26 CFR § 1.174-2 - Definition of research and experimental expenditures.

§ 1.174-2 Definition of research and experimental expenditures.

(a) In general.

(1) Research or experimental expenditures defined. The term research or experimental expenditures, as used in section 174, means expenditures incurred in connection with the taxpayer's trade or business which represent research and development costs in the experimental or laboratory sense. The term generally includes all such costs incident to the development or improvement of a product. The term includes the costs of obtaining a patent, such as attorneys' fees expended in making and perfecting a patent application. Expenditures represent research and development costs in the experimental or laboratory sense if they are for activities intended to discover information that would eliminate uncertainty concerning the development or improvement of a product. Uncertainty exists if the information available to the taxpayer does not establish the capability or method for developing or improving the product or the appropriate design of the product. Whether expenditures qualify as research or experimental expenditures depends on the nature of the activity to which the expenditures relate, not the nature of the product or improvement being developed or the level of technological advancement the product or improvement represents. The ultimate success, failure, sale, or use of the product is not relevant to a determination of eligibility under section 174. Costs may be eligible under section 174 if paid or incurred after production begins but before uncertainty concerning the development or improvement of the product is eliminated.

(2) Production costs. Except as provided in paragraph (a)(5) of this section (the rule concerning the application of section 174 to components of a product), costs paid or incurred in the production of a product after the elimination of uncertainty concerning the development or improvement of the product are not eligible under section 174.

(3) Product defined. For purposes of this section, the term product includes any pilot model, process, formula, invention, technique, patent, or similar property, and includes products to be used by the taxpayer in its trade or business as well as products to be held for sale, lease, or license.

(4) Pilot model defined. For purposes of this section, the term pilot model means any representation or model of a product that is produced to evaluate and resolve uncertainty concerning the product during the development or improvement of the product. The term includes a fully-functional representation or model of the product or, to the extent paragraph (a)(5) of this section applies, a component of the product.

(5) Application of section 174 to components of a product. If the requirements of paragraph (a)(1) of this section are not met at the level of a product (as defined in paragraph (a)(3) of this section), then whether expenditures represent research and development costs is determined at the level of the component or subcomponent of the product. The presence of uncertainty concerning the development or improvement of certain components of a product does not necessarily indicate the presence of uncertainty concerning the development or improvement of other components of the product or the product as a whole. The rule in this paragraph (a)(5) is not itself applied as a reason to exclude research or experimental expenditures from section 174 eligibility.

(6) Research or experimental expenditures - exclusions. The term research or experimental expenditures does not include expenditures for -

(i) The ordinary testing or inspection of materials or products for quality control (quality control testing);

(ii) Efficiency surveys;

(iii) Management studies;

(iv) Consumer surveys;

(v) Advertising or promotions;

(vi) The acquisition of another's patent, model, production or process; or

(vii) Research in connection with literary, historical, or similar projects.

(7) Quality control testing. For purposes of paragraph (a)(6)(i) of this section, testing or inspection to determine whether particular units of materials or products conform to specified parameters is quality control testing. However, quality control testing does not include testing to determine if the design of the product is appropriate.

(8) Expenditures for literary, historical, or similar research - cross reference. See section 263A and the regulations thereunder for cost capitalization rules which apply to expenditures paid or incurred for research in connection with literary, historical, or similar projects involving the production of property, including the production of films, sound recordings, video tapes, books, or similar properties.

(9) Research or experimental expenditures limited to reasonable amounts. Section 174 applies to a research or experimental expenditure only to the extent that the amount of the expenditure is reasonable under the circumstances. In general, the amount of an expenditure for research or experimental activities is reasonable if the amount would ordinarily be paid for like activities by like enterprises under like circumstances. Amounts supposedly paid for research that are not reasonable under the circumstances may be characterized as disguised dividends, gifts, loans, or similar payments. The reasonableness requirement of this paragraph (a)(9) does not apply to the reasonableness of the type or nature of the activities themselves.

(10) Amounts paid to others for research or experimentation. The provisions of this section apply not only to costs paid or incurred by the taxpayer for research or experimentation undertaken directly by him but also to expenditures paid or incurred for research or experimentation carried on in his behalf by another person or organization (such as a research institute, foundation, engineering company, or similar contractor). However, any expenditures for research or experimentation carried on in the taxpayer's behalf by another person are not expenditures to which section 174 relates, to the extent that they represent expenditures for the acquisition or improvement of land or depreciable property, used in connection with the research or experimentation, to which the taxpayer acquires rights of ownership.

(11) Examples. The following examples illustrate the application of this paragraph (a).

