Tax Planning Strategies for the Second Half of the Year

The CPAs at Cook and Company work together in planning tax strategies.

We’ve entered the second half of the business tax year. Are you wondering how you can ensure tax savings for your company? Strategic tax planning is the answer. You can reduce tax liabilities and enhance savings by claiming available tax credits, income-splitting, utilizing small business deductions, making dividend payments to family members, creating a structured plan for business expenses/earnings, or implementing income deferral strategies. Read on to learn more.

Strategies for Reducing Tax Liabilities and Enhancing Savings

Following are several effective strategies for reducing the tax your business pays.  

  • Income splitting minimizes tax liability while remaining within tax laws and regulations. It may involve allocating income to a family member(s) (children, spouse) in a lower tax bracket by paying reasonable salaries for work done for the business. Dividends issued to family member(s) who are shareholders is another possible strategy. A family trust can also distribute income to beneficiaries. 
  • Claiming available tax credits is another critical aspect of business tax planning. Companies with foreign source income can claim foreign tax credit relief to prevent double taxation. A corporation can receive a tax credit on eligible research and development expenditures. Other strategies include depreciating capital assets, claiming business expenses (salaries, rent, supplies, etc.), and utilizing investment tax credits. 
  • Taking advantage of capital cost allowance enables corporations to deduct the cost of depreciable assets over time, reducing taxable income. One strategy is to purchase assets early in the fiscal year. Immediate expensing offers the chance to substantially reduce taxable income while claiming non-capital losses also reduces taxes.
  • Optimizing corporate structure for tax purposes is another possible strategy. Each business must choose the appropriate legal entity for its purpose, needs, and goals (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation). 
  • Establishing a holding company is an efficient tax deferral technique. The holding company acts as a separate entity that owns/controls shares. Dividend income received by the holding company is usually tax-free. 

Why Should a Business Seek Professional Help With Tax Planning?

A chartered, professional accountant can help with corporate tax planning and strategy. Utilize their services to:

  • maintain accurate financial records
  • ensure compliant/advantageous corporate tax planning
  • stay up to date on changes in tax laws
  • ensure accurate, timely filing of business tax returns/documents
  • reduce tax liabilities
  • enhance savings
  • help navigate complex tax planning

Need help with corporate tax planning? Not sure what tax deductions your business can claim? Cook and Company’s team of CPAs provides corporate tax advice that is powerful, approachable, and reliable. Contact us for high-quality tax services.

The Role of Due Diligence in Business Transactions

Woman is thanking gentleman for helping her with tax deductions.

A merger occurs when two or more businesses consolidate to form a new company, combining forces to generate benefits. An acquisition happens when a company buys/takes over another business, purchasing the target company’s stock. Due diligence is the unsung hero of successful mergers and acquisitions. Through research and analysis, due diligence ensures that both parties benefit. 

What is Due Diligence?

Due diligence is the analysis and research an organization or company undertakes to prepare for a merger or acquisition. It helps evaluate the risks and advantages involved in the transaction. 

Why Undertake Due Diligence?

Due diligence enables a deep understanding of the company you are interested in acquiring or merging with. It confirms or disabuses impressions regarding financial, commercial, legal, and other information. It’s about verification and trust. 

Kinds of Due Diligence

There are four main kinds of due diligence.

