Corporate Tax

To Incorporate or Not to Incorporate

Should I Incorporate my business… This is a very common question, and the answer isn’t always clear. It depends on your current situation, your future plans, and some best/worst-case scenario analysis. We’ll look at the various factors/benefits and drawbacks.

If you’re not incorporated…

If your business is not incorporated, you report your business income and expenses with a schedule on your personal tax return. The net income is included in your taxable income and you pay tax based on your marginal personal tax rates. On the flip side, if you have a net loss, that amount can be deducted from your other sources of income.

What does it mean to Incorporate?

When you Incorporate a business, you create a separate legal entity. Your business operations occur within this entity.

What are the benefits to incorporating:

  1. Separate legal entity. Corporations can own property, obtain loans, and enter into contracts. If the owner happens to die, the corporation lives on.
  2. Easier access to capital. Corporations can often borrow money at lower rates or more diverse lending options.
  3. Lower tax rates. In Alberta, the small business corporate tax rate is 11%. This rate is considerably less than the marginal personal tax rate of 25%-48% in Alberta. This personal tax rate doesn’t include the Canada Pension Plan payment requirements of up to $6,332.90 (based on 2021 rates).
  4. Limited liability. A corporation can protect you from being personally liable for certain business liabilities.

What are drawbacks of incorporating:

  1. Corporate tax filing requirements. The cost of preparation of a T2 Corporate tax return is often significantly higher than that of a business schedule on a personal tax return.
  2. Record-keeping requirements. In addition to the revenues and expenses, you’ll need to track the assets and liabilities of the corporation. This can add considerable costs in record/bookkeeping.
  3. Other costs. It costs money to incorporate: the basic costs to incorporate, a name search, maintaining your corporate Minute Book, and Annual Return filings.

Should you Incorporate your Business?

Answer: That all depends on your circumstances. The benefits must outweigh the additional costs and filing obligations. Here are some factors to consider when looking at your options:

  1. What are your earnings in your business? Do you earn at least $20,000 more than what you need to live on and would appreciate saving on personal tax? This is the point where the benefits start to make sense when considering the cost of incorporation. If you have net business losses in the start-up phase of your business, it may be beneficial to NOT incorporate and use the losses to offset your earnings from other sources. In the same way, if your business earns approximately what you require to live on, there are generally very few tax savings to warrant the costs and efforts involved in incorporating.
  2. Do you have other business partners or a need to raise money? Incorporating can add flexibility in how owners are compensated. Corporations also have more flexibility in obtaining financing from lenders or raising capital through investors.
  3. What sort of risks is inherent to your business? Can someone sue you? What is the likelihood of a lawsuit? If there is a chance that you could have uninsurable losses, you may wish to consider incorporating. The corporate entity could shield personal assets from lawsuits or unforeseen business operation losses.
  4. Do you have other needs? Do you require the appearance of being a little more established or sophisticated in the business world? Will potential customers/clients respect you more if you’re incorporated? Perhaps you simply won’t qualify to obtain a sales contract if you’re not incorporated.

Let’s take a look at some real-life examples.

Scenario 1:

Dylan is a fantastic artist and his friends have convinced him to sell his works online. He works at building this dream in his spare evenings and weekends. He’s using his savings and day job earnings to fund the start-up costs for his new business. It’ll take time to establish his brand, build his website, and perfect his product before sales start to increase.

Dylan should probably NOT incorporate. He will likely have a net loss from his first year or two of operations. These losses can be used to reduce his other forms of taxable income on his personal tax return. He’s better off avoiding the excess costs to incorporate and enjoy the personal tax savings writing off his business losses.

Scenario 2:

Casey is a real estate agent. Casey has been reporting their net business income on their personal tax returns for years. Over the last few years, Casey has found that the earnings from business activities are quite a bit more than what they require to comfortably live on.

