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.

Should You Set up a Trust for Your Assets?

Set up a Trust

You probably know of others who have set up a trust(s) to protect their assets. Maybe you’ve heard mention of trusts on a TV special regarding inheritance and finances. Ever wondered what a trust is? Inquisitive as to how a trust might benefit you, your family and your business? The following is information regarding trusts and how they can protect assets. 

What is a trust?

A trust is a legal entity that allows you to transfer the legal title of an asset(s) to a person while assigning the benefit of the asset to another. The creator or original owner of the asset is called the grantor. The person who manages the trust is known as the trustee (often an attorney or accountant). The person who receives the benefits is known as the beneficiary. Depending upon the type of trust, the grantor can retain the right to make some or all decisions regarding the trust. A well-designed trust helps save time, paperwork and other challenges when settling an estate. It can reduce the amount of estate taxes beneficiaries have to pay when they inherit assets. 

Categories of trusts:

Trusts are either revocable or irrevocable and may take effect during your lifetime or after death.

Revocable trusts are most common and can be changed or revoked at any time. They instruct the trustee on how to distribute your assets to beneficiaries while you’re alive, after death or if you become incapable of doing so. Income from trust-held assets is taxable at Canadian trust tax rates.

Irrevocable trusts are set in stone the minute the agreement is signed. Only in rare circumstances may changes be made. Irrevocable trusts remove the benefactor’s taxable estate assets, meaning they are not subject to estate tax upon death. The benefactor is also relieved of tax responsibility for any income generated by the assets. The trust is protected from creditors and legal judgment.

What are the advantages of a trust?

There are a variety of benefits to the establishment of a trust. You can:

  • Control assets and provide security for both the grantor and the beneficiaries.
  • Provide for beneficiaries who are minors or require expert assistance managing money.
  • Minimize the effects of the estate or income taxes.
  • Provide expert management of estates.
  • Minimize probate expenses.
  • Minimize the time to accomplish probate. 
  • Maintain privacy.
  • Protect real estate holdings and/or a business.

What are the disadvantages of a trust?

There are a few issues to be aware of when considering the establishment of a trust(s).

  • Cost: An estate attorney usually does the paperwork involved in setting up a trust and transferring your assets into the trust.
  • Time: You’ll need to spend time dealing with paperwork. You may need to have uncomfortable conversations about who gets what.
  • May not be necessary: Some people can indeed save on estate taxes with certain trusts, but most estates aren’t subject to estate taxes in the first place.

Reasons to set up a trust:

There are a number of reasons that you may seek to establish a trust(s).  

  • You want to leave assets to minors or young adults
  • You have children from a previous marriage
  • You want a professional to manage your assets when you’re gone
  • You have a disabled or special-needs child
  • You want to support your spouse in the case of his/her incapacity
  • You want to save taxes

If you’re seeking to ensure that your finances are well managed as you pass your assets on, a trust is useful. A trust helps make sure that your assets are directed toward the people and causes that are important to you. 

Need help understanding the benefits of a trust? Want assistance setting up a trust? 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.

Estate Planning Questions to Ask Your Accountant

Estate Planning Questions

When you hear the phrase “estate planning” you likely think of death, taxes and a will. These are important parts of estate planning but they’re not the full picture. 

What is estate planning?

Estate planning involves setting up a plan that establishes who will eventually receive your assets and makes known how you want your affairs to be handled in the event you are unable to handle them on your own. Estate planning is about people; who they love and how they wish to provide for them. It’s not only about death but also about preparing for the possibility of becoming dependent through age, disability or injury. 

What is the role of your accountant in estate planning?

Intricate knowledge of taxes allows your accountant to keep you informed regarding the tax implications of your estate plan. They ensure that your plan minimizes taxes and maximizes the portion of your estate that can be passed on to your beneficiaries. Your accountant works together with your lawyer to help:

  • Clearly define your estate planning goals.
  • Organize and create your estate planning team (experts on law, finance, and taxes).
  • Evaluate and recommend estate planning options.
  • Prepare, organize and review your estate planning documents including current wills, trusts, health care and power of attorney.
  • Decrease the problems and expenses associated with probate.
  • Lessen taxes at the time of death.
  • Arrange for management of your estate in the event you are incapacitated.
  • Draft a working plan for conserving and effectively managing your estate after death.
  • Transfer the assets of your estate to heirs the way you want.
  • Organize fair and adequate liquidation of estate to cover taxes and other expenses.
  • Amend your plan as needed.