Example 1.
Amounts paid to others for research or experimentation allowed as a deduction. A engages B to undertake research and experimental work in order to create a particular product. B will be paid annually a fixed sum plus an amount equivalent to his actual expenditures. In 1957, A pays to B in respect of the project the sum of $150,000 of which $25,000 represents an addition to B's laboratory and the balance represents charges for research and experimentation on the project. It is agreed between the parties that A will absorb the entire cost of this addition to B's laboratory which will be retained by B. A may treat the entire $150,000 as expenditures under section 174.
Example 2.
Amounts paid to others not allowable as a deduction. S Corporation, a manufacturer of explosives, contracts with the T research organization to attempt through research and experimentation the creation of a new process for making certain explosives. Because of the danger involved in such an undertaking, T is compelled to acquire an isolated tract of land on which to conduct the research and experimentation. It is agreed that upon completion of the project T will transfer this tract, including any improvements thereon, to S. Section 174 does not apply to the amount paid to T representing the costs of the tract of land and improvements.
Example 3.
Pilot model. U is engaged in the manufacture and sale of custom machines. U contracts to design and produce a machine to meet a customer's specifications. Because U has never designed a machine with these specifications, U is uncertain regarding the appropriate design of the machine, and particularly whether features desired by the customer can be designed and integrated into a functional machine. U incurs a total of $31,000 on the project. Of the $31,000, U incurs $10,000 of costs on materials and labor to produce a model that is used to evaluate and resolve the uncertainty concerning the appropriate design. U also incurs $1,000 of costs using the model to test whether certain features can be integrated into the design of the machine. This $11,000 of costs represents research and development costs in the experimental or laboratory sense. After uncertainty is eliminated, U incurs $20,000 to produce the machine for sale to the customer based on the appropriate design. The model produced and used to evaluate and resolve uncertainty is a pilot model within the meaning of paragraph (a)(4) of this section. Therefore, the $10,000 incurred to produce the model and the $1,000 incurred on design testing activities qualifies as research or experimental expenditures under section 174. However, section 174 does not apply to the $20,000 that U incurred to produce the machine for sale to the customer based on the appropriate design. See paragraph (a)(2) of this section (relating to production costs).
Example 4.
Product component redesign. Assume the same facts as Example 3, except that during a quality control test of the machine, a component of the machine fails to function due to the component's inappropriate design. U incurs an additional $8,000 (including design retesting) to reconfigure the component's design. The $8,000 of costs represents research and development costs in the experimental or laboratory sense. After the elimination of uncertainty regarding the appropriate design of the component, U incurs an additional $2,000 on its production. The reconfigured component produced and used to evaluate and resolve uncertainty with respect to the component is a pilot model within the meaning of paragraph (a)(4) of this section. Therefore, in addition to the $11,000 of research and experimental expenditures previously incurred, the $8,000 incurred on design activities to establish the appropriate design of the component qualifies as research or experimental expenditures under section 174. However, section 174 does not apply to the additional $2,000 that U incurred for the production after the elimination of uncertainty of the re-designed component based on the appropriate design or to the $20,000 previously incurred to produce the machine. See paragraph (a)(2) of this section (relating to production costs).
Example 5.
Multiple pilot models. V is a manufacturer that designs a new product. V incurs $5,000 to produce a number of models of the product that are to be used in testing the appropriate design before the product is mass-produced for sale. The $5,000 of costs represents research and development costs in the experimental or laboratory sense. Multiple models are necessary to test the design in a variety of different environments (exposure to extreme heat, exposure to extreme cold, submersion, and vibration). In some cases, V uses more than one model to test in a particular environment. Upon completion of several years of testing, V enters into a contract to sell one of the models to a customer and uses another model in its trade or business. The remaining models were rendered inoperable as a result of the testing process. Because V produced the models to resolve uncertainty regarding the appropriate design of the product, the models are pilot models under paragraph (a)(4) of this section. Therefore, the $5,000 that V incurred in producing the models qualifies as research or experimental expenditures under section 174. See also paragraph (a)(1) of this section (ultimate use is not relevant).
Example 6.