Casey could likely benefit from incorporation. When net business income is at least $20,000 more than what is required for living, earning money through a corporation (and benefiting from small business tax rates) can be a fantastic way to defer some tax. Casey would draw from the corporation when they need to live on and report the related compensation (salary and/or dividends) on their personal taxes. Excess earnings remain in the corporation and are not taxed personally. The greater the earnings over the living requirements, the greater the tax deferral. A business owner earning a net $400,000 while only requiring $90,000 can see tremendous tax savings from incorporation making it well worth the costs to incorporate.

Scenario 3:

Ava, Marissa and Lauren are Engineers. They want to combine their efforts and offer consulting and design services. Marissa is only able to work half-time as she has demanding family obligations. They wish to take advantage of as many research grants as possible.

This Engineering company would benefit from Incorporation for a number of reasons:

  • A separate entity would allow for flexibility in allocating compensation to its various owners. All three can be equal owners of the corporation, but their wages can be determined based on their efforts.
  • Many grants require that businesses be incorporated in order to receive funds. The company may also require bank financing for projects/equipment.n incorporated company may appear more sophisticated to potential customers/clients/collaborative partners. There is a strong chance that certain contracts may require the company to be incorporated.

Scenario 4:

Martin has worked as a truck driver for years. He’s always dreamed of owning his own rig and being his own boss. He has finally saved enough for a down payment on a truck and has lined up fairly steady work allowing him to quit his day job.

Martin may wish to consider incorporating. With his line of work, there is potential for accidents. Should the unthinkable happen and insurance not fully cover the fallout, his personal assets could be exposed to this liability. The separate corporate entity would allow him to declare bankruptcy within the corporation and walk away from the liabilities.

Keep in mind that situations can always change in your business. If it doesn’t look like now is the right time to incorporate, it’s fairly simple to incorporate at a later date. Talk to your experienced, qualified Chartered Professional Accountant about the right path for you. If you don’t yet have a trusted advisor, we’d be happy to help!

Behind every small to medium enterprise is a person. Does your corporate tax strategy consider the person that is the entrepreneur?

A tax strategy should consider both the corporate tax AND personal tax implications.

What mix puts the most dollars in your jeans at the end of the day?

Open and honest communication with your accountant is critical.

Does your accountant know YOU as well as your business?

Knowing YOU is a critical factor in deciding on the best solution for owner compensation. Without a full understanding of your situation, the wrong compensation plan can cost you big bucks.

What do you have going on in your household for tax purposes?

  1. Do you have a spouse? What is their income level?
  2. Do you have other sources of income? Giant expenses to deduct this year?
  3. Significant life changes planned in the next year or two? A new house, children, a marriage, a divorce? Retirement plans?
  4. What is your five-year plan?
  5. What about children? How old are they? Plans for post-secondary education?
  6. Does anyone in your household have medical issues or disabilities?

I’ve often said that the more I know about my clients, the more opportunities for tax savings. A corporate tax strategy that fails to consider these factors isn’t much of a plan.

The corporate tax strategy should be pro-active.

  1. AVOID PERSONAL TAX SURPRISES. Based on your corporate activities, what is your personal tax bill going to be? What are some opportunities to mitigate that personal tax hit? RRSPs? Donations? (One of my favorite clients has me calculate how many charitable donations are required to eliminate his personal tax bill each year. That guy makes my heart smile.)
  2. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF LOWER TAX BRACKETS. Perhaps your personal income is low this year, but you are planning on buying a house next year. You were planning on drawing significantly more out of your corporation for the down payment. It’s likely a terrible idea to have personal income in 2020 of $20,000 and $200,000 in 2021. Smooth this out over the two years so that you’re taking full advantage of the pleasant tax brackets in 2020 and avoiding the ugly brackets in 2021. Think about bumping up your income to $120,000 in 2020 and buying an RRSP to take advantage of the Home Buyers Plan for that down payment (if you qualify).
  3. INCOME SPLITTING OPPORTUNITIES. In a family business, everyone pitches in at some point or another. Should you consider paying your spouse a wage? Can you justify putting your children on the payroll? ***NOT YOUR TODDLER*** Perhaps your older child helps clean up the shop or organize paperwork. Pay them a reasonable and justifiable wage instead of an allowance. From there, they can pay for their own expenses or college savings.
  4. DO NOT PROCRASTINATE. The longer you wait to supply your year-end to your accountant, the fewer tax planning opportunities there are. Keep on top of things and get your corporate documents to your accountant within a month or two of your year-end. I picture my October year-end guy that brings his year-end to me in April. There is very little I can recommend for him to reduce the corporate tax bill or his personal tax bill. To further rub salt in those tax bill wounds, he typically has to pay interest and penalties for late remittances.

