Can Your Business Plan for Inflation?

Business Plan for Inflation

Historically, inflation has plunged countries into long periods of instability and politicians have won elections on promises to combat it. Inflation is currently at a high not felt for decades. Canada’s annual inflation rate rose to 8.1% in June of 2022, the highest since January 1983. Businesses are paying more to find and retain talent. Supply costs are escalating. Companies are feeling squeezed as the costs of goods and services continue to rise. Inflation is expected to remain elevated until 2024. It’s necessary for businesses to take decisive action to strengthen their growth plans and deal with the pressures of an inflationary period. The following are strategies to plan for and deal with the impact of inflation on your business. 

What is inflation?

Inflation is the rate of increase in prices over a given period of time. It represents how much more expensive a relevant set of goods and/or services has become. It can be translated as the decline of purchasing power over time and is expressed as a percentage. Essentially, inflation means that a unit of currency effectively buys less than it did in prior periods. When inflation rises, consumer spending declines as people can’t afford to buy as much as previously. 

How does inflation affect a business?

Inflation means that a company’s cash reserves are worth less. Labour expenses rise. Consumers buy less of a business’s goods and/or services. The value of some assets (real estate, steel, lumber) increases. Supply chain issues often occur, affecting scheduling, pricing and estimation. The shifting nature of the economy during an inflationary period is unnerving for many business owners. The answer? Be prepared!

How can a business plan for and address inflation?

Normal economic cycles include four stages: expansion, peak, contraction, and trough. As a business owner, it’s wise to have contingency plans for navigating each stage. A company’s plan for a period of inflation should include metrics to measure success and actionable steps to take. The following are tips for dealing with inflationary pressure as a business.

  • Be aware of real income: Track net income against the rate of inflation (real income). As the rate of inflation increases, profit decreases, reducing value and equity. 
  • Adjust the length of contracts: Lock in pricing for materials and/or expenses with a long-term contract. This protects your budget and guarantees revenue for your supplier. 
  • Time your purchases: Make large purchases before the price rises, particularly for equipment, land or other assets. This allows you to borrow cash when it is worth more and pay off your debt with money that is worth less. 
  • Optimize pricing: Create value for your product/service through marketing and an improved customer experience. This will allow you to raise your prices with less difficulty. Tie your price increase to the PPI (producer price index) or the CPI (consumer price index). Consider targeting less price-sensitive customers. 
  • Understand your cash flow: Cash flow and working capital are essential parts of a plan to deal with inflation. Do a financial modelling exercise to map out your situation. Look at ways to improve cash flow:
    • extending payments to vendors
    • tightening up invoicing and collection policies
    • divesting underperforming divisions or assets
    • prioritizing your resources in areas that are performing well
  • Reduce your tax burden: Talk to your accountant about ways to reduce your tax burden. Take advantage of losses. 
  • Review your debt and capital needs:  Assess your ability to meet current debt obligations. Reach out to lenders if you’re considering expansion, the purchase of new technology and/or refinancing existing debt.
  • Consider your strategies for growth: What worked in the past may not work now. Reevaluate and refresh your strategies.
  • Assess your technology: Do you have access to real-time data regarding your business? If not, it may be time to upgrade your technology. Consider a cloud accounting system, an enterprise resource planning system (ERP), a warehouse management system (MHS) and/or a customer relationship management system (CRM). The information provided can guide your decision-making. 
  • Simplify operations: Look for ways to streamline complicated processes, run leaner, reduce cost and increase profitability. 
  • Prioritize high-profit margin products: Many companies give priority based on the date of the order regardless of profit margin. Tell customers purchasing low-profit items/services that delivery will be slow. Ship goods/deliver services that are most profitable first. 
  • Differentiate between strategic and nonstrategic cost cutting: Selectively trim costs to improve the return on operating expenses. Boost growth through greater investment in the strategic capabilities needed to achieve differential results. Deploy scarce resources to reinvigorate strategy and maximize shareholder value.
  • Eliminate work: Scrutinize what activities are performed and how those activities are performed.  Eliminate unnecessary work and automate when possible.
  • Keep morale high and prevent attrition: Losing key employees results in lost productivity and requires time and effort to find and train a replacement. To avoid this, openly communicate with employees. Be aware and accommodating of personal needs. 

Inflationary pressures and supply chain issues are real and complicated. It’s important to develop a plan that addresses the rapidly evolving situation. Utilize the wisdom and leadership available to your business by talking to your accountant. They have the knowledge and experience to help you weather current circumstances. 

Does your business need help weathering current inflationary conditions? Contact Cook and Company Chartered Professional Accountants. We can provide you with powerful financial planning solutions. Whether you operate a sole proprietorship or a sizable corporation with multiple subsidiaries, Cook and Company use their experience and expertise to help your business. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.

Financial Planning, Where to Start?

No business can expect to make money without also managing it effectively. Establishing and achieving key financial milestones is essential to the health of a business. Every financial decision you make can have a significant impact on the overall strength of your company, ultimately defining the future of your business. This is why financial planning is crucial. 