Development of a new component; pilot model. W wants to improve a machine for use in its trade or business and incurs $20,000 to develop a new component for the machine. The $20,000 is incurred for engineering labor and materials to produce a model of the new component that is used to eliminate uncertainty regarding the development of the new component for the machine. The $20,000 of costs represents research and experimental costs in the experimental or laboratory sense. After W completes its research and experimentation on the new component, W incurs $10,000 for materials and labor to produce the component and incorporate it into the machine. The model produced and used to evaluate and resolve uncertainty with respect to the new component is a pilot model within the meaning of paragraph (a)(4) of this section. Therefore, the $20,000 incurred to produce the model and eliminate uncertainty regarding the development of the new component qualifies as research or experimental expenditures under section 174. However, section 174 does not apply to the $10,000 of production costs of the component because those costs were not incurred for research or experimentation. See paragraph (a)(2) of this section (relating to production costs).
Example 7.
Disposition of a pilot model. X is a manufacturer of aircraft. X is researching and developing a new, experimental aircraft that can take off and land vertically. To evaluate and resolve uncertainty during the development or improvement of the product and test the appropriate design of the experimental aircraft, X produces a working aircraft at a cost of $5,000,000. The $5,000,000 of costs represents research and development costs in the experimental or laboratory sense. In a later year, X sells the aircraft. Because X produced the aircraft to resolve uncertainty regarding the appropriate design of the product during the development of the experimental aircraft, the aircraft is a pilot model under paragraph (a)(4) of this section. Therefore, the $5,000,000 of costs that X incurred in producing the aircraft qualifies as research or experimental expenditures under section 174. Further, it would not matter if X sold the pilot model or incorporated it in its own business as a demonstration model. See paragraph (a)(1) of this section (ultimate use is not relevant).
Example 8.
Development of new component; pilot model. Y is a manufacturer of aircraft engines. Y is researching and developing a new type of compressor blade, a component of an aircraft engine, to improve the performance of an existing aircraft engine design that Y already manufactures and sells. To test the appropriate design of the new compressor blade and evaluate the impact of fatigue on the compressor blade design, Y produces and installs the compressor blade on an aircraft engine held by Y in its inventory. The costs of producing and installing the compressor blade component that Y incurred represent research and development costs in the experimental or laboratory sense. Because Y produced the compressor blade component to resolve uncertainty regarding the appropriate design of the component, the component is a pilot model under paragraph (a)(4) of this section. Therefore, the costs that Y incurred to produce and install the component qualify as research or experimental expenditures under section 174. See paragraph (a)(5) of this section (regarding the application of section 174 to components of a product). However, section 174 does not apply to Y's costs of producing the aircraft engine on which the component was installed. See paragraph (a)(2) of this section (relating to production costs).
Example 9.
Variant product. T is a fuselage manufacturer for commercial and military aircraft. T is modifying one of its existing fuselage products, Class 20XX-1, to enable it to carry a larger passenger and cargo load. T modifies the Class 20XX-1 design by extending its length by 40 feet. T incurs $1,000,000 to develop and evaluate different designs to resolve uncertainty with respect to the appropriate design of the new fuselage class, Class 20XX-2. The $1,000,000 of costs represents research and development costs in the experimental or laboratory sense. Although Class 20XX-2, is a variant of Class 20XX-1, Class 20XX-2 is a new product because the information available to T as a result of T's development of Class 20XX-1 does not resolve uncertainty with respect to T's development of Class 20XX-2. Therefore, the $1,000,000 of costs that T incurred to develop and evaluate the Class 20XX-2 qualifies as research or experimental expenditures under section 174. Paragraph (a)(5) of this section does not apply, as the requirements of paragraph (a)(1) of this section are met with respect to the entire product.
Example 10.
New process development. Z is a wine producer. Z is researching and developing a new wine production process that involves the use of a different method of crushing the wine grapes. In order to test the effectiveness of the new method of crushing wine grapes, Z incurs $2,000 in labor and materials to conduct the test on this part of the new manufacturing process. The $2,000 of costs represents research and development costs in the experimental or laboratory sense. Therefore, the $2,000 incurred qualifies as research or experimental expenditures under section 174 because it is a cost incident to the development or improvement of a component of a process.

