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.

Common Problems with Business Succession Planning

Business Succession Planning

Operating and growing a business is engaging and demanding. Business owners often become consumed with the day-to-day operations of their company, leaving little time and energy for planning for the future. Eventually, companies change hands; through retirement, transferring of ownership or death. Succession planning is a way to prepare for the future, making transitions smoother and maximizing financial rewards for business owner(s) and/or their heirs.  

What is succession planning?

Succession planning is the process of identifying the critical positions within an organization and developing action plans for individuals to assume these positions. It’s a business strategy used to pass leadership to an employee or group of employees. Succession planning ensures the continuity of a company’s success in the future.

Why do you need a succession plan?

Planning for the future of a company has many and varied benefits. Succession planning:

    • prepares the way for the change of leadership in a company. The right leaders make a difference in the success of an organization. Succession planning ensures the stability of a company and prepares it for growth and change by planning who will lead the organization in the future. 
    • helps a company survive unforeseen events such as death, illness, personal problems, abrupt resignation, arrest, etc. It puts a strategy in place for filling important leadership roles.
    • encourages company owners to think long term. Rather than focusing only on weekly meetings and quarterly earnings, succession planning forces you to think about your company’s future. 
    • motivates communication. Talking about the future promotes communication between departments and/or employees, improving how everyone works together on a daily basis. 
    • saves money. Being unprepared for a sudden vacancy risks incurring significant costs to lure qualified people to your position, on short notice. A documented succession plan saves the costs of hiring outside people for key leadership roles.
    • keeps staff motivated. Succession planning sends a positive message to staff as they are considered for future leadership positions. It increases confidence in a company and motivates the best efforts of employees. 

Common problems with business succession planning:

There are a number of issues and problems to be wary of when planning for the succession of your business. 

    • Lack of Strategy: Make sure you identify your company goals and priorities and that your succession plan lends itself to achieving these. Your plan needs to be a cohesive, overall strategy. 
    • Ambiguity: An effective succession plan provides clear, well-defined guidance for a smooth transition. It identifies key positions and how they will be filled. If it is to be functional, it must be detailed.
    • Procrastination: Many business owners find it difficult to find the time and energy to create a succession plan. Thinking about their mortality, disability and/or future sale of their company seems impossible. Get the process started by bringing in outside help to coordinate the complicated factors associated with preparation for the future. Let the experts (accountant, lawyer, banker, advisor, etc.) help formulate the plan. 
    • Choosing successors by gut rather than data: When choosing successors for key positions in your company, consider performance scores, number and quality of projects completed, engagement survey scores and supervisory/leadership experience. Be careful of making succession decisions solely based on your attitudes and beliefs. These are formed by experience and the experience of any individual is limited. 
    • Making assumptions about your talent: Make a point of understanding the skills, talents and goals of those in your organization. Empower employees to chart their own career development within your business, giving them a sense of control over their careers. Steer clear of assuming you know what they want and whether they’re interested in taking over a leadership role in the future.
    • Forgetting company morale: Discussion of succession can have a negative impact on morale, lead to fear regarding the future of the company and create jealousy and competitiveness. Be straightforward about the process of planning for the future of the company. Encourage discussion and collaboration. Allow employees to air concerns and give them time to get on board with the plan. Make the process simple and open.  
    • Ignoring retention of candidates: It’s important to retain those you are training to lead one day. To fend off head hunters and motivate future leaders to stay with your company, offer development opportunities, training incentives and mentoring. Be clear about why and for what role you have selected them.
    • Considering only executive positions: If you are advancing an internal candidate to an executive position, you will need a competent employee to fill the vacancy you produce. Create a comprehensive strategy to fill executive and middle management positions. This helps avoid issues, making your plan stronger. 
    • Thinking succession planning is complete: Because companies are constantly changing (new products/services, new employees, new markets, additional layers of leadership), the succession plan you have in place will need to be reviewed and tweaked periodically. 
    • Failing to support succession planning with technology: Succession planning software (SAP, Succession Wizard, Cornerstone OnDemand, Plum, UltiPro, TalentGuard, etc.) supports a company by providing insight into the capabilities of employees and their succession potential. It empowers HR to identify skilled employees and accelerate their development and enables them to evaluate, monitor, engage and develop existing talent. 
    • Not maintaining a current, accurate business valuation: Though the succession plan is a means of readying for the future, be prepared to make sudden and challenging choices by keeping a current, accurate valuation of your business. This serves as a benchmark, giving you control and secure data on which to base decisions.

Succession planning is critical to ensuring access to a talent pool for future vacancies. It makes tackling future changes and challenges easier. Align your plan with your goals. Revisit it periodically and adjust as needed. Utilize software to provide data for decision-making and let the experts help ease the process. If you haven’t already formulated one, get started on your succession plan today.   

Need help creating a succession plan for your business? Want to avoid the common challenges of succession planning? Contact Cook and Company Chartered Professional Accountants. Our expert staff will help you navigate the complex maze of succession planning, with ease. 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.

What’s the Difference Between an Auditor and a Tax Accountant?