What is financial planning for a business?

Financial planning is the task of determining how your business will finance its strategic goals and objectives. The plan is a document that describes the activities, resources, equipment and materials needed to achieve these objectives. It sets time frames for your goals and strategies for achieving them. It helps you be in control of your company’s income, expenses and investments and is essential to building a successful business. A good plan includes an assessment of the business environment, company goals, resources needed to reach these goals, team and resource budgets and risks that might be faced. It ensures a company is equipped in advance to deal with changing circumstances at both personal and business levels. 

Why create a financial plan for your business? 

There are a myriad of reasons to create a financial plan for your company. 

  • To manage your risk and respond quickly to financial issues: A business must plan for a lot of risks (death or disability of central figures, illness, property ownership loss, lawsuits, interruption of business, lower than expected revenue, high overheads, etc.). By regularly reviewing risks and planning a response, a company is prepared to tackle issues quickly, before they become hard to manage. 
  • To provide a road map for growth: It’s easy to focus on daily issues and neglect long-term planning. A financial plan helps a company focus on the future by providing clear goals for company growth and performance.  It helps you analyze your current situation and project where you want the business to be in the future.
  • To help you develop a good tax strategy: Financial planning is helpful when it comes time to submit your tax return or if you sell the company.
  • To identify sales trends: A financial plan that includes quantifiable targets and sales records helps determine which individual products and which initiatives are most lucrative, making it possible to adjust your marketing strategy appropriately.
  • To prioritize expenditures: A financial plan sets clear expectations for cash flow and helps a business owner to consider spending priorities. 
  • To identify necessary cost reductions: A financial plan helps you refer to past spending and identify unnecessary or over-inflated costs so you can adjust accordingly. 
  • To create transparency with staff and investors by sharing key figures (revenue, costs, profitability, etc.).
  • To show progress: A financial plan is helpful in showing increased revenues, cash flow growth and overall profit in quantifiable data, encouraging business owners.

How to get started with your financial plan

The following are the basic steps of creating a financial plan for your business. 

  • Determine your financial goals:  Are you looking to expand your business? Do you wish to increase your product/service’s market share? Are you interested in strengthening your customer service? Do you need more equipment and/or staff? The financial plan you build for your company largely depends upon your goals and your unique stage of business development.
  • Take stock of your assets: What is the balance of your business bank accounts? What are your accounts receivable, cash equivalents and short-term investments? How much stock do you have on hand? How many supplies are presently in storage?  
  • Determine your income, expenses and debt: Where does all your money go? Examine your cash flow and track your spending. Look at salaries (including your own), rent or mortgage payments, communication expenses (internet, telephone services, etc.), utilities, storage, distribution, promotion, office supplies and general maintenance. What is your monthly, quarterly and yearly income? What debt do you carry (bank loans, lease payments, income taxes payable, etc.)
  • Develop financial projections: Create monthly projections based on sales forecast and anticipated expenses (labour, supplies overheard). Prepare a projected income (profit and loss) statement and a balance sheet projection. This is a crucial part of your business plan if lenders and/or investors are involved.
  • Arrange for financing (if needed): Use your financial projections to determine your financing needs. Approach your financial partners to discuss options. Well-prepared projections reassure bankers/investors that your financial management is solid.
  • Plan for contingencies: Decide what you will do if your finances suddenly deteriorate. Establish emergency sources of money (maintain a cash reserve or keep some room on your line of credit).
  • Monitor your progress: Periodically, compare actual results with your projections to see if you’re on target or need to adjust. Monitoring helps you spot financial problems before they get out of hand.
  • Get help: Consider hiring an expert to help you put together and monitor your financial plan. Your accountant is an invaluable resource. They can provide you with powerful financial planning solutions. By carrying out a detailed analysis of your current processes, bringing your objectives into focus, and developing viable strategies, they’ll help you utilize your company’s finances in the most effective ways possible. The result? Greater clarity, measurable results and long-term growth. 

A financial plan affects day-to-day fiscal decision-making, defining the future of a business and shaping a company’s journey. A detailed financial plan brings a company’s objectives into focus and helps in developing viable strategies. Corporate financial planning demands a strong understanding of commerce and how companies operate fiscally. It also calls for attention and care for the immediate financial needs and specificities of your enterprise. 

Need help preparing a financial plan for your business? Contact Cook and Company Chartered Professional Accountants. We can provide you with powerful financial planning solutions. Whether you operate a sole proprietorship or a sizable corporation with multiple subsidiaries, Cook and Company use their experience and expertise to help your business. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.

Tips for Handling Charitable Donations

Many businesses look for ways to give to and/or be involved with their communities. They search for organizations they feel a connection to, then donate their time and money. This benefits the community and builds goodwill for the company. Charitable contributions from businesses to nonprofits qualify for a reduction of taxable income. The CRA considers a gift/donation to be a voluntary transfer of money or property for which you expect and receive no consideration. Sometimes the paperwork and/or tax requirements for these contributions are complicated. The following is information and tips for handling charitable donations. 

