Tax Strategy

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns have brought on a huge shift for people to work from home. Several business leaders have determined that having employees work from home is entirely possible and a great way to reduce overhead costs. Why would you force your employees to drive across town and sit in an office when they are just as productive (if not more) in their own homes? This trend has impacted our household. My husband’s automotive expenses are a fraction of what they were a year ago. On the other hand, our utilities, unlimited highest speed internet requirements, toilet paper and coffee costs have increased substantially. How does this trend impact your tax filing obligations?

Information for Employers:

If you have required your employees to work from home at least 50% of the time, they can claim some of their home office expenses on their personal tax returns. When you hand out your employees T4s, provide a completed T2200 Declaration of Conditions of Employment form. Indicate on the appropriate sections that the employee was required to work from home.

Based on the size of their home office, your employees will be able to claim a percentage of their expenses. This percentage is calculated by dividing the workspace area by the total finished area of the home. Expenses to track include: Utilities (heat, electrical, water), and maintenance (cleaning supplies, paint, plumbing, etc.) and rents. If your employee is paid commissions, they may also claim their insurance and property taxes. If home office specific expenses are incurred (fax line, increased internet capacities, office space only maintenance), the entire expense may be deductible. For example, if your household normally spent $50 per month on internet and now you spend $150 so that your ZOOM calls don’t freeze, one could argue that the $100 extra should be deductible. Similarly, if you revamped a spare room to create an office oasis (paint, shelves) you may (within reason) claim 100% of these costs.

Ensure that your employees are aware that employment expenses are often reviewed by Canada Revenue Agency. Encourage your team to keep their receipts/invoices/statements to be able to prove their claims.

Information for Business Owners:

Whether you are incorporated or a proprietor, you may also claim some home office expenses. The portion claimable is calculated in the same manner as for employees (office space divided by total finished area of your home). In calculating this percentage, it’s tempting to say that a significant portion of the home is used for business purposes. As a general rule, it’s best to keep the percentage around 10%. Any more than that and Canada Revenue Agency can argue that your home was a revenue generating property and you put your Principal Residence Exemption at risk… meaning tax implications on any gains when you sell your house. Also note that if you rent a secure commercial space, you likely cannot claim your office as well.

Keep track of your rents, heat, electricity, insurance, mortgage interest, property taxes, security monitoring fees, and maintenance costs. You can claim the calculated portion of those expenses. Consider office specific costs: the portion of internet required for the smooth running of your business, a fax line, office décor, desk, shelves, chair, chair mat, WIFI booster, etc. These office specific costs may be considered 100% for business purposes and expensed accordingly. Larger items such as furniture, computer, printers, and other office equipment would be expensed over a period of time via Capital Cost Allowance.

Ensure that your claims are reasonable and justifiable. Would it pass the sniff test for Canada Revenue Agency? Was it an expense incurred to earn business income? I think my favorite COVID-19 home office question so far has got to be: With the shortage of toilet paper, do you think I can justify expensing the entire cost of the bidet seat for my toilet? This client won tons of points for creativity and making me laugh out loud during a particularly stressful time in the accounting world. My advice: I would stick to the 10% household repairs and maintenance write off on this one.

If you have any specific questions or concerns about home office expenses for either your employees or yourself as a business owner, I’m always happy to chat. Send me a message at angela@rmllp.ca.

Choosing the right account is important.

In a previous article, I discussed what CPA means and why it is important to choose an accountant with the CPA designation. Now I want to talk about other considerations when choosing an CPA that is the right fit for you or your company.

Does your accountant have relevant experience?

First, I would like to talk about experience.

  • How long have they been working in public practice?
  • Have they been around for many years or did they just decide to open up shop one day and may be gone the next?
  • What about the type of clients and industry they have past or current experience with?

When meeting with a potential new accountant, you should feel free to ask how long they have been in practice. You should also ask about their existing client base to find comfort that they have experience in your industry.

What is the accountant’s availability and communication like?

Another important consideration is availability.

  • Does your accountant return your phone calls and emails in a timely manner?
  • Do they have a partner or staff that can assist you with urgent matters if they are on holidays?

It is imperative to know that if something unforeseeable happens that prevents your accountant from continuing their practice that there is someone available to assist you.

Does the accountant have a strong professional network?

It can be beneficial to clients when an accountant has a team of people that they can rely on to take care of the needs of their clients.

  • What about their contact sphere?
  • Do they have other professionals they trust and work with regularly that you may also need?
  • If you find yourself in need of a new bookkeeper or a corporate lawyer, does your accountant have connections that may help you?

Are you comfortable discussing hard topics with the accountant?

Now let’s discuss comfort level.

You only need to talk to your accountant once a year so it doesn’t matter if you like them and feel comfortable with them, right? Wrong!

Your accountant should know all your confidential financial information and you should be comfortable to discuss this with them. The more your accountant knows about you, the more likely they will be able ensure that you are utilizing all the tax credits and deductions available to you. The more comfortable you are with your accountant, the more likely you also are to ask questions if you do not understand something.