Do you think you have a “one strategy for all” accountant? I’d be happy to provide a second opinion in a complimentary consultation. Contact Richardson Miller LLP today!

The ongoing discussion of Salary versus Dividends has got to be one of the oldest debates since the dawn of complex taxation. Over the years, I’ve heard many people (accountants included) preach that dividends are the way to go. I cringe at these “one size fits all” solutions.

Salary versus Dividends – how to choose

The increasing Canada Pension Plan (CPP) rates make a dividend only compensation strategy tempting, but consider this:

  1. Childcare costs can only be deducted against employment (or self-employment) income. If you have dividend-only income, those daycare receipts could be worthless at personal tax time.
  2. Did you move during the year? Moving expenses can only be deducted against employment income.
  3. Do you have a health spending account in your corporation? This is only deductible in your corporation if you are an employee of your corporation. You are not an employee if you are only paid a dividend.
  4. Dividends are grossed up on your personal taxes. This means that your taxable income is essentially inflated for calculating credits and programs that are income-dependent. Dividends will mean reduced Child Tax Benefits or GST credits. For older entrepreneurs, it can mean clawed back Old Age Security benefits.

Perhaps dividends are the most cost-effective method of compensation for you. Consider taking a tiny wage from your corporation so that you are technically an employee and can access benefits and tax credits aimed at people who report T4 income.

Be aware of the consequences of dividend-only compensation.

  1. No (or reduced) CPP benefits. Think retirement plan and disability payments. Consider taking those employer and employee CPP savings and locking them into a long-term investment plan to save for the lost future benefits.
  2. No accumulation of RRSP contribution room.

The answer isn’t simple and each individual situation needs to be evaluated separately. Depending on the various taxation policies at provincial and federal levels of government, the ideal compensation strategy can flip flop annually. Make sure your accountant is aware of any changes in your household and personal plans.

Richardson Miller LLP is here to help you with all of your Accounting needs. Contact us today.

Getting paid should be easy.

Many entrepreneurs struggle with cash flow and wish they had more money in the bank. One of the most significant keys maintaining a healthy cash balance is collecting accounts receivable in a timely manner.

Here are some tips and tricks to ensure you’re collecting your accounts receivables as fast as possible.

Stay on top of your invoicing.

Picture the entrepreneur that is too busy doing the work to invoice his customer. Most people would agree that there is very little point to working in your business if you never receive any money. Hire staff/contractors to help you with this if you are too busy.

    • Invoice for work completed as soon as possible. If your customer typically takes 30 days to pay your invoice, the extra time that the paper sits on your desk equals added extra days before that money lands in your bank account.
    • After delivery of the invoice, consider following up with your customer to ensure that they have received your invoice as well as any other documents and information required for payment. This may include PO numbers, proof of delivery, etc. Missing information can add days/weeks or more to your collection time.
    • Consider automating your internal processes to save time in paper processing.
    • Ensure that your staff are aware that invoicing is a priority and that you have the manpower to get the task done on time.

Call and ask for the money.

Don’t be too busy to remember to call and collect from your customers. The money doesn’t land in your bank account any faster by sitting, hoping and waiting.