  • To make the most out of company donations, choose the right organization to donate to. 
  • For a small business that’s tied to a community, it makes sense to pick a local group.
  • Put sufficient time, effort and energy into choosing the right organization for your support.
  • Ensure you’re supporting causes that are meaningful to you and allocate your giving to align with your values and ideals.
  • Set an annual donation budget.
  • Recurring or automatic monthly donations are easy and convenient.
  • For a donation to be eligible, the transfer of ownership has to be voluntary.
  • Contributions of services, such as time, skills and effort do not qualify.
  • Donations of cash, goods, land and/or listed securities to a registered charity or other qualified organization are eligible. 
  • Businesses can only donate to qualified entities. Most of these are registered charities.
  • Donation tax credits vary by province. 
  • Incorporated business owners have the choice to donate personally or via their corporations.
  • Securities are the most efficient way to give. Donating publicly traded securities (stocks, mutual funds, bonds, etc.) directly to a charity eliminates the capital gains tax as these securities are sold and you still receive a tax receipt for the fair market value on the date the security is received by a broker. Your charity gets the full value of the securities.
  • Before making a donation of securities, it’s important to contact the qualified donee and verify that they can accept in-kind donations.
  • Ask the charity for its registration number and confirm its status in the List of charities. You can also call the Charities Directorate at 1-800-267-2384.
  • To qualify for a deduction, ask for an official donation receipt that meets the requirements of the Income Tax Act and its regulations. 
  • If an organization you donated to is no longer registered but was registered when you made your donation, you can still use your receipt to claim.
  • When a business donates to charity it can claim a tax deduction against income. By reducing taxable income, the corporation reduces its tax liability.  
  • Canadian small businesses can claim deductions on charitable donations for up to 75% of their net income. 
  • There are two charitable tax credit rates (federal and provincial) and any eligible amount you give above $200 qualifies for a higher rate.
  • When you donate over $200, you are automatically eligible to carry the donation forward and claim it on your tax return for any of the next five years. This flexibility means that the unclaimed carry-forward portion may qualify for a larger deduction in the future.
  • You cannot claim charitable donations to create or increase a loss but unused charitable donations can be carried forward and used in any of the five following tax years. 
  • The tax treaty between Canada and the U.S. allows for a deduction of donations made to U.S. charities if your business has U.S. source income.
  • Qualified donees include:

Corporate charitable donations provide shareholders with a chance to support their community and receive tax incentives at the same time. The tax incentive for donating to charity is generous, reducing the effective cost of the donation and making the act of giving both an emotionally and financially gratifying experience. The rules for charitable donation by a business are many and complicated. Speak with your accountant. They have the knowledge and experience to help you fully leverage your donations. 

Looking for an experienced accounting firm that can minimize your tax obligations and help with your charitable giving? Contact Cook and Company Chartered Professional Accountants. Whether you operate a sole proprietorship or a sizable corporation with multiple subsidiaries, Cook and Company uses their experience and expertise to help your business. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.

The Best Strategies for Small Business Accounting

Strategies for Small Business Accounting

The process of bookkeeping may seem complicated and daunting. Yet, it’s crucial that your small business has accurate books. Detailed financial records reduce problems; unpleasant financial surprises, forgotten paperwork, missed goals, large bills from your accountant, and payroll and tax challenges. Accurate and efficient bookkeeping helps a business make and keep long-term goals, smooth out the ups and downs of seasonal cash flow, improve profits and alleviate troubles with the CRA. The following are some strategies for effective small business accounting. 