  • Commercial due diligence involves understanding how the company creates income, its goals/strategies, and the competitive environment. It necessitates looking into the company’s strategic plan, business model, key customers, suppliers, and employees. It often includes an examination of the company’s record of social responsibility, diversity, inclusion, and sustainability.  
  • Financial due diligence involves examining the company’s financial records (financial statements, year-to-date statements, trial balances, financial forecasts, tax returns, bank statements, budgets, etc). Look for tax liabilities, product margins, equipment repair/investment, operational inefficiencies, employee turnover rates, obsolescence, and working capital levels.  
  • Legal due diligence includes reviewing legal issues that affect the company (ongoing/pending litigation, past lawsuits, employment contracts, leases, customer/supplier agreements, laws/regulations that apply, licenses/permits, real estate, intellectual property, and corporate documents such as incorporation certificates, bylaws, and shareholder agreements, etc.). 
  • Customer due diligence applies to businesses in the financial sector and helps protect against money laundering or terrorist financing. It involves identifying customers, discovering the nature of ownership, and uncovering any suspicious transactions/practices.
  • Business mergers and acquisitions are two excellent ways to increase business growth, helping companies acquire new clients and expanding the market share through a single transaction. They help companies accelerate plans and build momentum. However, undertaking due diligence before completing a merger or acquisition is critical. Due diligence is the unsung hero of successful mergers and acquisitions. 

Need help with due diligence preceding a merger or acquisition? Contact Cook and Company Chartered Professional Accountants. With over 20 years of experience helping create financially resilient companies, Cook and Company know the business. We encourage skillful risk management to deal with the variables involved in operating a company. We can help with your business merger or acquisition.

Common Errors in Accounting and How to Avoid Them

common errors in accounting

Keeping accurate up-to-date books helps a company make informed financial decisions and avoid mishaps that can affect financial health. However, tracking your business’ income, expenses, taxes and vendor payments is complicated and time-consuming. Including an item in the appropriate account, applying the correct description or code for the item and entering the correct amount takes time and attention. Accounting errors inevitably occur. The following are the most common types of errors in accounting that business owners make and suggestions on how to prevent accounting errors

What is an error in accounting?

Accounting errors are unintended accidents; inadvertent mistakes. Sometimes accounting errors are caused by transposing a number or hitting an incorrect key. Other times they stem from a misunderstanding of accounting rules and/or company policy. Accounting departments attempt to limit errors, especially in data that flows into financial reporting used by stakeholders. 

What are the most common errors in accounting?

  • Improper record keeping: Record keeping is the act or practice of recording important information for future reference. It involves identifying a transaction, recording it, classifying it, posting it and balancing the account. It may involve paper copies but can also be managed digitally. To avoid improper record keeping, implement a receipt capture, filing and backup system and enforce its proper use. 
  • Failing to do monthly reviews of your financial statements: A profit and loss statement provides a snapshot of a company’s sales, expenses and profit for a given accounting period. A balance sheet statement reports the ending balance of a company’s assets, liabilities and equity for a given accounting period. These statements provide insight into a company’s financial health. Financial statement analysis should be done on a regular basis (preferably monthly) to ensure all expenses have been categorized accurately and account balances have been reconciled. Add this task to the monthly duties schedule.
  • Neglecting to analyze budget vs. actual expenses: A budget versus actual expense analysis should be performed at the end of each month and each quarter to be sure your business is adhering to the budget. This analysis uncovers variances that require corrective action and helps determine areas where you can cut back. Schedule this analysis into your monthly duties roster. 
  • Neglecting reconciliations: When you reconcile your accounts at the end of the month, you validate the information in your books against an external document (the bank or credit card statement). Regularly reviewing business bank accounts against your books helps reduce the incidence of fraudulent transactions. It ensures you discover errors and thus prevents issues from developing. Put a note in your calendar to reconcile your bank and credit card accounts each month.

  • Failing to reconcile loan accounts: It’s important to reconcile your loan account each time you receive a statement as this is the easiest way to ensure the liabilities portion of your balance sheet is accurate. Put a note in your calendar to ensure your loan account is reconciled regularly.

  • Leaving undeposited funds on the books: Undeposited funds on the books means the payment has been posted but the deposit hasn’t been. This makes revenue look larger than it is, causing incorrect tax payments and inaccurate assumptions about business growth. This error can be avoided with proper workflows.

  • A lack of data backup: In case the device that stores your business’ financial information is lost, stolen or hacked, it’s important to have the information backed up. There are many backup options available.