Your accountant is as helpful as your lawyer when planning your will, discussing accounts, debts, and assets, determining bequeathals, deciding who you’d like to have as executor of your estate/joint bank accounts and who you’d prefer as Power of Attorney for your affairs if you become incapacitated. Both professionals guide you in making the best decisions for you and those you leave behind.

Who needs estate planning?

If you wish your estate distributed according to your wishes as opposed to statutory guidelines, you need an estate plan. If you have assets that are susceptible to high taxes, estate planning is beneficial. If you own a business, estate planning is essential. If you want planned distributions of benefits for your descendants, estate planning is helpful. If any of your heirs need financial assistance upon your passing, estate planning is for you.

Questions to ask your accountant regarding your estate planning:

  • Can you help with probate? Your accountant will have a thorough understanding of your assets and tax liabilities enabling him to deal with the probate process quickly. Much of the work involved in probate is familiar to an accountant.
  • Can you handle my accounts when I pass? An accountant can manage a deceased’s accounts while the estate is being settled. This ensures heirs that money is being managed and spent properly. 
  • Who will prepare my final tax return? Accountants can handle final income tax returns, as well as the estate tax return. They understand what taxes need to be paid at the provincial and federal levels, exemptions that exist for particular circumstances and how to help your estate save money.
  • Can you help my beneficiaries? A CPA is able to help heirs with their individual tax filing (at provincial and federal levels) avoiding costly government fines and reducing family discord. 
  • Can you help with the tax obligations of the estate? Estates have many tax obligations especially if your estate has several assets. Your accountant can handle these tax matters, help calculate the value of your estate and determine the impact of the tax laws. An account makes sure you fulfill your tax obligations, avoiding the risk of costly fees and penalties. 

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is hard. Simplify your heirs’ situation with estate planning so that they need not undergo a stressful ordeal. When it comes to the financial intricacies of your business and its future, consult a team of financial professionals who can offer a specialized set of expertise. Your accountant can help you prevent fines, fees and penalties. They can ensure all aspects of estate accounting are complete and accurate. Protect your legacy for your loved ones. Take charge of your financial endowments. Talk to your accountant today. 

Need help ensuring that the money and assets you’ve worked hard to build aren’t destroyed after you’re gone? Want help with business estate planning? Contact Cook and Company Chartered Professional Accountants. Our expert staff will help you navigate the complex maze of estate planning with ease. 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.

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.

Investing: FAQ’s

Investing FAQs

With low-interest rates for savings accounts and a high rate of inflation, saving is no longer adequate to ensure financial security. You need to make your money work for you by investing it. However, the idea of investing can seem intimidating. If you’re just beginning your journey of investing and have some hesitation, read on for our answers to the most frequently asked questions about investing. 

What is the difference between saving and investing?

Saving is the practice of putting money aside for future use (mortgage payments, emergencies, retirement). Investing involves putting your money to work for you (through stocks, bonds, property, mutual funds, etc.) with the intention of increasing its value over time.

Why should I invest?

Investing allows you to grow your wealth and meet your financial goals (purchasing a home, preparing for retirement, building an emergency fund). It can also minimize your tax liability. Before choosing where to invest you need to balance your potential gains with the risk involved. You may choose very safe investment options (ie: GICs) medium-risk choices (ie: corporate bonds) or high-risk picks (ie: REITs). It’s important to have a variety of investment types in order to create a safe, well-rounded, diversified portfolio.

When should I invest?

The longer you invest, the less impact the short-term ups and downs of the market have upon your return. Consider investing as soon as you can. 

How much should I invest?

Invest the maximum amount that you can comfortably afford. Pay off your high-cost debt, set aside an emergency fund, provide for living expenses and short-term goals. Then invest the rest.

Is investing risky?

All investments carry some risk. The goal is to manage the risks. Have a plan and diversify your portfolio. Divide your money among many types of investments based on your risk tolerance and timeline. 

What do I need to consider?

There are a number of factors to keep in mind; your risk tolerance, your timeline (thinking about your future needs for money), your knowledge of investing, your financial situation and how much you can realistically invest. 

What are the different types of investment strategies?