  • Keep business and personal banking separate: Open a dedicated bank account for your business, preferably one with online access as this makes it easier to make payments and do bank reconciliations. If you need business money for personal expenses, do a regular transfer to your personal account. This will make bookkeeping much easier.  Don’t use your personal credit card for work purchases and vice versa.
  • Recognize business vs. personal expenses: You need to know what type of expenses can and can’t be claimed against your profit for the purpose of reducing tax. An expense that is directly related to the operation of the business and towards producing income is tax-deductible. An expense that is for your personal pleasure is not. Mixing personal and business does not mean a full claim for business can be made. If you’re in doubt about whether or not to claim an expense, contact your accountant.
  • Develop a budget: Begin by coming up with revenue projections and a list of anticipated expenditures. Compare this budget to actual expenses and revenue. Adjust the budget as needed.
  • Keep an eye on high-cost expenses: Labour and inventory costs are the largest expenses for most small businesses. To reduce labour expenses, consider outsourcing  work to contractors that bill at an hourly rate. They may not need 40 hours/week to complete your work and they don’t require benefits. Time-tracking software makes it easier to understand how much certain tasks cost your business, enabling you to find ways to control expenses. Track inventory carrying costs, inventory turnover ratio, amount lost to obsolete inventory and other key metrics.
  • Plan for major investments. Consider what expenses will arise in the next one to five years (upgrade of facilities, new office equipment, peaks in staffing costs, emergencies). By planning for major expenses, you can avoid taking money out of the company during good months and finding yourself short in slow months. Track expenses and revenue to help identify the best time for large investments. Business credit cards help establish a credit history giving you a better chance at qualifying for financing (lines of credit, loans) and they often offer perks such as business or travel rewards.
  • Utilize bookkeeping software: There are free bookkeeping software packages if you are on a tight budget (Wave, ZipBooks, Akaunting, SlickPie, GnuCash, CloudBooks). If you can afford it, purchase a good quality program that comes with occasional updates (Cashbook, Quickbooks, Xero, Sage, Freshbooks, Zoho). Choose one that is easy to use, customizable, produces charts for quick reference and combines different aspects of reporting from one period to the next. 
  • Organize and store source documents: Quotes, orders, delivery dockets, sales and purchase invoices, credit and debit notes, payment/remittance advice, cheques, receipts, wage records and deposit slips need to be filed and archived for 5 to 7 years. Keeping source documents at your fingertips makes it easier to prevent fraud in your business, improve your accuracy and ease finding transactions when needed.
  • Read and understand monthly reports: Keep your bookkeeping system up to date and produce reports monthly. Learn to read and understand these reports, in particular the income statement and the balance sheet. 
  • Keep on top of sales invoices: Late and/or unpaid bills hurt cash flow.  As soon as a job is complete or a product is delivered, prepare and send out customer invoices. Put a process in place to track your billing carefully (issuing a second invoice, a phone call reminder, penalties or extra fees). Be organized.
  • Ensure inventory data is accurate. To prepare financial statements you need accurate inventory data. Track physical inventory either manually, by counting items on a regular basis, or by pairing counts with an inventory management system that automatically adjusts the numbers as sales happen (via integration with your point-of-sale system). Inventory management software makes it much easier to track inventory and the information will be more accurate.
  • Know when to outsource: If you find bookkeeping too difficult or don’t have enough time for it, outsource the task. This can be cost-effective and professional help will ensure accuracy. Professional bookkeepers often give great business advice and assist with many tasks (recommend good software, attend meetings with your banker, explain accounts you find difficult, prepare annual budget and cash flow reports, etc).

Don’t let accounting be the downfall of your small business. Try these bookkeeping tips to help you improve your business, spend less time on finances, focus on growing your company and enhance your customer relationships. When it’s time, get professional bookkeepers and/or accountants involved. 

Need help establishing a good bookkeeping system? Looking for business advice? Contact Cook and Company Chartered Professional Accountants. We are based out of Calgary, Alberta, serving clients across Canada and the United States. We provide high-quality tax, assurance and succession planning services for a wide variety of privately-owned and managed companies. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.

Corporate Tax Planning Tips for Canadian Small Businesses

Corporate Tax Planning Tips

There are many legal strategies for reducing income taxes in Canada. Part of running a successful business is knowing these strategies and utilizing them. The following are some of the top strategies to lower your taxes and keep more money in your business.

Collect receipts: As the CRA does not accept credit card statements as proof of expenses, in order to take advantage of tax deductions available you must collect receipts for all business-related activities (accounting fees, business advertising and promotional expenses, business licenses and memberships, use of home expenses, interest and bank charges, insurance premiums, meals and entertainment, office expenses, rent, repairs and maintenance, tools and equipment, vehicle expenses, parking fees). Record and file them appropriately. You can keep physical receipts or digital copies.

Consider use-of-home deductions: You can claim business-use-of-home expenses if your home is your principal place of business or you use a workspace in your home solely to earn your business income and use it regularly to meet with clients, customers or patients. Home-based businesses can deduct a portion of many home-related expenses (heat, electricity, home maintenance, cleaning materials, home insurance, portions of property tax, mortgage interest, capital cost allowance). The percentage you can claim is determined by the size of your office in relation to the total size of the home. You cannot claim business-use-of-home expenses if you are also conducting business elsewhere or because you sometimes work on business matters at home.

Claim non-capital losses: If your expenses exceed business income in any year, use this loss to decrease your income tax bill. The loss can be carried back three years or carried forward up to 20 years. Your Chartered Professional Accountant can help you decide if it makes sense to use the non-capital loss in the current tax year, carry the non-capital loss back to recover income tax you’ve already paid or carry it forward to offset a larger tax bill.

Strategize your capital cost allowance: Instead of deducting the cost of the depreciable property you’ve acquired in your business in a particular year, deduct this cost over a period of years through a capital cost allowance claim. You can use as much or as little of this claim in any year and carry any unused portion forward to help offset a larger income tax bill in the future. Also, consider buying and selling your assets at the right time. Buy new assets before the end of your fiscal year and sell old assets after the current fiscal year.

Manage RRSP and TFSA contributions: Registered Retirement Savings Plans and Tax-Free Savings Accounts are excellent income tax deductions for small-business owners. Since some or all of your allowable RRSP contribution can be carried forward into subsequent years, you’re better off saving RRSP contributions for years in which you expect a high income. If you’ve maxed out your RRSP contributions and need a tax-free place to put cash or investments, the TFSA is a good choice. TFSAs allow you to shelter savings and investment income from taxes. Income and capital appreciation from stocks, bonds, or other interest-bearing instruments are tax-free inside a TFSA. Your Chartered Professional Accountant can help you maximize savings using RRSPs and TFSAs.