(b) Certain expenditures with respect to land and other property. (1)Land and other property. Expenditures by the taxpayer for the acquisition or improvement of land, or for the acquisition or improvement of property which is subject to an allowance for depreciation under section 167 or depletion under section 611, are not deductible under section 174, irrespective of the fact that the property or improvements may be used by the taxpayer in connection with research or experimentation. However, allow- ances for depreciation or depletion of property are considered as research or experimental expenditures, for purposes of section 174, to the extent that the property to which the allowances relate is used in connection with research or experimentation. If any part of the cost of acquisition or improvement of depreciable property is attributable to research or experimentation (whether made by the taxpayer or another), see subparagraphs (2), (3), and (4) of this paragraph.

(2) Expenditure resulting in depreciable property. Expenditures for research or experimentation which result, as an end product of the research or experimentation, in depreciable property to be used in the taxpayer's trade or business may, subject to the limitations of subparagraph (4) of this paragraph, be allowable as a current expense deduction under section 174(a). Such expenditures cannot be amortized under section 174(b) except to the extent provided in paragraph (a)(4) of § 1.174-4.

(3) Amounts paid to others for research or experimentation resulting in depreciable property. If expenditures for research or experimentation are incurred in connection with the construction or manufacture of depreciable property by another, they are deductible under section 174(a) only if made upon the taxpayer's order and at his risk. No deduction will be allowed (i) if the taxpayer purchases another's product under a performance guarantee (whether express, implied, or imposed by local law) unless the guarantee is limited, to engineering specifications or otherwise, in such a way that economic utility is not taken into account; or (ii) for any part of the purchase price of a product in regular production. For example, if a taxpayer orders a specially-built automatic milling machine under a guarantee that the machine will be capable of producing a given number of units per hour, no portion of the expenditure is deductible since none of it is made at the taxpayer's risk. Similarly, no deductible expense is incurred if a taxpayer enters into a contract for the construction of a new type of chemical processing plant under a turn-key contract guaranteeing a given annual production and a given consumption of raw material and fuel per unit. On the other hand, if the contract contained no guarantee of quality of production and of quantity of units in relation to consumption of raw material and fuel, and if real doubt existed as to the capabilities of the process, expenses for research or experimentation under the contract are at the taxpayer's risk and are deductible under section 174(a). However, see subparagraph (4) of this paragraph.

(4) Deductions limited to amounts expended for research or experimentation. The deductions referred to in paragraphs (b)(2) and (3) of this section for expenditures in connection with the acquisition or production of depreciable property to be used in the taxpayer's trade or business are limited to amounts expended for research or experimentation within the meaning of section 174 and paragraph (a) of this section.

(5) Examples. The following examples illustrate the application of paragraph (b) of this section.

Example 1.
Amounts paid to others for research or experimentation resulting in depreciable property. X is a tool manufacturer. X has developed a new tool design, and orders a specially-built machine from Y to produce X's new tool. The machine is built upon X's order and at X's risk, and Y does not provide a guarantee of economic utility. There is uncertainty regarding the appropriate design of the machine. Under X's contract with Y, X pays $15,000 for Y's engineering and design labor, $5,000 for materials and supplies used to develop the appropriate design of the machine, and $10,000 for Y's machine production materials and labor. The $15,000 of engineering and design labor costs and the $5,000 of materials and supplies costs represent research and development costs in the experimental or laboratory sense. Therefore, the $15,000 X pays Y for Y's engineering and design labor and the $5,000 for materials and supplies used to develop the appropriate design of the machine are for research or experimentation under section 174. However, section 174 does not apply to the $10,000 of production costs of the machine because those costs were not incurred for research or experimentation. See paragraph (a)(2) of this section (relating to production costs) and paragraph (b)(4) of this section (limiting deduction to amounts expended for research or experimentation).
Example 2.
Expenditures with respect to other property. Z is an aircraft manufacturer. Z incurs $5,000,000 to construct a new test bed that will be used in the development and improvement of Z's aircraft. No portion of Z's $5,000,000 of costs to construct the new test bed represent research and development costs in the experimental or laboratory sense to develop or improve the test bed. Because no portion of the costs to construct the new test bed were incurred for research or experimentation, the $5,000,000 will be considered an amount paid or incurred in the production of depreciable property to be used in the taxpayer's trade or business that are not allowable under section 174. However, the allowances for depreciation of the test bed are considered research and experimental expenditures of other products, for purposes of section 174, to the extent the test bed is used in connection with research or experimentation of other products. See paragraph (b)(1) of this section (depreciation allowances may be considered research or experimental expenditures).
Example 3.
Expenditure resulting in depreciable property. Assume the same facts as Example 2, except that $50,000 of the costs of the test bed relates to costs to resolve uncertainties regarding the new test bed design. The $50,000 of costs represents research and development costs in the experimental or laboratory sense. Because $50,000 of Z's costs to construct the new test bed was incurred for research and experimentation, the costs qualify as research or experimental expenditures under section 174. Paragraph (b)(2) of this section applies to $50,000 of Z's costs for the test bed because they are expenditures for research or experimentation that result in depreciable property to be used in the taxpayer's trade or business. Z's remaining $4,950,000 of costs is not allowable under section 174 because these costs were not incurred for research or experimentation.

(c) Exploration expenditures. The provisions of section 174 are not applicable to any expenditures paid or incurred for the purpose of ascertaining the existence, location, extent, or quality of any deposit of ore, oil, gas or other mineral. See sections 617 and 263.

(d) Effective/applicability date. The eighth and ninth sentences of § 1.174-2(a)(1); § 1.174-2(a)(2); § 1.174-2(a)(4); § 1.174-2(a)(5); § 1.174-2(a)(11) Example 3 through Example 10; § 1.174-2(b)(4); and § 1.174-2(b)(5) apply to taxable years ending on or after July 21, 2014. Taxpayers may apply the provisions enumerated in the preceding sentence to taxable years for which the limitations for assessment of tax has not expired.

[T.D. 6500, 25 FR 11402, Nov. 26, 1960, as amended by T.D. 8562, 59 FR 50160, Oct. 3, 1994; T.D. 9680, 79 FR 42195, July 21, 2014]