metaphor and, I love the local reference that I think a lot of people can relate to because they enjoy their beer. I know we had Jim Adams from LTE on, and back in episode 17, so, we’re definitely familiar with their operations. And I know they make some tasty beverages, that’s for sure. 

Laura Berry: Oh, yeah. Love LTE. 

Erik Gudmundson: And you’ve mentioned breweries a few times, which I think a lot of people wouldn’t think of necessarily, you know, being in the line to receive R&D tax credits. But would you tell me one of the more interesting R&D projects or companies you’ve ever assisted?  

Laura Berry: Yeah. What’s really fun about this job is that we get to work with a wide range of industries. So it’s never dull. Every one of them has their own unique traits.

One of my personal favorites, just from the sense of it’s something unexpected, there is a Philadelphia based company called Remark Glass. They make beautiful glassware, beautiful chandeliers, all out of recycled glass bottles. So they take, you know, donated glass bottles, bring it in, break them down, and then discover how they can basically reorganize this glass into something that is going to be hardy enough to sustain, like, you know, hold basically daily function as glassware or, you know, turn it into something gorgeous. That’s a company that, again, like a lot of people, it doesn’t have an “R&D department”, so they didn’t think that they would qualify. But they do. They’re taking something like they’re taking a, technically a waste product and they’re turning it into something completely new. And that’s been really fun. It’s been very fun to be able to look into these like niche areas and find amazing people who are creating really cool things and help them, you know, succeed in their vision, which is fun.  

Liam Dempsey: I wanna ask a quick follow up on that. You talked about tax credits are available for businesses coming up with, for example, a new product. Does it need to be a physical product or kind of say a professional services firm? Come at what they’re offering in a unique and new way, you know? So not just, we’ll help you with your federal taxes, we’ll also help you with your state taxes. But can they say, we’re gonna do this new innovative tax planning? Does that count as as a new product, or does it have to be something you can physically touch? 

Laura Berry: That’s a great question, and there’s two answers to that. The services industries have a really hard time being able to get a tax credit like that because if they were to, the example I use for this is, let’s say you’re an insurance company and you create a brand new paper form that is easier to read. And it’s just a more streamlined version of a quote, right? But it’s an old school paper form and it’s not really innovating the process in a new sense. Really like it. Yeah, it might be more streamlined, but that’s not gonna get you an R&D tax credit. You haven’t stamped a patent on it. There’s no new IP that you have to own. You guys have just done a better job at streamlining your service. 

Now, if that same insurance company were to have paid a developer to create an app specifically for them, their company owns the IP on it. And now instead of calling the insurance agent to file a claim, their clients can upload pictures, can do everything via this app, that would count as a client facing product. So that would be more likely to qualify for an R&D tax credit. 

The other side of that too is, is software development not a physical product, right? But that is definitely software development is a gold mine for R&D. They’re doing so much and it’s all very intangible, but very much R&D creating AI chat bots, for example. Even if it’s in the, you know, the inter whats out there,  and you can’t put your fingers on it, that doesn’t matter. They’re still creating something new. They are creating a product. So really it is if you are creating a product, whether it is tangible or intangible, it’s client facing, most likely you will qualify. And if it’s, now, this is interesting. They are changing form 6765 is the form that you use to file your R&D tax credit for the feds. They’re changing some of the language on there to focus on those business components. So, the things that are internal, like if my insurance agency that’s like, let’s say the agency created their own CRM, it’s brand new to them, but they only use it in house. They’ve done R&D, they’ve been working on it. But before, that wouldn’t have really counted ’cause like it is technically an improvement to the process, but it’s not.

Yeah. So they are tweaking that. I will wait to see if it makes this credit more exclusionary to service providers or not, but it will be an interesting change. You know, whenever this changes, it’s always a little bit of growing pains and shifting around, but it looks like right now, it might kind of open the door to that a little bit more. So, we’ll see. 

Erik Gudmundson: Well, you identified yourself earlier as a specialist, and I think that’s an understatement because I’m now beginning to understand just how much nuance is in this field. It’s an incredible amount of detail, and anytime there’s a lot of detail and nuance in tax law, I feel like it opens the window to a potential audit because there’s different interpretations and different understandings and different levels, of education that are out there, even among auditors. So have you ever been involved in an IRS auditor? Maybe if not you personally, someone from your firm and how did that go?