Incorporate your business: Incorporating your business lets you take advantage of small business tax deductions. The income of qualifying Canadian corporations is taxed at a reduced rate. Incorporating your business as a tax strategy will only be effective if your business has grown enough for incorporation to be worthwhile. You can also take advantage of certain tax benefits that are not available to unincorporated businesses (income tax splitting, capital gains exemptions) when you sell the business. Talk to your CPA to determine whether incorporation is right for you. 

Increase your charitable donations: Donations made to registered Canadian charities earn you tax credits. Consider giving more to the registered charities of your choice. Be aware that non-Registered Canadian charities, American charities and political parties do not count as charitable income tax deductions.

Split your income: This strategy takes advantage of the marginal tax rate disparities. The higher your income, the higher the marginal tax rate. Transferring a portion of your income to a family member (spouse, child) reduces the marginal rate on your income. Keep your claims reasonable, properly invoice for work performed and complete all the paperwork as you would when hiring any employee or contractor. As the rules for income splitting are complex, consult your CPA.

Balance your dividend salary mix: You’re entitled to withdraw cash from your corporation as a dividend or a salary. Ask your CPA to help determine what mix will maximize your earnings. The mix you decide upon is determined by current circumstances as well as future predictions. 

Hire a CPA: Most small businesses prefer to have a certified professional accountant complete their Canadian income tax returns. This saves time and effort, provides assurance of accuracy and increases your chances of efficient tax planning.

While not all corporate tax-saving strategies work for every small business, some strategies have proven useful for many companies. With planning, you can reduce your taxable income and keep more money working for your company. Consult a Chartered Professional Accountant to ensure that you save the maximum amount possible.

Not sure what tax deductions your company qualifies for? Need help with tax planning strategies? Contact Cook and Company Chartered Professional Accountants. Whether you operate a sole proprietorship or a sizable corporation with multiple subsidiaries, we use our experience and expertise to assist you. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.

Strategies to Overcome a Cash Flow Crisis

Overcome a Cash Flow Crisis

Even thriving, profitable businesses can have cash flow problems if payables (amounts due to vendors or suppliers) are due before receivables arrive (money due to a firm for goods or services delivered or used). In fact, 29% of businesses fail because they run out of cash. During a cash flow shortage, a business may not have enough money to cover payroll or other operating expenses. It’s imperative that businesses have a strategy or plan in place to overcome a cash flow crisis.

Strategies for avoiding and/or overcoming a cash flow crisis:

There are a number of strategies and approaches that can help companies correct and or avoid cash flow difficulties.

  • Lease: When leasing (supplies, equipment, real estate) you pay in small increments helping to improve cash flow. Also, lease payments are a business expense and can be written off on your taxes. 
  • Offer discounts for early payment: Create an incentive for customers to pay their bills ahead of time by offering an early payment discount. This is a win for you and your customers.  
  • Obtain short-term loans for working capital: Short-term loans are borrowings undertaken for a short period to meet immediate monetary requirements. They support a temporary business capital problem. Though they have a higher interest rate, they’re easy to get approved and are less expensive than most long-term options.
  • Use a business line of credit: A line of credit is an arrangement between a bank and a customer that establishes a preset borrowing limit that can be drawn on repeatedly. Borrowers pay interest on the outstanding balance and not on the entire credit line. Interest rates are often more favourable.
  • Try business credit cards: Credit cards provide smaller limits than short-term loans and lines of credit but are easy to obtain and sometimes offer reward options on purchases. Use them for small purchases and operational needs.
  • Conduct customer credit checks: Before signing up a new customer, conduct a credit check. If the client’s credit is poor, assume you won’t be receiving payment on time. If you decide to opt for the sale, set a high-interest rate on overdue payments.
  • Form a buying coop: Many suppliers give discounts to firms who buy in bulk. Find like-minded companies willing to pool cash in order to lower prices with suppliers. 
  • Improve inventory: Goods you buy that aren’t moving at the same pace as your other products hurt your cash flow. Reduce them or get rid of them.
  • Invoice immediately: Automate your invoicing system to reduce the number of errors and improve the speed of invoicing. Provide easy-to-read invoices with clearly stated terms.
  • Use electronic payments: This allows you to pay a bill on the actual due date, increasing the time before cash flows out of your business.
  • Negotiate better terms: Maintain friendly, regular communication with suppliers so you can negotiate better terms. Offer early payment for a discount or negotiate extended payment options.
  • Increase pricing: Experiment with pricing to find the perfect number; the limit of what customers are willing to pay for your products and/or services.
  • Ask new customers for a deposit or partial payment up-front, rather than billing the entire amount due in a single invoice after services have been rendered or products have been delivered.
  • Focus on past due accounts: Identify past due clients and make phone calls. Ask for partial payments.
  • Make payment convenient by offering additional methods (credit card, electronic, mobile).
  • Raise investor capital: Bring in new business partners by selling equity.
  • Reduce expenses: Prioritize company expenses. Eliminate unnecessary expenses and only spend on the costs that keep you operational and generate revenue. Shop around to see if there are cheaper options available for phones, internet, and third-party information technology.
  • Sell non-essential assets: Although this is a temporary fix, it’s a quick and effective way to raise some cash when you’re in a bind.
  • Pre-sell products or services: Encourage sales sooner by pre-selling. It’s a way for consumers to plan ahead. 
  • Finance purchase orders: If you’re a manufacturing or merchandising company and you require a significant amount of cash to fulfill your orders, financing purchase orders may be helpful. The financing company pays the vendor so you can acquire the merchandise/inventory you need to fulfill the order. This allows you to take large orders that you don’t yet have the cash to fill.
  • Turn down, shift or postpone work to manage the volume of business for consistency over time. Offer good clients a discount for postponing their work, order or service. This will not be a viable strategy for companies with strong seasonal business (retailers, accountants, etc.).
  • Invoice factoring involves selling your invoices (an asset) to a factoring company. Instead of waiting 15, 30 or 60 days for your money, your business gets payment upfront.
  • Hire an accountant: A chartered professional accountant will have the knowledge and experience to offer you creative solutions to your cash flow problems. 