It is important for a taxpayer to have some basic understanding of their financial statements and income tax return.

The partners of Richardson Miller LLP Chartered Professional Accountants have a combined 35 years of experience in public practice in several different industries. Our clients are important to us and we pride ourselves in our client relationships. We know that the world of tax is complex and confusing, so we aim to educate our clients in a way that is understandable and relevant to them.

CPA makes a difference in your protection

Have you ever looked for an accounting firm and been overwhelmed by the number of businesses to choose from? Have you ever noticed some of these companies are Chartered Professional Accountants and some are not? What does Chartered Professional Accountant, or CPA, even mean?

Let us help shed some light on this.

Chartered Professional Accountants Association aka CPA

The Chartered Professional Accountants Association is a professional regulatory body that focuses on protecting the public. When an accountant has CPA after their name that means they have completed:

  • a university degree (or equivalent);
  • a couple of years of practical work experience;
  • and professional level exams in order to receive the CPA designation.

An ongoing 40 hours a year of professional development is required to maintain the CPA letters. The Association protects the public by ensuring its members meet their high professional and ethical standards and they continue to monitor CPA firms to ensure ongoing competency.

Who is regulating the non-CPA firm to ensure they are qualified as well?

Unfortunately, in Alberta, there is no law to prevent anyone from calling themselves an “accountant”. It is the old “buyer beware”; if there is no CPA in the firm name or behind the accountant’s name, there is no one regulating the work being performed.

If the strict monitoring of a CPA firm isn’t enough to help you make a choice, you should also consider current and future financing. Depending on the level of financing, financial institutions may require a company’s financial statements to be prepared by Chartered Professional Accountant.

Check out the CPA Alberta website for more information on protecting the public or to verify that an accountant, or a firm, is registered with the CPA Alberta Association.

New Entrepreneur Check List:

  • Brilliant idea?  Check.
  • Endless passion?  Check.
  • Supernatural ambition?  Check.
  • Nerves of steel?  Check.
  • A clear vision of success?  Check.
  • An accountant?  …. WHAT? WHY? …I haven’t made any money yet.  Why do I need to worry about accounting?

That is a fantastic question.

You don’t know what you don’t know.  When you don’t know what you don’t know, it’s easy to overthink the unknown.

Does it make sense to incorporate?  How do I incorporate? Do I need to register for GST?  Payroll vs Dividends? What can I deduct? How do I track my information?  When do corporate taxes need to be filed? Paid? How much to save for tax and GST?  Who should own shares in the corporation?

At this point, new entrepreneurs will generally do one of the following:

  1. Spend countless hours online trying to find information.
    There are endless sources of information online. Is it true?  Is it understandable? Is it relevant? How much time was spent researching stuff that you really don’t care about?
  2. Procrastinate.
    It’s easy to become overwhelmed at the thought of all those questions and vow to deal with it soon… very soon… next month for sure. Ignoring Canada Revenue Agency and it’s various filing requirements rarely ends well.  Consequences can range from penalties and interest to CRA seizing your bank accounts. It’s difficult to run a business when CRA strips your bank account of every penny each time you make a deposit.
  3. Ask friends and relatives. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard my clients say, “But my neighbour said I could claim all of my personal grooming expense in my business because I have to look presentable and presentable”.Or “My brother in law says he claims______________ ***insert ridiculous personal expenses here***_______”   All is well and good until there is an audit. At this point, you’re dead in the water.

Bringing an accountant from day 1 can:

Save you time.

  • More time to focus on your business—and less time is taken away from your family and loved ones.

Save Money.

  • Procrastination can be extremely expensive in late penalties
  • Also, save by coming up with a tax plan custom to YOUR business and personal situation
  • Perhaps there are certain elections you’d qualify for… or grants

Gain knowledge.

  •  An accountant can offer a bird’s eye view on your business idea.  What haven’t you thought about? Insurance? Financing? Are you partnering up with someone without a unanimous shareholder agreement?  What sorts of things can you deduct as it pertains to YOUR industry?

Assist in creating a strategic plan.  

  • Should you incorporate?  If incorporation is a logical choice, when should you incorporate?  Perhaps you’d be better off operating as a proprietor for a year or two first.  What would be an appropriate corporate fiscal year end date? People assume that December 31 is the obvious choice for a fiscal year-end.  The reality is, you can choose any date for a year-end and a non-December year end allows for so much more flexibility in tax planning.
  • When are the various government filings due?  Avoid surprises and prepare in advance.
  • How are you going to maintain your records?  Can you manage the documents yourself?  What tools/software and applications are available?  Do you need to hire a bookkeeper? What documents should be kept and for how long?  What are your options for the organization?
  • How are you going to pay yourself?  How much do you need to set aside for tax?
  • How are you going to manage your cash flow?  An accountant can assist with some strategies to make sure there is money in the bank.

Gain Peace of Mind:  – carry on your first year KNOWING that you’ve got a plan of action.

If you have questions about getting started, comment below or contact us.