    • As time passes, consider simply picking up the phone and calling the customer. If your customer normally pays within 30 days and its day 35. Perhaps a gentle reminder is all that they need. Perhaps there are other circumstances.
    • It’s important that your customer be aware that they have bills to pay. Be the squeaky wheel. If they are in a tight cash flow position, when there is cash available for payments, you want your invoice to be on the top of the list.
    • Often calling and collecting money ends up on the bottom of the priority list for busy staff. Ensure that staff know that collection activities are a priority and consider hiring help as required.

Offer quick and easy payment options.

    • Do you accept electronic payments? E-transfers? Credit cards? While the merchant fees on credit card payments can cut into your profit, so can paying interest on your operating line of credit… or not being paid at all. There are many mobile debit and credit card processing options. If your customer is the general public, strongly consider some of these immediate payment alternatives.
    • Electronic and card payments can eliminate the old “the check is in the mail” excuse. Mailing payment can add an additional week to your collection time. Mention your electronic payment options so that your customer can also save money on postage

Offer discounts on quick payments or charge interest.

    • Does it make sense to offer your customers a few percent off of their bill if they pay immediately or within 15 days?
    • Alternatively, consider charging interest on late payments. Often people will delay paying you simply because there is no consequence to not paying you.

Evaluate your policies for granting credit.

    • Who are you offering goods and services to without knowing of their ability to pay?
    • Do your customers have to fill out a credit application?
    • Do you obtain their credit history?
    • Do you have internal controls that prevent sales staff to extend additional credit when previous invoices have not been paid?
    • Consider obtaining a retainer or deposit.

Know your legal rights.

    • If your customer is delaying payment, can you place a lien on a property? Make sure you are aware of your options and any applicable deadlines to register such liens.
    • What are your options with small claims court?
    • What are your rights to collect on invoices outstanding for over a year or two?
    • Develop a relationship with a good collection agent to assist with difficult cases.

Stay current on your record keeping.

You don’t know what you don’t know. Get meaningful financial reporting on a timely basis.

    • Current financial records will indicate exactly who still owes you money. Keep on top of bookkeeping and reconciling your bank account. Review your accounts receivable listing regularly.
    • Become immediately aware of any NSF payments by your customers.
    • If you take your box of records to a bookkeeper quarterly or annually, you may not realize that your customers invoice over 60 days old. Perhaps monthly bookkeeping options would be better for your operations.
    • Even with very simple operations with very few customers, it’s easy to forget that an invoice is outstanding.

Need assistance with bookkeeping or automating your invoicing processes? Send me an email angela@rmllp.ca.

Is your choice of Corporate Year-End timing critical?

You’ve incorporated… did you know that you can CHOOSE when your year-end can be?  It’s true! You do not have to have a December 31 year-end. This is a very common misconception.

Deadlines to keep in mind:

For most small to medium businesses in Canada:

  • Your corporate taxes are due within 3 months of your year-end.
  • You need to file your corporate tax return within 6 months of your year-end.
  • T4s and T5s for any wages and dividends paid must be filed by February 28.

Imagine how busy the professional accountants would during the months of January and February!

The virtues of a non-December 31 year-end:

  1. Your accountant will have more time/energies to devote to your year-end.

This is a sad, but true fact.  Many professional accountants are crazy busy during January through to the end of April.  You’re likely going to get slightly better customer service during slower times of the year.

  1. Opportunities for tax planning and deferrals.

If you’ve got a December 31 year-end, this means that your personal tax year-end equals your corporate year-end.  Any funds drawn for your corporation MUST be reported on your personal taxes in that year (unless repayment plans are in place). These numbers must be reported as part of your tax return when you file your corporate tax returns.

Any other year-end date allows for so much more flexibility with respect to when these funds were drawn and repaid.

How to choose a year-end:

  1. Approximately 12 months after you incorporate.

This option gives you the most bang for your accounting dollar with 12 months included in your corporate tax return filing.  For example, you incorporate on April 17.

Without other considerations, a March 31 year-end would be a reasonable choice.  Why would you have financial statements and a corporate tax return prepared for December 31 when you can postpone it until March 31?

Do you have questions on how to get started? Let’s get connected!