Working capital is the fuel that powers small businesses. Managing cash flow is critical to running a profitable long-term business. Constantly look for new ways to improve cash flow management in your company.

Looking for ways to examine and improve your cash flow? Contact Cook and Company Chartered Professional Accountants. Whether you operate a sole proprietorship or a sizable corporation with multiple subsidiaries, Cook and Company use their experience and expertise to help your business. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.

Tax Implications of Shareholder Loans

Tax implications of Shareholder Loan

The Canadian Income Tax Act contains numerous provisions relating to the tax treatment of shareholder loans, many of which are designed to prevent their abuse by shareholders. But, what is a shareholder’s loan, how are they used and what are their tax implications? 

What is a shareholder’s loan?

Your shareholder loan account is made up of all capital that you contribute to the corporation and all purchases made on behalf of the corporation (using personal funds or personal credit cards) netted against cash withdrawals and personal expenses paid by the company on your behalf.

  • Owner cash withdrawal: An owner withdrawing money from a corporation is the most basic shareholder loan. If the withdrawal is not designated as a dividend or a salary, it creates a loan from the corporation to the shareholder. Accountants call this a “due from shareholder” transaction because the loan amount is due from the shareholder to the company.
  • Purchase of a personal item with company funds: Another version of an owner withdrawal is when a shareholder purchases a personal (non-business) item using company funds. The purchase would be recorded as a loan from the company to the shareholder and the funds need to be repaid.
  • Owner cash contribution: Sometimes a shareholder of a company deposits personal funds into the company to cover expenses. Essentially the shareholder has loaned the company cash and the company needs to pay it back. An accountant would call this a “due to shareholder” transaction because the amount loaned to the company is now due back to the shareholder.
  • Pay for business expenses with personal funds: Another common version of an owner contribution is when company expenses are paid with personal funds (usually a credit card) of the shareholder. The purchase is recorded as a loan to the company. The shareholder expects to be reimbursed for this legitimate expense.

What are the benefits of a shareholder loan?

One of the benefits of a shareholder loan is the ability to withdraw funds from the corporation without triggering a tax liability. If a shareholder loan is repaid within one year from the end of the taxation year of the corporation (the taxation year in which the loan was made) it will not be included in the income of the borrower. This creates planning opportunities but it also creates opportunities and incentives for shareholders to abuse the rules. Therefore, the Income Tax Act will, by default, include the principal loan amount of any shareholder loan into the taxpayer’s income. It’s imperative that your loan meets certain conditions to avoid costly or unintended tax consequences. 

Understanding shareholder loan conditions:

The following are common scenarios regarding shareholder loans and the conditions required: 

  • The shareholder loan was made to you or your spouse to buy a home to inhabit, you received the loan in your capacity as an employee of the corporation and bona fide arrangements are met. As an employee of the corporation, you must be actively involved in the operations and not merely a passive shareholder. A bona fide arrangement requires that the loan repayment terms and the interest rate charged is reasonable and would reflect terms similar to a contract entered into between two parties in normal business practice. 
  • The shareholder loan was made to you to acquire a motor vehicle to be used for the business’s operations. You received the loan in your capacity as an employee of the corporation and bona fide arrangements are met. The loan cannot be part of a series of loans and repayments and the loan must include interest charged at the prescribed rate.
  • The shareholder loan was repaid within one year after the taxation year-end in which the loan was made. For instance, assuming the corporation has a calendar year-end, a loan issued February 28, 2020, would have to be repaid by December 31, 2021. There are no tax liability issues under these circumstances.