  • Not utilizing accounting software: Investing in the right accounting software helps you avoid mistakes and makes it easier to handle your finances. Accounting software ensures you have all the historical data you need to manage your books, payroll and taxes. Choose accounting software that integrates with your bank account and has backup capability.

  • Inadequate checks and balances: No one person in the business should handle business funds without oversight. Ensure the person who does the bookkeeping in your business isn’t the same person making deposits for the company. Avoid giving employees signing authority on your business bank accounts. Make sure you review your business’s bank statements, including images of cancelled checks, on a monthly basis.

Accurate accounting information is critical for a business. Though there is no sure way to eliminate all accounting errors, understanding what errors are common and where to look for them is an important first step. Processes and controls help minimize their occurrence. Using good accounting software and preventive controls helps create a less error-prone accounting environment. Accurate books allow you to make informed decisions that will help improve your bottom line. Correction of errors in accounting is crucial.

Need help establishing a good accounting system and/or incorporating accounting software? 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 various privately-owned and managed companies. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.

Innovations in Accounting Software

Innovations in Accounting Software

The use of accounting technology increases efficiency and streamlines a business’ approach to managing finances, enabling them to be competitive. Accounting technology enables accountants to connect effectively with the businesses they serve, allowing them to provide ongoing advice and guidance. Remaining current with recent innovations in accounting technology is critical for both accountants and businesses. The following are some of the most recent innovations in accounting software.

  • Blockchain technology is an advanced database mechanism (involving the distribution and decentralization of database tech) that allows transparent information sharing within a business network. It’s intended to protect encrypted data, reduce redundancy, improve efficiency and enable the maintenance of an expanding number of transactions. Blockchain technology enables a complete, automated digital audit of each individual transaction. Using modern encryption methods, this technology allows companies to use a common data retention infrastructure (involving the use of a shared ledger) even as each accountant, auditor and company maintains a privately managed database.

  • Cloud computing applications allow the storage and accessibility of data online rather than on a hard drive. They don’t require expensive hardware, hosting, ongoing updates and dedicated IT to maintain. They handle everything from payroll and invoicing to taxes and benefit payments. Financial information is updated as changes occur and can be monitored and managed from a user-friendly dashboard, enabling a free flow of information, no matter where you are or which device you’re using. Cloud computing makes it easier to collaborate and exchange information. The flexibility of cloud accounting software makes it simple for growing businesses to scale. Adding new users/features is as simple as upgrading your monthly subscription. Cloud-based software also helps companies to reduce their carbon footprint.

  • Automated accounting technology uses software to automate important financial operations. It limits the number of steps in workflows and makes the accounting operation a more hands-off experience by decreasing time spent on data entry. This tech is capable of highlighting anomalies or patterns without manual data input, creating greater efficiency. It reduces human error, often translating to higher profitability. From invoice approval processes to inputting sales data and automating revenue recognition, automated software features are expected to continue to develop. Automated accounting technology helps accounting teams work smarter, not harder.

  • Optical character recognition applications (also referred to as text recognition) scan printed/handwritten documents and convert them into machine-readable text that can be shared with colleagues/clients. This data can be copied and/or edited as required and allows for the performance of a simple digital search to find the information needed. This technology reduces time spent on tasks such as itemizing receipts, organizing invoices and tracking expenses. It eliminates paper clutter.

  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning make accounting more effective and efficient, improving productivity by up to 40%. AI can conduct repetitive, rudimentary tasks including auditing, payroll, uploading files and sorting through data. This frees up time for tasks such as analyzing and interpreting data and building more effective, efficient recommendations for corporate growth and stability.  AI substantially reduces the likelihood of frustrating and time-consuming mistakes. Deviations from the established pattern can be caught before calculations move beyond the problem. This leads to more accurate reporting, reducing the need for audits.

  • Real-time reporting is the process of updating your books at all times; revenue, account balances and profit. It allows the entire company to view all metrics/insights and make better use of analytics to make decisions.