Laura Berry: Thankfully I have not. Yeah. Thankfully our clients have been know touchwood. I think it may be if only one of them has ever been audited. And it wasn’t really for anything wrong with their R&D, we call it an R&D study. I think it was just like they just wanted like an extra form or something updated. Basically what we do to try and avoid that Is make our clients go through an R&D study, which is, if you think about it really designed like a high school science fair experiment, I tell my clients, you need to be able to write me a five sentence paragraph explaining who did what? What were you working on? How did it go?

And the beauty of this credit too, is that you can get money back for failed experiments. So like, we’ll just stick with breweries. Let’s say they were creating a new batch of beer and it was disgusting. Great. Write that down. All of the things that most companies try to hide or like don’t really wanna promote, like, you know, like product failures, we wanna know all about that stuff because that’s an opportunity to get more money back. Like you’ve been working on creating something. It’s fine if you fail. Like I said, this is one of the few accessible programs that actually rewards failure. And to make sure that our clients, you know, to continue don’t get audited, we make them go through this whole process that is, it sounds like a lot on the surface and it is a bit of work, but it really isn’t that bad. I tell people again, as long as you can write me a five sentence paragraph and upload documents, which we will tell you exactly what to upload to our proprietary software, you’re gonna be okay. 

And then at the end of this process, we call it an IRS defense package. They get the full breakdown, all of the details, writing down who did what, yada yada, because  technically all a person has to do is take form 6765, write the information into it, and submit it with their taxes to get an immediate credit on their tax payment. 

Now, We don’t let our clients do that. We make them do the study because if someone does come knocking, they can then hand the IRS. This packet that has all of the details that shows their work. It really is we take a complicated process and we make it more manageable. We make it less frightening of like, just think about it like a high school science fair experiment. You have to show your work. And it’s gonna, we take it one piece at a time.

So, yes. I’m gonna keep knocking out wood over here because I don’t want, I was like, okay, now that I’ve said this, of course everything’s gonna go wrong. But no, thankfully I have not been involved in all that yet, and I hope to keep it that way. 

Liam Dempsey: I think that rings true for all of us on this conversation. We all wanna avoid audit. So, yeah. And I like your approach there. It’s more homework upfront, but it’s less risk, less headache in the long run. 

Laura Berry: Yeah. We we’re not trying to stress our clients out. 

Liam Dempsey: That’s a good thing. That’s a good thing. So Laura, you shared that your husband’s a Marine and certainly my friends who were in the Marines very much consider themselves all boys a marine. I dunno if that’s universal, but maybe you’ll touch on that on your answer. But, I noticed on LinkedIn that you also mentioned that you are the spouse of a veteran. So maybe you’ll share with us why that’s so important to you. Why does it get kind of top billing in your work life, and how does it pro affect your professional and your personal life?

Laura Berry: Yeah. You know, so the saying is, once a marine, always a marine. That’s true. You’re just in different stages of Marine Corps life. You’re either active, you’re a vet, you’re reserves. But no, you are always a marine. And I’m sure Erik’s girlfriend, I did Chico, get her cake on the birthday. Like you always have your cake for the Marine Corps birthday.  And it’s wild being the spouse of a vet. It’s kind of funny. It’s something that I’ll talk about with  some of the other like military spouse groups that I’m a part of still. You don’t really have a word for what you are once you’re like, oh, I’m a military spouse, which typically implies that you’re still married to an active duty service member. And then when they get out, you don’t really have a word for yourself anymore. So I have in my, you know, my byline,  like veteran spouse, like I am the spouse. like, I was the spouse of an active duty, you know, Marine. And now I’m the spouse of a vet, which has very different challenges that come with it.