Shareholder loan tax implications:

Ensuring that you are not penalized by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for improperly withdrawing a Shareholder Loan is critical within your personal and corporate income tax planning. Understanding the tax planning opportunities is also important.

  • Any loan to a shareholder that does not meet the conditions is included in the shareholder’s income and no expense is allowed to be deducted by the corporation, resulting in double taxation.  
  • Any subsequent repayment of the loan may be deducted from income in the year it is repaid.  
  • In certain circumstances, this rule creates tax planning opportunities.  For instance, if a $10,000 shareholder loan was made to your adult child studying full-time there would be no tax liability as the $10,000 income inclusion would be sheltered by the basic personal tax credit. Upon commencing work and repaying the loan, your child would deduct $10,000 from income in a higher tax bracket.  If their marginal tax rate at that time is 30% that would create a tax savings of $3,000. Ultimately, the corporation is in the same cash position after the loan is repaid but your child is $3,000 richer.  

In the worst-case scenario, the CRA can have the full amount of the loan plus interest added to the shareholders’ income for the year of the loan and not allow a deduction at the corporate level.  Planning for repayment within two corporate fiscal year ends is a reliable course of action to mitigate any worry of penalization from the CRA. Having an experienced accounting team in place to not only plan but to monitor and execute is pivotal when a corporation has transactional deposits and withdrawals out of the corporation.

How to avoid shareholder loan tax problems:

There are a few straightforward ways to avoid taxation problems. These include:

  • Repaying the loan: If the shareholder repays the loan permanently within one year, he won’t have to pay tax personally on those funds.
  • Taking the cash as a salary or wage: If the owner wants to earn money from his company and avoid double taxation, he could take the funds as a salary or wage. The salary would act as a tax deduction for the company and the owner would include it in his employment income. This avoids double taxation.
  • Taking the cash as a dividend: Avoid double taxation by taking the money as a dividend. A dividend would be declared and the owner would transfer the cash into his personal account. Dividends are taxed at lower rates than employment income so double taxation is avoided. If you issue dividends, you will need to issue T5 and prepare corporate documents called dividend resolutions. 

Shareholder loans are a useful way to manage short-term personal cash needs. They allow shareholders flexibility in how and when cash is withdrawn from a company. If you need a short-term loan for less than a year, a shareholder loan could be an easy way to obtain the funds. The loan needs to be repaid within the year to avoid having to include the amount in your personal income. If repayment isn’t possible, a dividend could be issued and you would pay personal tax on the amount at a reduced rate. The rules relating to shareholder loans can be very complex. To successfully navigate subsection 15(2) of the Income Tax Act and its many exceptions, proper planning is essential. Talk to a Chartered Professional Accountant. They can help you successfully navigate the intricacies of shareholder loans.

Do You Need an Accountant for Your Small Business?

Accountant for Small Business

Are you in the planning stage of a business venture? Do you own and operate a recently started business? Are you planning a business expansion? When should you hire an accountant to help? The following is some information that can help with the decision of when to hire an accountant. 

What are the duties of an accountant?

An accountant’s duties vary from company to company, but typically they are responsible for:

  • Data management: An accountant is responsible for ensuring a business’ financial data is stored, updated and managed appropriately. They make sure proper procedures are used for data entry and accounting software is up to date, secure and regularly backed up.
  • Financial analysis and consultation: Accountants act as a resource when a business is making financial decisions. They provide tips on spending, discuss options for credit and tax deductions and help interpret financial jargon. They help troubleshoot the day-to-day management of finances in a company. 
  • Financial reports: Accountants supply documents that provide deep insight into a business’s performance (income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, profit and loss statement, accounts receivable aging, revenue by customer, accounts payable aging, statement of retained earnings, general ledgers, etc.). A business and its investors make decisions based on the reports their accountant provides. 
  • Regulatory compliance: There are many rules and regulations that affect businesses. An accountant ensures that your income and expense reporting follows applicable provincial and federal laws. 

When do you need an accountant?

An accountant can save you time, money and headaches. There are several key times when an accountant can make a significant difference for a business. 

  • When starting your business: A chartered accountant can assist you in writing your business plan, help you acquire funding, aid you in leasing a space and provide you with direction and goals. They can advise you on the best structure for your business (Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Corporation), help you get the appropriate licenses (GST number, business license) and assist you in setting up business accounting software. 
  • For compliance and tax issues: An accountant makes sure you are in appliance with applicable tax laws, helps with complex payroll issues and assists with reporting requirements. 
  • When being audited: A chartered accountant provides advice to work within the auditing process. They can recommend accounting software that incorporates an audit trail, easing the transactions needed during an audit.
  • When applying for a loan: An accountant improves your chances of receiving a business loan. They can present facts and figures that back up your application for funding. They can advise you regarding the best type of loan and whether the terms, conditions and interest rates offered are favourable for your company. 
  • When expanding: A chartered accountant can help you handle growth transitions (hiring, larger office space, increased product/service line) and look after details (payroll, tax management, property tax, utility payments) allowing you to focus on company growth. They can analyze cash flow, inventory and pricing to provide insight into how to grow your business successfully. They can even help determine the best time to introduce new products and/or services. 
  • Before taking on a franchise: Franchise contracts vary widely. An accountant can help determine whether the fees and percentages charged will allow for a reasonable income. They assist in providing sufficient information for making the decision regarding franchising. 
  • Before buying a business: Consult an accountant before buying an existing business. They can look into the company’s accounts and determine whether the purchase is a financially sound decision.
  • Before you sell your business: A chartered professional accountant can put your company’s financial records in order and produce statements of accounts that you can show to prospective buyers. They create charts and tables to clearly show your company’s position. They can also structure your financial affairs so that you get the most from selling your business.
  • Every step of the way: The truth is, a chartered professional accountant can help your business at every stage of its development. They can make life easier for you so you can concentrate on operating your business. 

