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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.

What does CRA require of an employer?

If you are a business owner and have employees, you know the challenges that can come with managing people. Hiring the right people, maintaining schedules, workloads, employment standards, and conflict resolution can be challenging and unpredictable. But making sure you are onside with Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) employer responsibilities doesn’t have to be.

Let’s break this down into three sections: Set up, process and report:

1. Set up:

You must have a payroll account registered with CRA and you can do this online using CRA online account registration.

Once you have the right candidate for your business you must get them to complete and sign a current TD1 form, both a federal and a provincial form. The TD1 tells you, as an employer, how much tax you are required to deduct from their payroll. It will also provide you with their Social Insurance Number which an employer is required to have before paying an employee.

2. Process:

As part of the employee hiring process, you will have determined what their pay will be.

  • Are they paid hourly, paid salary, paid by commissions?
  • Do they have any taxable benefits that you need to include in their gross income?

In order to process the payroll, you will have to determine what amount needs to be recorded as gross income per pay period for the employee.

How do you determine gross income?

Using the gross income from above, you must now calculate and withhold the CPP, EI and income tax from your employee’s cheque and hold in trust for the government until you make your source deduction remittance. You can use the payroll features of accounting software if you are using that or you can use the Payroll Deductions Online Calculator found online at CRA.

Once you have calculated the deductions, you are ready to pay your employee and provide them with a paystub so they can see how their payroll was calculated.

Remit your source deductions according to the dates prescribed for your company by CRA. Most small businesses have to remit by the 15th of the following month but as your payroll gets larger, you may have different remittance dates.

Don’t forget to include your employer portion as part of the money you remit to CRA!

3. Report:

All of your Company’s payroll from January 1st to December 31st needs to be reported annually on a T4 Statement of Remuneration slip. You must provide a copy to the employee and file a copy with Canada Revenue Agency by February 28th each year.

Another reporting requirement you have as an employer is when an employee is no longer with your company, for whatever reason. Whenever this happens you must file a Record of Employment (ROE) with Service Canada. Your ROE could be due within 5 calendar days of the interruption of employment so make sure you check out the government website for more Information on ROE.

Feel free to call me if you need assistance on ensuring you are meeting your employer responsibilities with Canada Revenue Agency.

Have you heard of the T5018 slip?

Did you know that if your business is operating in the construction industry, you may be required to file an annual T5018 Statement of Contractor Payments with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)?

The why

What is the reasoning behind yet another filing obligation with CRA you may ask? Well, it is estimated that the underground economy totals over $45 billion a year in unreported income in Canada and that the construction industry represents almost 1/3 of the underground economy. With those kinds of statistics, it is no surprise that CRA is taking action to combat this and one of their weapons of choice is the T5018.

The T5018 requires the payer to report to CRA who and what they have paid to subcontractors so that CRA can match those payments up to ensure that the income is being reported by the subcontractors.

So does this form impact you?

First, you need to determine if your business is considered to be operating in construction activities according to the list provided by CRA. Most of this list is the expected: drywalling, electrical, plumbing and carpentry; however, there are some less expected construction activities such as fencing and swimming pool installation.

Second, if you are in the construction, do have more than 50% of your revenue coming from construction activities? If the answer is yes, then you may have to continue to the third criteria.

Finally, did you make payments to subcontractors for construction services? Don’t forget that cash payments and barter payments are considered payments.

At the end of all of this if you are operating in the construction industry, have more than 50% of your revenues from these sources, and paid subcontractors, then you should be filing the T5018 annually with CRA.

What is the downside of failing to file these returns? The failure to file penalty is $25 a day with a minimum penalty of $100 and a maximum penalty of $2,500. And of course, these late filing penalties are not deductible for tax purposes.

If you have questions on the T5018 Statement of Contractor Payments, give us a call, and we will be happy to discuss it with you.

What constitutes a business expense?

I get this question ALL the time from my business clients.

As a general rule, expenses must be incurred with the purpose of earning business income. The expenses must be reasonable and justifiable. I’ve compiled a list of the more common expense questions with the answers to perhaps paint a clearer picture.

Are haircuts a business expense?

This is a solid NO.

Personal grooming costs are not deductible… even though you may have to look presentable and professional to meet with customers and clients. Let’s be honest, almost everyone who is working with the general public should be somewhat groomed. This is a human thing—not a business expense.

What about clothing?

Canada Revenue has a stance that unless the clothing is considered a uniform, it is not deductible. A loose definition of a uniform is something that a normal person would not wear to a mall. (I purposely did not mention Walmart here). This means that your business suits are not deductible. There are occasions where clothing may be permitted as an expense.

  1. Clothing that is specifically required safety gear is a reasonable and justifiable deduction.
  2. Clothing that contains your logo for advertising purposes would also be considered deductible.

Go ahead and order your next golf shirt, jacket or hoodie from a promotional supply store and be a walking billboard (I personally think this would be hilarious if you had a numbered company with no real logo).

Is a home office a business expense?

If you are working out of your home, yes, a portion of the expenses can be expensed. If you are paying rent at an official business location (or own the space), you likely cannot also deduct for your home office. If you are expensing a portion of your home for business purposes, do be careful not to be too aggressive with those claims.

I’d be hesitant to claim more than 10% of your homes’ costs (mortgage interest, property taxes, repairs and maintenance, utilities, insurance, security system, etc.).