And I think one of the hardest things for us was transitioning into military life. Getting settled into military life and then the next massive challenge was transitioning out of it. And transitioning out of the military I think was almost harder than transitioning in because you’re losing a ton of benefits. You know, I mentioned at the top of the show there’s healthcare, there’s housing allowances, which is something that most civilians do not know. They don’t know that when you are married to someone in the military, I mean, I can only speak to the Marine Corps side of this, so everyone just be aware. I’m skewed in that regard. But you have, it’s BH, basic, or BHA Basic Housing Allowance. You get money to live off base. That’s something that helps a lot of people get apartments for themselves and their spouse. And they can use that extra money to find childcare. You know, there’s childcare provided on base. There’s all of these things. And then when you transition out into the civilian world, you have no health insurance, you have no job, you have no access to heavily subsidized childcare, and it’s really, really hard.

So, one of my passion projects as being a part of this company, it’s trying to help under-resourced groups, especially people who are like veteran startups, women-owned startups, you know, like military spouse, startups. I really wanna get resources into their hands, you know, like bipoc companies. Basically everybody who is, one, what I do is weird. Not everybody knows exists, but you have a ton of people who come out of the military, cannot find a job, even though like they think they have years of service under their belt. They’ve been leading like hundreds of marines and then they cannot find a job for almost a year. And that’s frustrating.

And then a lot of people go into the entrepreneurship route and don’t realize that there are so many tools available to help them succeed. Because just being a startup is exhausting. You’re just trying to get through the day. So I really love my position and my background because it does help me recognize this is what people need. A lot of people don’t ask for help. I know a lot of military spouses don’t. I didn’t. It was really, really hard for me, and I wanna be, I joined this one group, military spouse advocacy network. Because I told him, I was like, if I could help a new baby military spouse, be it not as miserable as I was, that’s a good day in my book.

So I’m also trying to help people transitioning out of the military not be as miserable as we were. So you can actually get things that you need and it’s not as scary as you think it is. Like there’s a lot of people out there trying to help you.  

Liam Dempsey: Also on your resume,  you are a published author. So Laura, tell me what you’ve written and what drives you to write?

Laura Berry: Yeah. That, I’ve had a long love of reading. Thanks to my parents. And I went to school for writing actually, and sort of ended up in sales by accident. And I’ve been doing sales for a very, very long time, but there’s always been this love of writing. 

And when my husband was in the Marines, I was able to actually get a job as a marketing and sales copywriter. Like one of my clients was Instacart, which is really fun. I got to write wine descriptions, which is a wild world. I could spend all day talking about that, but  I’ve written poetry, working on a children’s fantasy series, and I also had my first like a young adult, like dark Fantasy novella come out over the summer, which was very exciting, that won the award. So, always in the background. I tell people I sling R&D tax credits by day, and I write books by very, very, very early in the morning.  

Erik Gudmundson: Yeah, I like that. It’s hard to find time to write when it’s not a full focus. So I respect that. You mentioned that you went to college for writing or studied writing in college. I wanna stay in college with you for a moment ’cause you played rugby in college and that’s a sport that certainly when I lived overseas, I saw a lot more of an audience overseas than here. But it is getting a wider audience locally, particularly in the East coast. What drew to drew you to play such a rough and tumble sport and what position did you play? 

Laura Berry: Well, I had weirdly enough kind of learned about rugby in high school. But my level of confidence was not where it is now. So all of the, like the cool kids are playing rugby, like the cool, like the punk kids, the art kids are playing rugby. And I was like, oh, I can’t play with them. They’re too cool. And then I got to college and  it was basically like, you know, one of the open days where all the clubs are out and I sort of was like given the rugby team, the side eye like, well, maybe I’ll say hi, maybe it won’t. 

And Nicolea Benedetti is her name. She was the CA about to be the captain of the team. I think she’s the game captain a little bit after this. She threw a postcard at me and she said, you look like you wanna play rugby? And then I went to practice the next day. Pretty sure the first thing my mom said when I told her I had joined the team was, Laura, your teeth. Like  she was so concerned.  I have never had any issues with my teeth though, thanks to mouth guards. But I love it. I think playing rugby was one of my first real passions like really made me feel alive and passionate and I’ve been in love with the sport ever since. I’m gonna try and play until I can’t play anymore.