A chartered professional accountant can interpret your financial data in order to help you make better business decisions, assist you with business start-up, aid with tax and compliance issues, be of service during auditing, help you expand and/or buy a franchise, aid in acquiring a loan and help out at various stages during the growth of your business. Every business benefits from working with an accountant! 

Need help with the financial complexities of your business? Want advice regarding your business’ situation? Contact Cook and Company Accountants. Whether you operate a sole proprietorship or a sizable corporation with multiple subsidiaries, we use our experience and expertise to assist you. Contact us to request a meeting.

Options for Financing a Business

Options for Financing Business

Businesses come in all shapes and sizes, from large corporations with hundreds of employees to mom-and-pop enterprises. But there is one thing that all businesses need, financing. Being aware of the financing possibilities available for businesses can help a company succeed. The following is a list of various financing alternatives.

  • Bank loans: A commonly used source of funding, bank loans require a solid business plan and often a personal guarantee from the entrepreneurs. More than 50% of small businesses use some type of institution-based credit to start, operate or expand their business.
  • Government grants: Government agencies provide financing such as grants and subsidies that are available to many businesses. Check the Government of Canada website for business grants and financing options. 
  • Business incubators: A business incubator is a program that gives early-stage companies access to mentorship, investors and other support to help them get established. There are a number of business incubators in Alberta such as Innovate Calgary at the University of Calgary, The Northern Alberta Business Incubator in St. Albert, Tecconnect in Lethbridge and the Agrivalue Processing Business Incubator for food-based businesses in Leduc.
  • Venture capital: A venture capitalist is a person or firm that invests in small companies, generally using money pooled from investment companies, large corporations, and pension funds. Though less than 1% of small businesses in Canada receive equity-based funding from venture capitalists, there are ways to find this type of funding by networking and meeting people at local start-up groups, or by researching, contacting or joining groups like the Venture Capital Association of Alberta. Venture capitalists are generally looking for technology-driven businesses and companies with high-growth potential in sectors such as information technology, communications and biotechnology.
  • Angel investors: Angels are wealthy individuals or retired company executives who invest directly in firms owned by others. They often contribute their experience, technical knowledge, management skills and contacts. Angels tend to finance the early stages of a company. They often reserve the right to supervise the company’s management practices and may be looking for some sort of share in a company. Check out this bdc site for information on finding angel investors and the National Angel Capital Organization.
  • Crowdfunding is the use of small amounts of capital from a large number of individuals to finance a new business venture. It makes use of the easy accessibility of vast networks of people through social media and crowdfunding websites and brings investors and entrepreneurs together. Crowdfunding has the potential to increase entrepreneurship by expanding the pool of investors beyond the traditional circle of owners, relatives, and venture capitalists. The National Crowdfunding Association of Canada is a good place to find information on crowdfunding for small businesses. If you’re considering the crowdfunding route, ensure that your intellectual property is protected. Read the fine print on crowdfunding websites.
  • Peer-to-peer lending: P2P lending is the practice of lending money to individuals or businesses through online services that match lenders with borrowers. It allows investors to lend money directly to other individuals via a P2P platform. Check out Peerform and Funding Circle.
  • Microloans are simply small business loans that are issued by individuals rather than banks or credit unions. These loans can be issued by a single individual or aggregated across a number of individuals who each contribute a portion of the total amount. They are a great option if you need a bit of capital to fund specific operational costs, expansions, or projects. They typically have specific limitations in regards to how much you can borrow. Check out Accion, LiftFund and Kiva.
  • Pitch competitions are contests where entrepreneurs present their business concept to a panel in the hope of winning a cash prize or investment capital. Even if you don’t win, the pitch competition can be a way to introduce yourself to the elite world of venture capital and angel investment. Check out Hatch Pitch, Disrupt and PITCH.
  • A business line of credit: This is an option for those who need cash quickly and have good credit. Check with your local bank.
  • Personal funds: Many businesses use some type of personal funds to finance themselves (savings, mutual funds, collateral).
  • Love money: This refers to money loaned by a spouse, parent, family member and/or friend. 

If you’re interested in starting or expanding a business and you require financing, there are many and varied options available. No matter the size of your business or the amount required, there is a method to finance your company that suits your needs. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.