If you’re claiming more, Canada Revenue Agency deny a portion of your principal residence exemption when you go and sell your home. In other words, if you claim 40% of your home expenses for your business, CRA would argue that 40% of your home was for not for personal use and therefore, you’d have to report 40% of any gains on sale as income on your taxes.

How are telephones a business expense?

If you still have a landline in your home, you cannot deduct this for business purposes… just the specific charges for any long-distance calls related to business. Your business cell phone can be deductible. Communicate with your cell phone provider that you have a business as certain carriers have special pricing for business owners.

What about conferences?

Here is a brilliant way to make your next trip to Vegas a business expense! Find a conference that is somewhat relevant to your business operations. You can deduct up to two conferences per year.

Paying your children or spouse a wage.

This one boils down to the expense has to be reasonable and justifiable.

  1. Can you pay your 3 year old $10,000 a year for sweeping out the garage?
    • No. This is not reasonable.
  2. Can you pay your husband $150,000 per year for sorting receipts?
    • Likely no—because you wouldn’t pay someone you weren’t related to that kind of amount.
  3. Can you pay your teen minimum wage for sweeping out your shop? Or pay your spouse fair market value for administrative work?
    • Yes. This would probably be considered reasonable.

Keep a detailed timesheet to document and justify the expense…just as you would to any other employee that wasn’t closely related to you or sharing your bed.

How do meals and entertainment factor into business expenses?

Yes, these are deductible expenses… but don’t go too crazy.

  • Go for lunch with that potential referral partner.
  • Buy a coffee for the potential new client.
  • Take the staff out to celebrate completing a major project.
  • Order dinner in house when key staff are staying late to get the job done.

Don’t try and expense every single meal you eat through your company. Similarly, your personal groceries are not deductible. Again, these expenses need to be reasonable and justifiable.

For example, an oilfield contractor would have a tough time justifying how Oilers season tickets were a legit expense to earn business income. On the other hand, if you typically dealt with many customers and relied on referrals, perhaps you could deduct some of those hockey tickets because you gave them to clients or associates as a thank you for referring new business. Documentation is key in this case. Who got the ticket and why?

Every business is unique. If you have specific questions of what types of expenses would be considered reasonable and justifiable for your operations, feel free to contact us.

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 professional accounting services and been overwhelmed by the number of businesses to choose from? Have you ever noticed some of these companies have a Chartered Professional Accountant and some do 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. What does CPA stand for? 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 conduct and ethical accounting standards. They continue to monitor CPA firms to ensure ongoing competency, absence of professional misconduct, and validity of applicants for membership

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 a chartered accountant, or a firm, is registered with the CPA Alberta Association.

How Can a CPA Help Me?

A chartered professional accountant can offer a variety of services to ease the burden of finances. Professional accountants can offer tax services, manage audits, and perform CFO functions. As a business owner, the business is your top priority. Hiring a chartered professional accountant to manage your finances gives you the extra time to invest in your business. CPAs can perform financial services in less time, with fewer clerical errors, and with a wider range of knowledge gained from education and experience.

“Many businesses choose to work with chartered accountants because of so many reasons. These professionals are experienced and vigorously trained to handle all tax and finance-related problems. Yes, hiring a chartered accountant will be an added expenditure, but the money they help you save will certainly outweigh those costs.” source: Small Business Sense

Investing in a CPA is investing in your business

Tax planning can assist you in saving thousands of dollars. Proper planning and filing of forms help you to avoid audits, penalties, or late filings. CPAs are professionally trained and knowledgeable on tax laws and how to use them to their advantage. We all know the headache of cutting through the red tape of taxes. CPAs will slice through and come out saving you in the end.

Nothing is certain in life except death and taxes. What comes with taxes? Audits. Chartered accountants can help protect your business and prepare you for the inevitable. Having a chartered professional accountant backing you when the Canadian Revenue Agency comes knocking is the highest reassurance one can have. They will know the proper steps and procedures to appease the CRA. Knowing your finances have been professionally prepared and documented takes all the burden during this potentially stressful time.

Did you know that chartered accountants can do more than just taxes?

CPAs can fill the role of Chief Financial Officers, CFOs. They can help manage expenses, perform payroll analysis, and assist in financial planning for the future. Outsourcing the role of CFO helps businesses have a professional perspective of the entirety of their finances. Along with business owners and management, CPAs can help develop solid financial plans to ensure the growth of businesses.

With ongoing training and certified professional education requirements. chartered professional accountants a wealth of knowledge available to business owners. Laws and industry standards are constantly changing. CPAs make staying on top of these changes their job. Knowledge is power and nothing comes close to the strength of CPAs when it comes to finances. This powerful ally is waiting to be called on whenever necessary.

Industry-Specific CPAs

Within the Accounting Industry, the CPA profession is diverse as the businesses they serve. CPAs can choose to specialize in certain areas of the accounting profession. A chartered professional accountant’s specialty can vary based on the size of the business they wish to represent, the types of businesses, or even accounting services they have honed throughout their accounting career. Business size has a massive impact on money management.

CPAs choosing to specialize in small businesses will have many more strategies and methods to best serve their clients. CPAs choosing to focus on a type of business within a specific service or industry will have more knowledge of the laws and regulations of this field. They are trained and educated in all areas of the accounting profession, however, CPAs can be more proficient in some services.

Hiring a Chartered Professional Accountant is important for your business. We have a proven track record of success and are qualified and motivated to provide you with the best financial advice and tax strategies for your business.

Click here to contact us today and learn more about how we can help your business grow.

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!

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.