Right now I am the, as one of the assistant coaches for the Conestoga High School Girls Rugby Club, which has been phenomenal, getting to help younger. I’m not gonna call ’em kids. They’re not kids. They’re, already like young adults. We make them work really hard. They have so much responsibility and they’re amazing. It’s been really incredible. Being able to give them skills that I know have already made them way more confident and competent than I ever was at their age. And knowing that they’re gonna be okay in college, or at least will know that they can call me, call their coaches, or like their teammates if they are lonely when they get to, you know, freshman orientation or something like that, or that they can always go find their local rugby team is a really great feeling.

But also this, it’s fun hitting people. I started off as a lock and I sort of have transitioned out to flanker, which has been a really nice, nice move for my shoulders. But I played lock for years. I didn’t really have a chance to play anything else. Flaker is pretty awesome though. I do enjoy that. It is fun being able to pop off the scrub.  

Erik Gudmundson: You’re also active in several local chambers of commerce, and also on your resume, you identify yourself as an ambassador of Buzz. So here on this podcast, we’re always looking to ask guests to tell us about a local nonprofit organization that deserves more attention. So, what’s one that you might share with us that’s near R&D dear to your heart?  

Laura Berry: There’s a ton of great local nonprofits. Safe Harbor in Westchester is one that is a wonderful organization to support. I actually, in college, used to live down the street from them, and I would always walk by and look at the mural. You know, it’s on the side of their building. A good friend of mine, Laura Fitz, volunteers at that nonprofit Safe Harbor is an excellent, excellent one to support. But there’s a ton in Chester County. There’s, I like to say that Chester County is sort of like a secret treasure trove. You can very easily just start digging at the surface, and there’s all of these great things that are here that you would have no idea about. But, yea., I’m gonna give shout out to,

Liam Dempsey: Thanks for that and we’ll be sure to link to the Safe Harbor website and include notes for everything we’ve talked about today over on our website at [startlocal.co]. I want to ask you about advice for a business starting down the R&D path, and you’ve talked about how it’s hard to be a startup and especially if the non-revenue stage startup. But, what advice would you give to businesses who’ve committed to and are starting down the R&D path to help them get ahead with their R&D programs, at the very least, from a tax credit perspective?  

Laura Berry: Yeah. With that, depending on your state, like if you’re in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania has a ton of great and sometimes rather specialized tax credits. Like there’s one specifically for distillery. Like for distillery and making malt beverages. You can, I think, get, so it’s at least $20,000. I think it may be as much as 200,000, but that’s just for, you know, malt making malt beverages. So, depending on what you do, first of all, always, always, always speak to an accountant. Speak to a CPA. Just say, Hey, this is along the lines of what we’re doing. I know that you might not be a tax credit specialist, but do you know anyone we should talk to? Because what we love to do is get in front of people who are probably too small to be our clients yet, like we, if someone hasn’t, if they’re bootstrapping, for example, they’re not paying employees yet. They haven’t been able to go out to get any, you know, investment money, but they are paying for things out of pocket. We say, look, we are gonna tell you what you need to know about this particular credit.  So when you’re ready to utilize it, you won’t miss out on it. 

We have bumped into companies that have been doing R&D for years. They’re well established, and by years I mean like 7-10, no one told them this existed or they had misconceptions about it and they missed out on hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Now, thankfully with the federal credit program, you can go back three years to amend your taxes, but they’re not that, you know, for the people who have been in business for a long time, you can, it stinks when you find out that you’ve missed out on the cake, right?

So we always try to tell people early on, talk to your accountants, talk to your CPA and then do a little bit of digging. We know it’s exhausting, but like, call us. We will tell you what you need to know so, you know, where the cake is when you’re ready to eat it.  My job is basically all about like education and trying to catch these misconceptions before they get out into the world and really mess up people’s opportunities.

So, we like to talk a lot about how grants and credits can work together because there’s a ton of amazing grant programs. And we tell people grants are great if you’re just starting out. Like if you’re just starting out and you don’t have money to get going, go for the grants. Get yourselves prepped for when you can use the credits because it, you know, so like, let’s say if you get a federal grant and then you try to ask for a federal credit on top of that, they’re gonna be like, why are we giving you money back for money we’ve given you. You know, like that kind of thing. But you can stack them. It’s like year one, you use a grant, year two, you’ve already gotten tons of investor money and now you can go after the credits. You can use all of these amazing tools together. And what we do is even if someone comes to us and we can’t help them, we’ll say, go talk to so-and-so go do that. You know, like, please use us as a resource. We’re here to help, not just our Pennsylvanian companies, but all of the companies in the US that are trying to create something cool and new, and we wanna make sure the information gets out there.  