  • Growth investing strategies are most suitable if you are a long-term investor and are willing to withstand market ups and downs. They involve investing in growth stocks; young or small companies whose earnings are expected to increase at an above-average rate. Growth investment is risky as young and/or small companies are untried.
  • Value investing is an investment strategy that involves picking stocks that appear to be trading for less than their intrinsic or book value. Investors who use this strategy hope the stock price will rise as more people come to appreciate the true intrinsic value of the company’s fundamental business.
  • Momentum investing involves buying stocks experiencing an uptrend with the belief that they will continue to do so. This investment strategy often uses a data-driven approach to trading, looking for patterns in stock prices to guide purchasing decisions.
  • Dollar-cost averaging is the practice of making regular investments in the market over time and can be used with any of the above methods. This disciplined approach is particularly powerful when you use automated features that invest for you.

Does age affect which investment strategy I should choose?

Goals and strategies for investment often shift with age. Young investors with a long timeline might feel comfortable with risky investments. Older investors often focus on preserving their savings for retirement and tend to emphasize diversification and dollar-cost averaging.

What are the most common types of investments?

  • Stocks: Companies sell shares of stock to raise money for start-up or growth. When you invest in stocks, you’re buying a share of ownership in a corporation. You’ve become a shareholder. Investment returns and risks for stocks vary, depending on factors such as the economy, the political scene, the company’s performance and other stock market factors.
  • Bonds: When you buy a bond, you’re lending money to a company or governmental entity, such as a city, province or country. Bonds are issued for a set period of time during which interest payments are made to the bondholder. At the end of the set period of time (maturity date), the bond issuer is required to repay the face value of the bond (the original loan amount).
  • Mutual funds pool cash from investors to buy stocks, bonds or other assets offering investors an inexpensive way to diversify. They are operated by professional money managers, who allocate the fund’s assets and attempt to produce capital gains or income for the fund’s investors. A mutual fund’s portfolio is structured and maintained to match the investment objectives stated in its prospectus.
  • Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are like mutual funds in that they pool investor money to buy a collection of securities, providing a single diversified investment. They can be structured to track anything from the price of an individual commodity to a large and diverse collection of securities. The difference from mutual funds is how ETFs are sold. Investors buy shares of ETFs just like they would buy shares of an individual stock.
  • Real estate: Traditional real estate investing involves buying a property and selling it later for a profit, or owning property and collecting rent as a form of fixed income. Another option is to invest in a REIT. A real estate investment trust (REIT) is a company that owns, operates, or finances income-generating real estate. Modelled after mutual funds, REITs pool the capital of numerous investors making it possible for individual investors to earn dividends from real estate investment without having to buy, manage, or finance any properties themselves. 
  • Annuities: An annuity is a contract between you and an insurance company in which the company promises to make periodic payments to you, starting immediately or at some future time. You buy an annuity either with a single payment or a series of payments called premiums.
  • Guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) is a deposit investment sold by Canadian banks and trust companies. People often purchase them for retirement plans because they provide a low-risk fixed rate of return and are insured, to a degree, by the Canadian government. 
  • Cryptocurrency is a kind of digital electronic-only currency that is intended to act as a medium of exchange. It’s become popular in the last decade, with Bitcoin becoming the leading digital currency. Cryptocurrency is good for risk-seeking investors who wouldn’t mind if their investment goes to zero in exchange for the potential of much higher returns.
  • Life insurance products are often a part of an overall financial plan. They come in various forms, including term life, whole life and universal life policies. 

Investing is a great way to build your wealth over time. There is a range of investment options, from safe lower-return assets to riskier, higher-return ones. You’ll need to understand the pros and cons of each investment option and how they fit into your overall financial plan in order to make an informed decision. While it seems daunting at first, many investors manage their own assets while others work through a brokerage account.

Looking for investment advice for your business? 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.

All About Deductible Business Expenses in Canada

Deductible Business Expenses

It may seem distant, but tax season will soon be upon us! It’s time to gather your receipts and organize your documents in preparation for filing your business tax return. Sole proprietorships use the same tax schedule as individuals, so returns are due on April 15. If your business is a corporation or a partnership, the return is due on March 15. Canada Revenue Agency offers a number of tax deductions to business owners. Some are deductible at 100% while you may only claim a portion of others. The following are some deductions you’ll want to keep in mind as you file your business taxes this year. 