  • Personalization technology is about delivering a valuable service or product to a customer based on personal experiences and historical customer data. It’s becoming more common, from sales and marketing solutions to consumer apps to accounting software programs. It allows specific functionality.  

By organizing everyday finance management, accounting software allows companies to grow their businesses. The administration process is streamlined, data can be processed remotely and the margin of error is reduced. Daily finances are better understood, empowering the business as a whole. Tasks that took hours can be done in minutes. Financial data is quickly and easily accessed in an easy-to-understand format. Innovations in accounting software save time and money while adding value to a company. 

Need help establishing a good accounting system and/or incorporating accounting software? 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.

What to Remember for This Tax Season

What to Remember for This Tax Season - Cook & Company - Chartered Professional Accountants - Featured Image

Tax season is upon us and it’s a busy time! Each business must undertake the process of reporting earnings and paying income tax on business profits. It’s important to report income in the fiscal period you earn it, no matter when you receive it. It’s crucial to deduct business expenses but only if you incur them to earn income and if you are able to back up the claim. With filing deadlines approaching, what do you need to remember for this tax season? The following are some reminders for your business in this hectic time. 

  • File on time: If you wish to receive the benefits/credits your business is entitled to and avoid penalties, it’s important to file your return on time. File your return no later than six months after the end of each tax year. The tax year of a corporation is its fiscal period. If your business’ tax year ends on the last day of a month, file the return by the last day of the sixth month after the end of the tax year. If your tax year ends on March 31, your filing due date is September 30. If your tax year ends on August 31, your filing due date is February 28. If your tax year ends on September 23, your filing due date is March 23. When a filing due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or public holiday recognized by the CRA, your return is considered on time if the CRA receives it or if it is postmarked on or before the next business day. For more information, go to Important dates for corporations.
  • File online: To receive your refund faster, sign up for a direct deposit and file your return online through NETFILE-certified tax software or the services of an authorized service provider who can use the CRA EFILE service
  • Claim all benefits, credits and deductions: Your business may be able to claim tax deductions, credits and/or expenses on your return. Top deductions for business owners include advertising expenses, business-use-of-home expenses, meals and entertainment, office expenses and vehicle expenses.
  • Remit GST: You may be required to register and file a GST/HST return. Your GST due date depends on your tax filing period. Some businesses choose to pay their GST/HST quarterly or annually. For more information on how to (pay) your GST/HST, the CRA has additional guidance here.
  • Reduce adjustments: To reduce the number of changes made to your business return each year, find information about common adjustments, including how to get forms, guides and other publications.
  • Pay on time: To avoid interest charges, pay any balance owed by the deadline. If this is not possible, work out a payment arrangement with the CRA. 
  • Keep receipts/documents: In case you are selected for reviewkeep all receipts/documents for at least six years. If you’re self-employed or a sole proprietor, you may need to keep some of your business records for a longer period of time.
  • 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 contributions 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.

Business taxes are complex and complicated. Consider hiring a CPA. Most 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. 

Need help with your business’ tax returns? 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.

Strategies to Improve your Business’s Accounting

Business accounting

If you want to weather the current economic climate and encourage growth for your business, you need a well-planned and implemented accounting strategy – an approach that tracks revenues, expenditures and profits, systematically. Being on top of your financial situation enables you to make decisions best suited to your circumstances. The following are some strategies to improve your business’s 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. 

Reconcile bank statements

to get a fair picture of your financial health. Make sure the figures in your accounts are registered on your bank statements and vice versa. 

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 and/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.

Make accounting a joint effort

Educate new employees on how your accounting process works and how they can contribute to smooth operations. Ensure that staff are aware of deadlines and cutoffs for payroll, expenses and payment runs. Inform your team of key performance indicators and how they can provide financial information that would support your goals.

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 business. Try these accounting strategies 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 accounting 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.