Auditor and Tax Accountant

Accountants and auditors work with financial statements and ensure they are accurate, up-to-date, and in compliance with various regulatory standards. They require similar skill sets but subtle differences exist in their duties. Organizations and businesses often enlist the services of both tax accountants and auditors when preparing and submitting financial statements. What is the difference between a tax accountant and an auditor? 

Tax Accountant:

Tax accountants specialize in helping businesses and individuals plan for, minimize and file taxes. Accountants influence business practices, cash flow management and how businesses report their earnings to the government. Accounting requires a person who is detail-oriented and focused. Small mistakes can cost millions, particularly for large companies dealing with massive sums of money. An accountant can be a dedicated employee of a company or work for a third party hired by businesses to manage their books and prepare their taxes. An accountant:

  • prepares financial statements (balance sheet, income statement, statement of cash flows, statement of owner equity)
  • undertakes bookkeeping 
  • tracks expenses and revenues 
  • forecasts future profits and cash flows
  • evaluates and addresses tax liability
  • answers complex business tax questions
  • provides corporate tax advice 
  • does tax preparation
  • assists with change in the structure or nature of your company

Auditor:

Auditors ensure that accountants’ work is correct and follows the law. They work with organizations after they’ve made decisions regarding business practices, cash flow management and how to report their earnings to the government. They examine the financial statements prepared by accountants and ensure they represent the company’s financial position accurately. Auditors search for errors or problems. They require the ability to pay attention to detail, but also need strong investigative skills. While auditors sometimes uncover intentional wrongdoing (subterfuge, fraud, misstatements, tax evasion), they typically find unintentional mistakes. Like accountants, an auditor can work internally for a specific company or for a third party, such as a public accounting firm. Many auditors are employed by government and regulatory bodies. Auditors:

  • collate, check and analyze spreadsheet data
  • examine company accounts and financial control systems
  • gauge levels of financial risk within organizations
  • check that financial reports and records are accurate and reliable
  • ensure that assets are protected
  • identify if and where processes are not working as they should and advise on changes needed
  • prepare reports, commentaries and financial statements
  • liaise with managerial staff and present findings and recommendations
  • ensure procedures, policies, legislation and regulations are correctly followed and complied with
  • undertake a review of wages

The key difference between tax accountants and auditors is that tax accountants specialize in helping businesses and individuals plan for, minimize and file taxes while auditors ensure that accountants’ work is correct and following the law. Your business likely needs the services of both a CPA and an auditor.  

As one of Calgary’s most respected business tax and accounting professionals, the Cook & Company team is proud to empower the success of businesses both local and abroad. To learn more about our tax planning and audit & assurance services, give us a call at (403) 398-2486 today or fill out the request for meeting form.

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.

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.

Why Should I See my Accountant in January?

Accountant in January

It’s only January. There’s lots of time before you need to think about tax deductions and filing business taxes. Or, is there? Contacting your certified professional accountant in January is wise. It gives you time to consider and discuss all possible deductions. It gives your accountant time to maximize your deductions and minimize your taxes. Tax laws change constantly. Your accountant will stay abreast of changes and, if given adequate time, may find new tax credits you’re eligible to claim. The health of your business could depend upon it! Contacting your accountant in January has many advantages:

  • Reduce stress: Last-minute tax preparations reduce potential tax planning and create unnecessary stress. Tax minimization requires careful preparation, planning and time. Do your business and yourself a favour and contact your accountant in January. Save yourself from stress and headaches by tackling the problem in advance.
  • Keep your accountant informed: Your accountant can help mitigate losses and solidify successes. To provide these services, they need all the facts. Contact your CPA in January and let them know about any changes in your business (new product line, second location, switching of banks, equipment purchases, etc.) so that they can help plan for the future of your business. 
  • Manage cash flow: Cash flow problems can spiral out of control. Manage your cash flow problems by talking to your accountants. They can help you maintain a healthy cash flow all year. 
  • Keep a handle on growth: An professional accountant has experience handling both revenue growth and capacity growth. They can tell you if you need more customers or if you are unprepared to handle more clients. They can assist your business with financial advice and planning.
  • Stay ahead of changes: Changes to regulations and tax codes are constantly occurring. To stay competitive and receive all possible benefits, you need the help of your accountant. They will ensure compliance with all tax changes.
  • Handle transitions: Changes in your life (inheritance, marriage, divorce, new partners/investors) have accounting and tax implications. Your CPA can help you handle these transitions effectively.
  • Ease budgeting for tax payments: Filing your tax return early gives you information on what you owe the government and an opportunity to plan a payment strategy for your tax bill.
  • Ensure all items are included: Contacting your CPA in January gives you plenty of time to find important or misplaced records and receipts. No last-minute unpleasant surprises!
  • Lower accountancy fees: Take advantage of the lower rates afforded by many professionals during off-peak months to save your bank balance and your stress levels.

Gather all of your business’s essential reports and documents in early January, every year. Include your previous year’s return to help pinpoint your past data and compare it to your present information. Contact your CPA and let them help properly prepare your tax return in a timely manner. By making an appointment to see your accountant in January, you can conquer one of your biggest challenges, filing your business tax return accurately and on time. 

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.

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.