  • Capital cost allowance: When your business purchases items such as buildings, computers, computer equipment, vehicles and/or a franchise, you can depreciate these articles over time providing a tax benefit for several years.
  • Bad debts are debts that remain unpaid after you have exhausted all means to collect. The CRA allows you to claim bad debts except those which are for a mortgage or resulting from a conditional sales agreement.
  • Start-up costs are costs incurred preceding the start of business operation and can be claimed as an expense. 
  • Fees, licenses and dues: You can claim fees for professional licenses, professional service fees and professional association fees (membership in a trade or commercial association).
  • Use of home expenses: If you operate your business from home, you can claim a portion of the following: interest on your mortgage, electricity costs, home insurance and heating costs. 
  • Delivery, freight and express: You can claim fees for services such as mail and delivery.
  • Fuel costs: You can deduct the cost of fuel (gasoline, diesel, propane) motor oil and lubricants used in your business. This does not include fuel used in your motor vehicle. 
  • Insurance: You can deduct all business insurance policies such as general business liability, business property insurance, business interruption insurance and fire insurance. You cannot deduct the insurance for your motor vehicle or your life insurance premiums.  
  • Interest and bank charges: You can write off any interest you have incurred on money borrowed for business purposes or to acquire property for business purposes and bank charges which are given when processing your payments.
  • Maintenance and repairs: You can deduct the cost of labour and materials for any minor repairs or maintenance done to property you use to earn business income.
  • Management and administration fees:  You can deduct any fees you paid to have your assets and investments managed.
  • Meals and entertainment:  When you attend a convention, conference, or similar event you can claim up to 50% of the cost for food, beverages, plane tickets, hotel rooms and gratuities. When you take a client to an entertainment or sporting event, you can claim 50% of the cost of tickets, entrance fees, cover charges, food, beverages, gratuities and room rental for a hospitality suite.
  • Motor vehicle expenses: If you incur expenses through the use of your personal vehicle for business purposes, you can claim those expenses by keeping an accurate log of use. If your business owns a vehicle or a fleet of vehicles, you can claim fuel, insurance, parking, repairs and maintenance. 
  • Legal, accounting and other professional fees: You can deduct the fees you incurred for external professional advice and/or services such as accounting and legal fees.
  • Prepaid expenses are expenses you pay ahead of time such as yearly rent and can be claimed.
  • Office expenses can be deducted such as the cost of pens, pencils, paper clips, stationery and stamps.
  • Other business expenses are expenses you incur to earn income that are not included on a previous line of your claim such as disability-related modifications, computer and other equipment leasing costs, property leasing costs, convention expenses, allowable reserves private health services plan (PHSP) premiums and undeducted premiums.
  • Property taxes: You can deduct property taxes you incurred for property used in your business such as taxes for the land and building where your business is located.
  • Rent: You can deduct rent incurred for property used in your business such as rent for the land and building where your business is located.
  • Salaries, wages and benefits: You can deduct gross salaries and other benefits you pay to employees but not a salary paid to yourself or your business partner.
  • Supplies: You can deduct the cost of items your business used indirectly to provide goods or services such as drugs and medication used in a veterinary operation, cleaning supplies used by a plumber, supplies used to manufacture a product or software used to supply a service.
  • Telephone and utilities: You can deduct costs for telephone and utilities (gas, oil, electricity, water, and cable) if you incurred the expenses to earn income.
  • Travel: You can deduct up to 50% of travel expenses incurred to earn business and professional income such as public transportation fares, hotel accommodations and meals.
  • Cloud Computing Service Fees: Cloud computing provides access to business data and applications from anywhere, at any time, on any mobile device and may be claimed as a business expense.
  • Donations: Don’t forget that you can claim donations made to registered charities, registered Canadian amateur athletic associations, registered national arts service organizations, registered Canadian low-cost housing corporations, government bodies, registered municipal or public bodies, registered universities, certain registered foreign charitable organizations and the United Nations. 
  • Advertising: You can deduct expenses for advertising and promotion, including amounts you paid for business cards and promotional gifts. You can also deduct expenses for advertising in Canadian newspapers, on Canadian television, Canadian radio stations and online or digital advertising.

 

When in Doubt: Check with your accountant or with the Canada Revenue Agency if you’re in doubt about the tax deduction potential of a particular business expense. 

