One of the questions that I have been asked a number of times by potential grant applicants in my over 10 years of consulting work is whether they should be using a consultant to help them with their EMDG  and R&D Tax Incentive applications.

In fact this question is asked in a number of ways – should I be using a consultant or do I need to use a consultant or must I use a consultant?

Well, the answer is both “No” and “Yes” and maybe even with a “it depends” thrown in!

Filling in grant applications are nowhere nearly as difficult as performing your own root canal treatment although for some self prepared applicants (SPA) by the time they have completed the process it may feel just as painful!

There are a number of reasons why you may want to undertake the process your self.

You have staff who have spare capacity and who can read up about the grant program, familiarise themselves with all the nuances of the program and stay up to date with the changes in the law.

Your application is simple and small in value and you can do it in an afternoon.

You are an ex-accountant who has worked in this area before and keep up to date with all the changes.

However there are probably more compelling reasons why a first-time applicant (FTA) should possibly use a consultant to assist them with their grant application.

Disclaimer: I make my money from helping grant applicants with their grant applications.

An old grants consultant who has since retired told me when I first started out in this industry “Mate, if it was easy, we wouldn’t have a job!”.

So what are these reasons?

Well the laws and guidelines that support the grant programs are complex.

The laws and guidelines change almost on an annual basis. Consultants have to keep up to date to ensure they understand what changes have been made.

Consultants deal with the government departments that administer and “police” the programs all the time. They understand what the requirements are and if there are any internal changes as to how the programs are being looked at.

Consultants have generally worked with the relevant department should there be an audit of the application and understand the process.

Consultants have the resources to ensure that the application is done in a timeous manner.

In many cases, consultants share in the risk along side the applicant in that the consultant will only get paid if the application is successful. This incentivises the consultant to ensure that the application gets done as quickly as possible and that the applicant gets as much as he is legally entitled to.

Consultants should be able to cover their fees by advising you on how to maximise your grant and as such get you more money than if you had tried to do it yourself factoring in opportunity cost foregone.

This last point leads to another question often asked – how and how much do consultants charge?

Again this varies from consultant to consultant. Some consultants will charge by the hour, others will charge a combination of success fee and preparation fee while many consultants will charge a success fee based on a percentage of the grant received. Ask around and find the proposal that makes sense to you.

Another question raised is about contracts with the consultant. Consultants often will provide the applicant with their IP in the form of knowledge of the grant program upfront. They may only get paid if the grant application is successful. This business model is not typically applied by other service providers (accountants, lawyers, IP lawyers) that the applicant is working with. It is not unreasonable that the consultant may ask the applicant to sign a contract to undertake grant work for a number of years in order to recoup the investment made up front. Again, ask around to see what other consultants are expecting applicants to sign.