Erik Gudmundson: Laura, I’m detecting a common thread in both your professional and personal lives, and that is that you really take pride and pleasure in setting people up for success. You wanna make sure that they succeed. So I’m wondering how did you become an R&D Tax Credit Specialist and is Bowers R&D hiring? 

Laura Berry: I became a Tax Credit Specialist because as a military spouse, I have a very frenetic resume. And when my husband and I settled back in Pennsylvania, I put my resume out in indeed, my CEO found it and he emailed me. You have a weird resume. This is a weird job. I think you’d be a good fit. And then, you know, it was my fate was sealed. I actually adore this job. It’s been a really great amalgamation of all my previous skills from other, you know, our career paths. And I’ve had a lot of weird jobs. One of them was being like a ghost tour guide with, you know, the ghost of New Bern in New Bern, North Carolina. Excellent tour by the way. You should definitely go. So, like, that’s, you know, my love of people and talking, and then my sales background, it all kind of funneled into this and put me in a position where I can help other people and still pay my mortgage, which is excellent. 

Unfortunately we are not hiring right now. We are a boutique firm. So, but we we’re looking to grow, so hopefully we’ll be able to soon. I was brought on to increase our name nationally, so if I do a good enough job, then we will be able to hire more people.  

Erik Gudmundson: That’s great. I think, I think I would enjoy working with you. I’m not sure I should be allowed anywhere near tax matters ’cause I can’t do math at all in my head much less with the aid of a calculator. Laura, is Eric shared it. It’s pretty clear that you’re very much about looking around you and taking care of those who have needs that you can help address. And within that context, I wanna flip it around a little bit, is how can the local community support you or support the foreign firm that you’re working with Borrowers R&D.

Laura Berry: That’s a great question. I love that. You can help us by helping your neighbors. If you know of a company that is creating something new and maybe, this is something that we notice a lot, cut, some startups will automatically discount themselves or just think, oh, we don’t have an R&D department. We don’t count for that. But really it is look out for your fellow business people. If you have a friend who is, you know, started their own company, they’re making new product and they’re investing funds into it, tell them to look this up. Basically we are part of the economic ecosystem. Everybody, everybody eats. That’s my motto. So if you, you know, if you refer somebody to us, we have like a paid referral program. if you tell your friend, like to go look into this and they find out that they’re eligible, they’ll get, you know, several thousand dollars back and then maybe take you out to dinner. I don’t know, but you will make somebody’s day. 

So, basically it is just looking out for other people. If you know somebody who’s working on something like that, a brewery, robotics, taking plastics and turning them into shoes or something, let them know about this, tell them about it. Tell ’em where to call me. Beat me if you wanna reach me. And yeah. Just help out your peers and your friends. 

Liam Dempsey: Laura Berry, an R&D Tax Credit Specialist with Bower’s R&D. Laura, before we say goodbye to you, tell us where people can find you online so they can come and learn more about tax credits and how they might be able to benefit their own business.?

Laura Berry: Yeah, you can find us at LinkedIn, Bowers R&D Associates, or you can look me up directly, Laura Berry, B-E-R-R-Y, on LinkedIn and you’ll be able to get all the information that you need to know,  or go straight to our website, [bowersrd.com]. 

Liam Dempsey: Great. Well, Laura, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate you taking some time outta your day to share a little bit with our audience, everything that you have going on, and we could learn a little bit more about you. So, thank you.  

Laura Berry: Thank you so much.  

Liam Dempsey: And thanks to everybody for listening to the Start Local podcast.

As a reminder, we’ll put everything that we talked about, links and the like over on [startlocal.co]. You can also subscribe to get notifications of when our, we release new podcasts as well as be kept informed of that fantastic event that we are organizing for 2024. 

Thanks everybody for listening. And we’ll see you in a couple weeks.

Bye for now. 

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