Allowable tax deductions are constantly changing. If you’re not aware of or don’t understand all of the deductions possible, don’t despair! Get in touch with your CPA. No matter what type of business you operate, what size your business is or where you operate from, your CPA will ensure that you receive all the deductions you’re entitled to. Let your CPA help you determine how much you can save this year.

For all your tax needs contact Cook and Company Accountants. Whether you operate a sole proprietorship or a sizable corporation with multiple subsidiaries, we can use our experience and expertise to make tax time a breeze. Contact us to request a meeting.

How Does Passive Income Affect Corporate Taxes?

Passive Income Affects Corporate Taxes

Passive income can have a financial impact on a corporation’s tax burden. Strategic planning can reduce the impact of passive income on your corporation’s bottom line.

What is passive income?

Your business may generate income from many sources. Passive income is derived from the ownership of capital property/assets. It’s generally earned through rental, interest income and/or royalties and is achieved without excessive effort on the part of the stakeholder(s). Passive income is taxable in Canada.

What is considered passive income in Canada?

  • Investments: Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs) and personal savings accounts are low-yield sources of passive income. Moderate-risk investments like dividends from shares of a corporation are also considered passive income. Passive income can be earned through investments that are part of a non-registered investment plan or portfolio. 
  • Rental properties: Income earned through the leasing of a rental property is considered passive income. 
  • Online platforms are an increasingly popular method of earning passive income. Earning money online can be done independently through one’s own website or through partnerships with affiliates.
  • Corporations: Many corporations own shares in other corporations as a means to generate passive income.

How does passive income affect corporate tax in Canada?

Passive income in any amount is ineligible for the small business deduction (SBD). As such, corporations receiving any passive income will pay a high-rate corporate tax (upwards of 50%) on that portion of their pre-tax income.

Strategies to reduce the impact of passive income on corporate tax:

There are a number of ways that your corporation can reduce the impact of passive income on your corporate taxes. 

  • Withdrawals to permit RRSP or TFSA contributions: Consider withdrawing sufficient corporate funds to maximize your RRSP and TFSA contributions, rather than leaving the funds inside the corporation for investment. Given sufficient time, RRSP and TFSA investing will outperform corporate investing when earnings come from interest, eligible dividends, annual capital gains or a balanced portfolio. 
  • Tax-free withdrawals: If a shareholder previously made a loan to the corporation, and those funds are no longer required by the corporation, consider repaying the shareholder loan. Capital dividends can be paid without being included in a shareholder’s income. 
  • Investment strategies: Consider investments that lean towards growth rather than annual interest or dividend income, as you may better be able to time the recognition of a capital gain. Consider a “buy and hold” strategy to defer capital gains. It may also be possible to stagger dispositions of investments between calendar years.
  • Individual pension plans: An Individual Pension Plan (IPP) is a pension plan created for one person, rather than a large group of employees. 
  • Life insurance: Invest the after-tax income of the corporation into a corporately-owned life insurance policy that insures the life of the business owner or some other individual. There is generally a lower after-tax cost of the insurance premiums, which can be paid with funds that are taxed at a lower tax rate inside the corporation than funds that are earned personally. 
  • Donations: Your corporation will receive a deduction for the amount of the donation and making a donation will reduce the funds that may be invested in your corporation to produce passive income.

Be sure to discuss all tax strategies with your chartered professional accountant to make sure they are appropriate for your corporation. Your accountant can advise you regarding the best tactics to reduce the impact of passive income on your corporation’s tax burden. 

Need help with your passive income taxation strategies? 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, financial and succession planning services for a wide variety of privately-owned and managed companies. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.

Tax Questions Frequently Asked by the Self-Employed

Self Employed Tax

If you’re self-employed, tax time can be confusing. Do you pay the same tax rate as an employee? What expenses can you deduct? When do you file? Can you get employment insurance? The following are some answers to the tax questions most frequently asked by the self-employed.

Do I qualify as self-employed?

According to the Canada Revenue Agency, a self-employed individual usually works independently. The worker does not have anyone overseeing their activities and is free to work when and for whom they choose. They may provide their services to different payers at the same time and can accept or refuse work from the payer. They typically use their own tools, space and equipment. The working relationship between the payer and the worker does not present a degree of continuity, loyalty, security, subordination, or integration, all of which are generally associated with an employer-employee relationship. The worker is responsible for paying provincial and/or federal sales taxes and may claim certain deductions as business expenses. 

Examples of self-employed positions:

  • Property and real estate managers
  • Farmers and ranchers
  • Brickmasons and blockmasons
  • Food Service Managers
  • Painters (construction and maintenance)
  • Carpenters
  • Lodging Managers
  • Tile and Marble Setters
  • Artists
  • Massage therapists
  • Financial advisers
  • Freelance writers
  • Independent business consultants
  • Local handypersons
  • Food truck owners
  • Photographers
  • Make-up artists
  • Event planners
  • Hairstylists
  • Tutors 

Do I need to charge GST/HST?

According to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), if you sell taxable goods or services in Canada and you are registered for a GST/HST account, you must charge your customers GST/HST for your province or territory. You must remit all net tax owing when you file your taxes. Be sure to keep records of the amount of GST/HST you’ve collected and how much you’ve paid on business expenses.

When do I file?

Self-employed individuals must file, like everyone, by April 30th. 

Can I deduct my kids and/or spouse?

If they work for you, you can pay your significant other and/or kids. The money paid to them is tax-deductible, as long as the salary you’ve paid them is reasonable for the work they’ve done. 

Can I get employment insurance?

To be eligible for EI, (including maternity, parental, sickness and compassionate care leave) you have to register.

How much should I set aside for taxes?

Set aside between 15 and 25 percent of your gross earnings to avoid the shock of an unmanageable tax bill at the end of the year.

What deductions can I claim?

Self-employed workers can take advantage of more write-offs than employees bringing home a T4. They can claim:

  • Operating expenses (rental on space, office supplies, repairs, maintenance, inventory, payroll, utilities, professional fees)
  • Home office expenses: If you run your business from your home and use the space for the majority of your activities, then you can deduct a fraction of the cost of your home rent for the tax period. 
  • Meals and entertainment costs associated with a self-employed business are eligible for tax write-offs as sanctioned by the CRA. These costs must be incurred in the company’s name (client dinners, employee lunches, etc.) and only 50% of the total cost of the meals and entertainment can be written off. You’ll need to show evidence that the food or entertainment costs were reasonably and appropriately used for your business. A guide to claiming meals and entertainment can be found on the CRA site.
  • Travel: The CRA allows tax write-offs for self-employed persons who travel outside their usual area of business for work-related reasons (meet a client, pick up inventory, attend a professional conference).
  • Vehicle expenses: Personal vehicle use is not eligible for any type of write-off, but a fraction of such costs can be written-off if you drive your car for work-related reasons. You’ll need to track your mileage. If a vehicle is only used for business purposes, then almost all costs associated with its running are eligible for deductions (gas, mileage, repairs, maintenance, insurance, oil changes).
  • Advertising/marketing: A part of your advertising and marketing costs can be deducted. 
  • Websites and software: The CRA dictates that certain costs associated with your business website are tax-deductible (software/website development, cost of products, contractor fees for installation and/or technical help). 
  • Bad debt refers to money owed to you by others that cannot be paid back. It’s uncollectible revenue and it is considered a business expense. In order for bad debt to be expensed and written-off, you must have done one of two things: establish that an account receivable is a bad debt expense within the specific tax year and/or include the bad debt in your receivable income. Then you are able to claim bad debt under business expenses using the T2125 form.
  • Private health service premiums: If you pay for a private health plan each year, then the premiums you pay on that plan are tax-deductible. 
  • Industry/professional fees: The expenses associated with professional certification required to work in your industry are eligible for write-offs (licenses, certifications, dues and requirements).
  • Professional development and educational expenses: Further learning and professional development can be deducted from your personal returns. 
  • Interest and bank charges attached to your business accounts can be written off. There are strict limits on the interest you can deduct depending on what the loan was for. 

The Canada Revenue Agency states that business income is income from any activity you carry out for profit. If you’re self-employed, you likely earn income from a business that you operate either as a sole proprietor or with someone else as your partner. It could include income from a business, profession, commission sales, farming, or fishing activities. You’ll need to file your taxes in a very specific way in order to meet CRA requirements.

 

Need advice and/or assistance filing your self-employed tax return? Need help determining tax deductions for your home office? 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, financial and succession planning services for a wide variety of privately-owned and managed companies. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.